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Stocking up

The joys and pains of shopping for a new television

By Erica Hill
CNN Headline News

HLN Hotwired

(CNN) -- It's amazing what buying a home does to you. There's the status change from renter to homeowner. I admit, I find it somewhat laughable, since the bank owns most of it, but let's not fight over a few pennies.

There's also a change in the way you buy things. We -- homeowners -- think our choices through more, looking at the new couch and television as investments, rather than something we only need right now.

We closed on our loft three weeks ago, and it's been a shopping spree ever since. Since some of the "big things" we needed were gifts from our parents, it freed up money for second-tier items (at least on my list), like a new television.

Deciding on a new television wasn't easy. I didn't see the need to spend money on a television when there were other things we needed more -- like closet organizers and pillows for the couch. Our old television worked fine, though it didn't have any bells and whistles, and there was a large piece of plastic sticking out of the top. The argument that our television would look out of place and small in the new loft didn't do much for me -- I wanted to hide it in an armoire, anyway. Still, it seemed like if we were going to get a new television, there was no time like the present.

We did extensive research -- sometimes I wonder what we would do without CNET's reviews -- and decided an HD-ready set was for us. We narrowed our choices to three models and scanned the Sunday fliers. Finally, it was TV Day. We got to the store, and who should be there but our good friend, CNET editor at large Brian Cooley. OK, not in the flesh, but on the screen, offering tips on buying an HDTV.

Unfortunately, once we were ready to pull the trigger, the plan started to fall apart. The HD sets looked great -- but I couldn't stand the distorted picture when the signal was not in high definition. I liked the look of the widescreen sets, but again the distortion issue popped up, making my stomach turn and my head hurt.

We started to rethink the HD sets. Did we really need one? Maybe if we watched a lot of movies, or if the majority of our programming was in HD, but we don't and it's not. Looking at sets of similar size, with plenty of bells and whistles, we realized we would be wasting hundreds of dollars for those two little letters. In addition, we reasoned the technology will only get better, and the prices, lower. We decided to wait a few years until there is more HD programming, and the prices come down on LCD televisions, then we'll pull the trigger.

We didn't leave empty-handed, however. By this point, I was firmly in the "we need a new television camp." We settled on a beautiful 32-inch set that is not HD-ready but looks gorgeous. David was right: our old television would have looked horrible on that 20-foot wall in our new place, and the 32-inch monitor doesn't overwhelm the space -- it actually looks smaller.

The kicker came July 4. We popped "Finding Nemo" in for David's nephews to watch, and I have never seen such an incredible picture. Who needs HD? This was gorgeous -- bright colors and beautifully defined -- the aquarium came to life. Now I realize what Dave was saying about the picture on the old set.

It turns out stocking up on new toys isn't such a bad thing. It was time for a television -- even my stubborn, frugal Yankee genes could see it, and now they're seeing things much clearer when I sit down to watch.

Now, on to the next project: The closets!

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