The set arrived today and we hooked it up to Jeff and Carol's cable service. It turns out that it's smart enough to detect digital cable signals coming down the wire and -- if they pick up a Cable Card to plug into the back of the set -- they'll be able to decode all of the digital signals directly in the set. There are a few HD channels that come in unscrambled: the local FOX affiliate, ESPN HD, and Discovery HD Theater. We regard these as bait for the consumer. Sadly, they weren't showing anything that we really wanted to watch, but the picture quality was wonderful.
By tomorrow, it should be picking up the listing from TV Guide On Screen (also built in) and we should be able to find out what all those currently scrambled digital channels (more than 400 total) actually are. That data only downloads when the set is turned off -- and it spent all day turned on.
The set has a native resolution of 1080p -- that's 1080 lines of progressive scan video, substantially better than the 720p that our set provides. However, you don't have a lot of 1080p sources, not even DVDs -- but wait for high-definition DVD to show up! -- so one of the key questions turns out to be "How good is this set at scan multiplying a low-resolution signal?"
It's really good at it. I compared it to a Mitsubishi and a Toshiba in the store. The Toshiba is roughly as good, the Mitsubishi looks lousy by comparison. (These are all top-of-the-line 1080p sets in the comparison, just for reference.) If you've got any sort of decent signal, even standard TV looks sharp. I also didn't notice any asynchrony between voices and mouths moving, something that I'd heard that you should watch for, whether the audio from the DVD was routed through the stereo or directly into the TV.
This set is also available in 50 and 56 inch models. But the 61 inch model is only about 10% more than the 56 inch version and it also floats the screen above the table that you sit it on, unlike the two smaller models, a design that I think just looks better if the screen width is a bit more than the width of the stand, which it is in this case. (The current stand is a very sturdy coffee table that will eventually be replaced with something a bit narrower front to back.)
Jeff did buy the extended warranty. These sets are still pricey. Also, we lost our entire light engine after about two and a half years of service and if we hadn't had the extended warranty, we'd have been looking at a $2000 repair. Ouch! So it's one of those cases where you really do want to think about buying the insurance.
Jeff and Carol are happy. Pete's threatening to buy one just like it. And daisy_knotwise is eyeing me suspiciously...