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Issue #623: June 30 – July 6, 2019

Q: Where I live, the cable provider is Cox. I looked at new TVs and the Dish or DirecTV salesperson near mentioned Cox will not provide what’s necessary to receive all benefits of the new TV’s. I moved here from Missouri and had DishAnywhere. I miss not watching what I have recorded ANYWHERE and ANYPLACE. Cox is disappointing and does not have this feature. SAD! Sorry, back to the question, what TVs should I look to purchase. I don’t want to buy technology in a TV that Cox can’t deliver. Thank you for your column.

– Rex M.
Miramar Beach, Florida

A: Over the years, I’ve had the displeasure to embarrass quite a few sales representatives in various electronics stores.   When I’ve gone shopping with my father we make a rather intimidating team, and we almost bring them to tears because they simply can’t answer detailed technical questions about their merchandise. It often seems like they don’t know any more about a product they are trying to sell than one can read in the feature list on the side of the box it comes in. That’s a real disservice to customers who come in and expect to talk to an expert to help them pick what’s right for them. Had a sales person told me that I would not “receive all benefits” from a new TV with my existing media provider, I’d have required a far deeper explanation than you apparently received.

There are many things that modern TVs can do that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. I touched-on the capabilities of so-called Smart TVs in a recent column (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #615, May 5-11, 2019). In that issue, I briefly discussed the applications that can one can install and run right on the television device itself. It doesn’t make logical sense to say that Cox won’t provide what’s necessary to do that. After all, Cox is both a cable TV and Internet provider, with phone service thrown in for good measure. Besides, you could have these features no matter what Internet provider you choose.

The DishAnywhere ability you wrote about is a great service. The reason it seems like it’s only available from Dish is that DishAnywhere is an implementation of Sling technology, built right into the media box. Sling is owned by EchoStar, the parent company of – guess who? That’s right, Dish, giving them exclusive rights to include the technology with their DVRs. What you may not know is that you can purchase a stand-alone device called a SlingBox that will work with other providers’ hardware. Run to your nearest search engine and check it out.

The one thing that I can think of that your sales rep might have been talking about is the resolution of the video signal that you receive from Cox. TVs these days are being built with what’s called 4K resolution, usually shortened to just “4K”. This ultra-high definition (UHD) picture is quite striking to look at. Technically, your sales rep is correct – Cox doesn’t provide 4K signals. Why? Because none of the major networks are broadcasting in 4K yet. You probably won’t be watching your favorite primetime shows in 4K for a while. Meanwhile, the newest TVs coming out feature 8K resolution!

There is an ongoing debate about whether the human eye is even capable of perceiving such ultra-high resolutions. I found an article at that goes into the subject in some depth if you’re really interested. However, I think Spouse Peripheral put an interesting spin on it when we were together in a big-box electronics store and I was trying to show her the difference between standard resolution, HD, and UHD. The demo video was showing a soccer game, and in the standard picture it looked like a plain green field with the white lines you’d expect on a soccer pitch. On the UHD screen, you could see scraps of paper on the field, and every flaw in the turf where the grass was a little thin. Then they zoomed in tight on the face of one of the players. Wanting to point out the incredible detail in the picture, I said, “Look! You can see every pore on his skin! You can see drops of sweat, and even the veins in his eyeballs!” Rather than be impressed, she simply replied “And why do I want to see all of that?” Why indeed. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that UHD does far more than just bring out the flaws in every picture, but her reaction did give me cause to pause. I wonder what we’ll be able to see in 8K resolution?

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