Do I take the Extended Warranty?

Big Box Store Survival Guide Part 2: Dealing with the extras

Now that we've covered how to shop for an HDTV and what to expect at the Big Box stores, the next thing to cover are some important post-sales questions.

Big Box Shopping

The big box stores don't make much money selling an HDTV alone; they make money selling you the extras that go with it. This isn't always such a bad thing, but you have to know what extras are worthwhile and what constitutes a reasonable price for your area. Let's examine the most popular add-ons at the big box stores.

Advertiser Links for Extended Warranties
Common big box store extras will look something like this:

Cables and Wires: This one's easy, say no thanks. Don't buy into the idea that expensive cables will make your new gear look or sound any better than the cheapest cables you can find. DVI and HDMI cables are particularly costly at most TV stores, try ordering them online. Find computer shops that will sell them. PC stores usually have DVI cables at very reasonable prices. Best Buy, Future Shop and others have Monster displays where Monster brand cables are demonstrated as being superior. It's all a load of crap, don't believe it. The sales staff will push them hard because the profit margin on cables is very high.

Extended Warranty: When it comes to extended warranties just ask yourself one question: Would the Duke buy the extended warranty?

Does this look like the face of a man who needs quality assurance on his purchase?

John Wayne

Here's the quick lowdown on the extended warranty. Extended warranty is an insurance policy and big box stores make good money selling them. Most electronics are already insured by the manufacturer for one year. Extended warranties usually cover three to five years. Most consumer electronics will fail due to natural wear after five years so it's not cost effective to warranty items beyond the fifth year. To recoup the cost of an extended warranty you must require a repair that exceeds the cost of the warranty itself. This isn't likely with most electronics including TVs. So, the extended service plan is almost never a good idea. The following are times when you might want to consider purchasing an extended warranty.

If you're buying a budget or no-name brand you don't trust, you might want to consider the extended warranty. Although you should just save your money and put it toward a brand you trust. Other occasions you want to consider extended service plans are with very expensive TVs with very large screens, particularly ones that use a newer technology. LCD screens that push beyond the 40" mark are relatively new to the market so you might want to consider it. There is no such thing as a cheap repair to a Plasma TV; just about anything that goes wrong on a Plasma television is a costly repair. According to Consumer Reports, Micro-display TVs are the most repair prone type of HDTV you can buy' therefore, if you purchase a micro display television, it makes most sense to also consider the extended warranty.

Expensive Plasma, very large LCD panels and any micro-display TV are products you might want to consider purchasing an extended warranty for. This is especially true if you're buying a questionable brand name.

Delivery and Install

Most big box stores won't include delivery and setup in the price of the HDTV and will have to fit you in to a busy shipping schedule. Keep a weekday between 9 am to 5 pm clear for delivery. They aren't likely to give you an exact time they'll arrive with your set. You'll be lucky if they can tell you within a half day when it'll be delivered. The cost of home delivery is probably reasonable and it's a no brainer if you don't own a truck and have some friends that are avaialble to help you carry a large TV set into your home. Warranties aren't going to cover damage to a dropped TV. Even though micro-displays and flat panels are a lot lighter and smaller than the older CRT rear projectors, they can still be awkward to get down the stairs.

The need for professional setup and explanation of how everything works is subjective. There are manuals and even helpful websites like this one to assist you in getting everything working. It's best to give it a try yourself even if you're not so confident you'll get everything working. By enduring the learning curve that gets everything hooked up you'll eliminate having learn how to make everything turn on and off. You might want to consider hiring a professional HDTV calibrator to help you get your new gear running. A professional calibrator can be expensive but they have the correct test equipment to bring out the best possible picture from your HDTV.

Dell TV

If you're considering a professional calibrator remember they can only calibrate for specific video sources. This means that if you're thinking of getting a newer, better quality DVD player or a new HD DVD / Blu-ray player, wait 'til you bring home the new prize then have your set calibrated.

Surge Suppression and Line Conditioning

This is a market where a lot of garbage with delusions of adequacy is sold. Since big box stores have started pushing expensive power conditioners this proves the scams that were once limited to hi-fi specialty shops have begun to enter into the mainstream.

Surge suppression is a real concern for many people, especially if you live in an area prone to electrical storms the need to shunt excess voltage to ground. So, if you own a house you should probably have surge protection at the fuse box thereby protecting everything you own.

There are good surge protectors available, but you must buy from a respectable name brand. One helpful tip, the Monster brand name is not respectable.

Surge protection is quantified in joules, so explicit product comparisons can be made easily with this rating. Look for surge suppressors that meet or exceed the IEEE 587 technical specification and avoid those that don't mention IEEE 587.

Line conditioning: These are sold with descriptions like "clean power" and promise to improve the performance of your gear by taking noise out of your AC power. This is usually a scam. If you know you have a specific problem with your AC wiring, you should look to have it fixed and not bother with expensive equipment. If you're suffering from too much noisy equipment running at the same time that you're running your Home Theater system, turn off the noisy equipment. There is no technical specification for AC line conditioning. You can only trust that that "clean power" product you bought actually does anything at all. Any claims about being able to "hear" or see the difference a power conditioner product made on their system is usually bogus.