Upgrading Bare-Bone Home Theater (1 Viewer)

Steve R.

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First, may this new year be better than last year. Keeping up with improvements to electronic is mind numbing. Hard to believe, as time seems to fly faster and faster; but five years ago we bought a then "state-of-the-art" 4K (2160P) TV. The initial reaction, not much better than 1080P. As time progressed, we began to realize that the apps which came with the TV were never updated. Surprising :(. We were interested in cutting cable and Hulu announced that they offered live streaming TV. We couldn't get it, despite the TV's Hulu app. Well, that problems was solved by us getting the Amazon FireTV as a gift. So we went along our complacent merry way.

Recently, we decided to extend out wired Ethernet cable to the TV (Hardwired as opposed to WiFi). That resulted in a marginal improvement in picture quality. This Christmas season there were numerous articles on new streaming devices, such as the Roku Ultra. Broke down and ordered one. Set-up went well, except it informed us that 4K was not possible o_O. Frantic, search of the product specifications for both the TV and the Roku ensued. Yes, 4K was possible, it turned out that only one of the 5 HDMI ports on the TV would support 4K @60Hz. The Roku had to be (hard) set for a generic 4K HDMI port. This has resulted in further picture quality improvements over the now very old Amazon FireTV. Hey, we even got a TV volume control on the remote now!

The TV has a total of 5 HDMI ports that can, according to the manual, produce a 4K image. But 4 of those ports operate @30Hz and the Roku "rejects" those ports. So the TV, by today's4K standards is now very sub-standard. That is the way things go as our electronics improve. I found one comment that raises a smile about keeping-up, where a person wanted to "future proof" his computer graphic card. A responder comment (paraphrased) "You can't be chasing utopian unicorns". Fortunately, the TV did have one HDMI port that the Roku could transmit a 4K signal to. So, in the near future, assuming a decent price drop in OLED TVs, a new TV will be on the horizon.
 

The_Doc_Man

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Right after Hurricane Katrina, we had to renovate the entire bottom floor of the house due to flooding, so as part of said operation, we bought a nice SONY LCD 60" which was a complex internal projection system. That was 2006 and its technology was 1080i if I recall correctly. Time passed.

Last year there was a pre-Christmas post-Thanksgiving sale during which time I bought a 65" SONY 4k OLED. Had to upgrade the video disk player since it was 2006 time-frame as well and couldn't even handle BlueRay. The Surround Sound system was still OK so left that alone. About 5 channels of audio is all I need.

I noticed a lot of picture improvement almost immediately even though the cable-box signal probably wasn't 4k. But this was a "smart" TV that could auto-upgrade the picture quality in some subtle way. And when I finally bought some higher-quality movie disks (from the WalMart close-out rack 'cause I never pay full price for a movie these days), the picture was stunning. I'm not sure about whether there is a limit on some of the ports, but so far I've found it to be a great experience. We also upgraded the speed into our modem/router from 25 mb to 75 mb. Fiber isn't available in our neighborhood yet. Our home theater is pretty darned good now. And since the organ sits right next to it, I might even start playing silent movies and buy the sheet music for the suggested accompaniment.
 

Steve R.

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At times, one really needs to dig into the meaning of system specifications. With the Roku I noticed that there was an improvement in picture quality. I initially attributed that to the Roku simply being a new device with better electronics. Then I thought about "upscaling". Turns out that the Roku apparently does upscale a 1080P image to 2160 (4K). Doesn't seem to be a well advertised feature. A rudimentary internet search turned up this four year old article. Why You Should Upgrade To The Roku Ultra Set-Top Box. Seems that upscaling should be a well advertised feature.
... it also features the ability to upscale lower-resolution content up to 4K.

Last year, I bought a new computer. According the the specs, the motherboard does deliver 4K output. I had one movie in 4K, it played OK. (Of course one movie @4K is not a good sample base for evaluating performance.) But then, I was struck by a eureka moment that maybe I still really needed a graphic card. Again an internet search turned up recommendations that a graphic's card would still be recommended. Ordered one. Currently waiting for it to arrive. Seems that there was a "run" on graphics and supplies are low. This Christmas, products such as graphic cards and streaming devices may have all been hot sellers considering the recommendations to "stay home".

Edit (1/4/2021): Seems that I might be premature concerning the necessity of graphic's card. I've given "tests" to three 4K movies now and they seem to play adequately without having to go depend on a graphics card. But then, I have no ability for making a comparison judgement until the graphics card arrives. Graphics card still on back-order.
 
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The_Doc_Man

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Good point, Steve. The pandemic has cause all sorts of shortages - some easily predictable but others not so much. The side effects of a stay-at-home order are sometimes hard to predict. Like, for instance, a growth in sales of snack items like potato chips, crackers, and cookies. You might expect it to be hard to get certain disinfectant cleaning supplies. But the other day I went to my local office supply chain and some of their accessories were DECIMATED. I had NEVER seen the Office Depot with empty shelves in some areas. Holy guacamole, were they tapped out!
 

Steve R.

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In a way, I feel that we are in an ersatz USSR concerning product shortages. It seems that whenever we return from a solo shopping trip, I or my wife review what was available vs not available. Today we were supposed to have, on our high end menu, hot dogs and sauerkraut for lunch. But my wife could not find any sauerkraut at the store. Really no big deal, considering that many people have lost their jobs or have suffered from extreme weather. We plod on.
 

moke123

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I have several Rokus and use them on all our TV's. I especially like the Ultra's features to turn the tv on\off and control volume without having multiple controllers. The voice features are an extra bonus. In my area the cable company charges for each cable box and requires one for each TV. Roku has an app for Spectrum Cable so I dont need to rent any boxes. With 4 TV's the Roku's paid for themselves within a couple months.

Not sure if your aware of the Private and Hidden channels that are available on Roku. They are not found in the Roku store. Some of them are garbage but some are interesting. There are a few sites that list them. To add them you log onto your Roku account and enter a code and it adds them to your channels.

here's one.
 

Steve R.

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Still getting used to the Roku. Overall the remote is better that the Amazon remote as it has a volume control, off switch, and two (voice) "programmable buttons".
 

moke123

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I'm watching the original invisible man (1933?) on one of the hidden channels now. Its a sci-fi marathon.
 

Steve R.

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Looks like there are quite a few versions of the Invisible Man. Here is the link for the Rotten Tomatoes on the 1933 edition.

We did watch the current 2020 edition. I would give it a "C" rating. Most of the movie was very boring. The end was suspenseful and for a big plus, I didn't see the end coming. So I was suitably surprised.

Our past week of home "lock-down" has been spent binge watching: Queens Gambit, Expanse, and the Vikings. Just finished the Vikings this morning. I've tried to watch Raised by Wolves. Only made it into episode two so far. It's awful.
 

The_Doc_Man

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I'm watching the original invisible man (1933?) on one of the hidden channels now.

I didn't see it.
👻

Actually, I think I saw that on a local UHF station about 60 years ago. That would be the Claude Rains version, perhaps? Such a shame, since he has a ton of voice time but very little face time.

It takes a special breed of actor to willingly take a role that is a leading role with no face time. Consider, for example, Hugo Weaving in V for Vendetta, who got only one scene of face-time in the guise of a blind beggar. The rest of the time he was behind a Guy Fawkes mask. And he had the same problem playing the Red Skull in the Captain America movie.
 

moke123

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Some of those hidden channels have some old classics. A slew of the old western tv shows- gunsmoke, bonanza, lone ranger, branded. then there's Mr. Ed, Petticoat Junction, My favorite martian, bewitched, beverly hillbillies, lucy, dragnet, gomer pyle and more. There's even a channel that shows nothing but old Drive in movie "go to the snackbar" promos.
 

Steve R.

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The video card arrived. Plays 4K movies just fine. But frankly I can't tell if the video card provides a higher quality image or not. Too subjective. I would like to think that it does, but I'm not about to undertake any extensive comparison testing. What I can say is that the system monitor reports that CPU usage and motherboard memory usage have been cut nearly in half. That means that the graphic card is doing its job of significantly reducing the stress load on the CPU and motherboard.
 

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