Q: Your recent column about broadcast TV had a statement that I feel needs correction or at least more detail. New flat-panel TVs do not necessarily have a tuner, and there is a movement toward removing the tuner in all new sets. I believe it includes only top-end models, but tuners are no longer universal.
A: I did some research, and models from Vizio were the only ones I found without built-in tuners. This feature-cutting is found through several of their model lines, though some of their products still do have tuners. It is important to know that by law, these tuner-free devices cannot be sold as televisions. That is why they are being called "home theater displays." It's more of a computer monitor with an internet connection than an actual television.
This is a disturbing development that bodes poorly for consumers. Let's hope that "tuner-free" does not become a trend and spread to other manufacturers. Personally, I would avoid Vizio completely if I were shopping for a TV. There comes a point where consumers have to stand up and say no when companies act in ways that are not in their best interest, especially with so many other choices.
Denying consumers the ability to receive free, high-quality programming is a step hundreds of miles in the wrong direction, especially since the tuner adds very little to the cost of manufacturing a TV. There also is the possibility that many people buying these devices won't realize what they are getting when they buy it. They may not find out until years later, when they decide they want to connect an antenna to what they thought was a television and discover they can't.
While not everyone uses the TV's tuner, it is an incredibly useful feature. Though I have a satellite box and a streaming device connected to all of my televisions, I have antennas hooked up to most of them, too. If the internet or satellite service goes down, I still can receive programming. Plus, I get the extra channels not carried by satellite, and if I move the TV into a different room without a satellite box, I know I can continue to use it.
You can add an external tuner to one of these tuner-free displays, but that involves extra expense as well as extra complexity. You need another component, another power outlet, another connection on the back of the television, another HDMI cable, another remote control — and lots of steps to set them all up. Why would anyone want that when you can just buy a proper TV with a built-in tuner, connect an antenna and be ready to go?
As I have said many times in the past, over-the-air digital HDTV broadcasting is a wonderful thing, and if you have not tried it, you should. You get the best picture quality available from network television, you get extra subchannels offered by local broadcasters, it is easier to receive digital compared with analog broadcasts and if you can get a good signal you get a perfect picture. Don't go without it.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.