Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Diffusion of Innovation

It is always odd to be labelled. You think you are an individual and you might have some quirks that you think are yours and your alone but the internet soon puts you straight. The power of Google is a good example. The fact that you are able to find what you are after is because so many other "individuals" have searched for exactly the same thing using exactly the same search string that you used. Ignoring the searches for the obvious (i.e. Britney and Hooters smelly feet) even the most obscure search usually turns up a hit because someone else wanted to know about "internal workings of the lower intestine related to acupuncture". We are all sheep really.

Todays label for me is "Early Adopter" but bordering on "Early Majority". I would label Alan "Innovator" as he is always on the edge of new stuff and has access to more data that Orac. I am referring to the Everett M. Rogers "Diffusion of Innovations" model with these labels. He said that you could divided consumers into 5 groups and it is never nice to be a "laggard" in anyone's book!

Being an early adopter does tend to cost you dollars. Being an innovator is somewhat better as you are usually able to obtain what you need pretty cheaply as you just "know" where/how to get it before the poor early adopters get a sniff. In fact, the innovators can usually buy up the stuff and sell it on for a profit on TradeMe I would guess!

I bought a Plasma TV about 3 1/2 years back. This was in the days that they were a new item and the price tag was equivalent to a car. We were newly arrived from the UK and hadn't yet suffered at the hands of a certain guy and a dodgy real estate deal. At the time, a plasma display was just that, a display. It had no TV tuner, no Picture in Picture, no Teletext, no speakers, no stand - everything was an extra. Nonetheless, we bought it and it has been marvellous but only because of all the accessories that we have.

To avoid the spaghetti of cables in the back, and there would be at least 8 big cables, we have everything routed via an A/V system and have a wireless remote controller extender and 2 wireless a/v senders and receivers. This means that we can broadcast the signal from Sky TV to the other TVs in the house and, more usefully, from the PC to the plasma display. This is great for watching all those US TV shows sucked from BitTorrent in glorious detail and via a great sound system rather than the dinky PC speakers.

The advice to anyone looking to buy a plasma tv today is go for it. The technology is proven now and much more efficient than 3 years ago. These days you will get built in speakers, at least one TV tuner and increasingly 2 and clever little PiP functions and Teletext, none of which I have. Also, the unit life is longer which is not something that I had considered when we bought ours.

The alternative is LCD. There is very little to choose between a high end LCD and a decent plasma but there are many many different qualities in between. Our plasma is a Panasonic with a contrast ration of 3000:1 - this is important to ensure that you get good blacks. There is nothing worse than watching a movie with hazy greys when what you want is black. Also, you need a good resolution and fast refresh rate to avoid the jaggedy edges during an action scene. Both of these are better than 3 years ago but I do notice a bit of pixel lag particularly with explosions with lots of orange and red. It is not too obvious but it is there. Fortunately we have a composite video input for DVD which is rock steady.

The great thing about plasma is the very wide viewing angle and brightness. The picture is fine even in full sunlight and to the side of the screen. The newer LCDs do have a wide viewing angle but some of the cheaper models are very limiting. Nonetheless, LCDs are supposed to last a heck of a long time and are much lighter than the massive glass panels used in plasmas. If you're going to hang it on a wall, you need freakin' big screws for a plasma.

To sum it all up, there isn't anything to choose between them and it really depends on where you are going to put it. Plasmas do come in bigger sizes and our 37" is about right although I think LCDs overlap at their top size now. The plasma is also bloody hot to touch at the back whereas the LCDs don't generate as much heat. If it is going in a front room and is the main TV, I'd opt for a plasma any day as it can sit undisturbed. If you plan to hang it on a wall or move it around or use it in a kitchen/family room, then go for a decent brand LCD with a good viewing angle with lots of bells and whistles; they even come with radios these days.

Me? I'm waiting for the next "big thing" in picture viewing. Maybe an ultra slim photon-foldable image system with built in coffee grinder....either way, I just know I'll be behind Alan who will have one installed and working a good 6 months before me that he would have got from a mate in China who works for Sony for $4.68 and a pair of old socks....


  1. Thanks! I was expecting something a bit more doom and gloom with lost pixels and all that. How exciting, it means I can plan my next shopping expedition.

    Although our house isn't much bigger than 37inches, so we may have to go for something a little smaller.

  2. Good info. Uploaded to grey soft drive. Thanx!