Reader Question: Satellite in TV a Bad Idea?

Steve Berger has been a TV technician for 34 years, so when he wrote to respond to my article last week about “Satellite Built-In?“, I listened. I’ve condensed his remarks here:

I noticed you thought that including a satellite receiver inside a TV was a good idea. Adding decryption hardware to a TV makes the set almost impossible to repair. The only cost-effective fix is to throw out the expensive, nonreturnable parts. You can easily have a $1,000 repair even if only a $100 tuner is bad. Personally, I would never want any decryption circuitry to be inside of my TV, even though that’s the place the content owners want it to be. A separate box is relatively cheap to replace: a TV is not.

I can’t find any fault with your logic, and clearly it comes from experience. The two sides of this discussion go back beyond the first days of component versus compact stereos. And it looks as though the price of skilled labor is going to rise much faster than electronics, so finding labor-sparing troubleshooting and repair options will be important.

But I don’t think that we necessarily disagree if you break it down. It’s not the satellite receiver in the TV that you object to; it’s the fact that it’s tightly integrated in the design. Manufacturers are going to have make tough choices. Do they go for maximum integration for minimum parts counts and assembly costs? Or do they create modular designs that let the buyers make cost-effective repairs — or upgrades to their displays in the future? If the satellite tuner resides on a modular card, then upgrading for features may be a competitive advantage while providing a more economical repair strategy.

The bottom line on all of this, however, is to take the time to find out what the repair options are for your new HDTV. Rear-projection displays have a lamp that can replaced when the display gets dim. Some direct-view LCDs have replaceable backlights. Most displays are tightly integrated, however, meaning that the failure of a small component can mean the replacement of much larger and expensive module.