We put our small TV on a shelf above a treadmill– gotta crank out those miles — leaving us without a TV for comfortable watching.  So we went on a quest for a new “smart TV” that wouldn’t make us feel dumb.

Because the March issue of Consumer Reports is full of TV tips, we walked confidently into the appliance store armed with what we thought were the right buzz words: “We want an LED TV, (not LCD or plasma) with 120Hz and 1080p.” Yep, they had that. In a few seconds, we were on our way out the door.

We struggled home with a massive 50-inch set from Samsung, set it up and watched it for a few minutes in awe. But just as in the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” neither of us wanted to admit immediately that it wasn’t up to snuff.  “Does the picture look fuzzy to you?” Joy asked. Bob admitted it did. In fact, the picture was far worse than our budget TV from several years ago.

Returning it to the store, the tech guys ran it up to make sure we didn’t break anything, and the picture was perfect, razor sharp and color bright. What gives? The technician told us picture quality is often dependent on who’s providing your cable service. He said our AT&T U-verse service was to blame, not the TV itself.

We went to to check this out, and we suggest you do the same thing when you have questions about your equipment. An experienced engineer answered our query and said that the AT&T service transmits at a lower rate than true cable or satellite, resulting in an inferior picture. It’s more noticeable on a 50-inch TV than a smaller one, he said. (Though we all tend to think that AT&T delivers cable service, it’s actually what’s called DSL – Digital Subscriber Line. The data is coming in over the old copper wires that used to carry phone conversations. Some newer locations might have optical cables which would have better transmission.)

We pass all this along for those of you who might have similar problems, presently or down the road. For ourselves, we bought a 40-inch Sony Bravia, which our helpful engineer said had better electronics for what he called “scaling up.” He was right, the picture is perfect. (By the way: We have no interest in Sony, don’t own any stock, and never met anybody from the company.)

Some of the built-in apps are fun, though we doubt we’ll use all 119 of them. The cost was $650, slightly discounted from list price. According to Consumer Reports Magazine, this is the best time of year to pick up bargains on last year’s equipment.

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