Real televisions, like this Panasonic, have a tuner that will provide free television programming. Don’t buy a “tuner-free display.” You’ll be sorry later!
By Don Lindich
Week 34, 2016
Q. Your recent column about broadcast TV had a statement that I feel needs correction or at least more detail. New flat panel TVs do not necessarily have a tuner and there is a movement towards removing the tuner in new sets. I believe at this time it only includes top-end models, but tuners are no longer universal.
A. I did some research and models from Vizio were the only ones I found without built-in tuners. This feature-cutting is found through several of their model lines, though some of their products do still have tuners. It is important to know that by law, these tuner-free devices cannot be sold as televisions. That is why they are being called “home theater displays.” It’s more of a computer monitor with an Internet connection than an actual television.
This is a disturbing development that bodes very poorly for consumers. Let’s hope that “tuner-free” does not become a trend and spread to other manufacturers. Personally, I would avoid Vizio completely if I was shopping for a television. There comes a point where consumers have to stand up and just say, “No” to companies that act in ways that are not in their best interest, especially when you have so many other choices.
Denying consumers the ability to receive free, high-quality programming is a step hundreds of miles in the wrong direction, especially since the tuner adds very little to the cost of manufacturing a TV. Deleting the tuner simply saves the manufacturer money and increases profits at the consumer’s expense. There is also the possibility that many people buying these devices won’t know exactly what they are getting when they buy it. They may not find out until years later, when they decide they want to connect an antenna to what they thought was a television and discover they can’t.
Though not everyone uses the TV’s tuner, it is an incredibly useful feature and one you should insist on when buying a television. Though I have a satellite box and a streaming device connected to all of my televisions, I have antennas hooked up to most of them as well. If the Internet or satellite service goes down I can still receive programming, I get the extra channels that aren’t carried by satellite, and if I ever move the TV into a different room without a satellite box I know I can still get something to watch.
While you can add an external tuner to one of these tuner-free displays, that involves extra expense as well as extra complexity. Now you need another component, another power outlet, another connection on the back of the television, another HDMI cable, another remote control, and lots of steps to set it up. Why would anyone want that, when you can just buy a proper TV with a built-in tuner, connect an antenna and be ready to go? Even if you don’t use the tuner now, you might in the future. I’ve been in that situation more than once myself when I moved televisions from room to room and home to home.
As I have said many times in the past, over-the-air digital HDTV broadcasting is a wonderful thing and if you have not tried it, you should. You get the best picture quality available from network television, you get extra sub-channels offered by local broadcasters, it is easier to receive digital compared to analog broadcasts, and if you can get a good signal you get a perfect picture. Don’t go without it.