Mac vs. Windows 7, use HDMI cables for better picture quality, but do not buy expensive ones! (Weekly Sound Advice Newspaper Column)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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Q. Do you have a preference between Mac and Windows, and what do you know about Windows 7? Is it better than Windows Vista, which I have never used?

-Charlie Tennenbaum

A. My preference is Mac though I own Windows computers as well. I have not tried Windows 7 yet, but by most every account it is excellent and far better than Windows Vista, which was by far the worst operating system I have ever used.

Bear in mind if you get a new Mac you can load Windows on it as well and run both on the same computer. That way you do not have to decide between them and you essentially get two computers for the price of one!

Q. We purchased a 32-inch HDTV. Do we need an HDMI cable, and will we get a clearer picture if we use one? We have satellite service and the picture is pretty good, but I keep hearing about this cable and don’t know if we are missing out on a clearer picture.

-Linda

A. If you have the high definition satellite box or a Blu-ray player (and you should get both, if you have an HDTV) you will get a better picture with an HDMI cable.

The two most common ways to transmit high definition signals to a TV are component cables (red/green/blue RCA cables, which are analog) and HDMI cables, which are digital. Not only does the HDMI cable do a better job at transferring the signal, it can transmit 1080p signals from a Blu-ray player. The component cables are limited to 1080i, which is not quite as good. The HDMI cable also carries the audio signal. With component cables you need to run separate audio cables, which means five cables for a single component and a wiring rat’s nest. HDMI makes it simple and easy!

You probably keep hearing about this cable because you are getting hit with sales pitches selling expensive HDMI cables that retail for $80 to $150 (or more) per cable. With the gift-giving season upon us and my columns transitioning to product recommendations for several weeks, it is a good time to once again inform the public that these expensive cables are a shameless scam with no value whatsoever. An inexpensive, high quality cable will deliver 100% of the performance of an expensive one, and this has been proven 100% of the time in scientifically-controlled tests. (The same goes for speaker wire, too, so long as it is of sufficient gauge for the speakers and the length of the wire run.)

You can find excellent, well made, reliable HDMI cables for well under $10 each at websites such as amazon.com, monoprice.com,  and meritline.com. Most have lifetime warranties, and service from all three sites is excellent.

A new angle taken by the cable manufacturers is that by buying an expensive cable you will get one that is “future proof” and you will not need to replace it in three years should the HDMI standard evolve. This is ridiculous (not that I was expecting different from them) as you can just but another $5 cable in three years should you need it. Don’t fall for it. Save your money and use it towards a better TV, better speakers, or other items that make a real difference in your system.


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