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Old 12-22-2012, 06:02 PM   #61
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I am too, for some things I buy. But when you see how they go together in mass production, you get a sense of it. So much is based in the integrated circuit packages, and those are produced very cheaply now. And they get mass soldered to the boards. Hundreds, thousands of solder connections made with a single swipe of solder paste through a screen/mask, parts placed into the solder by machines that pick and place faster than you can follow with the eye, and then a pass through an oven to melt the solder. The solder flux is volatile, it just vaporizes off - no washing. Some minimal assembly - snap in a display, click a few case parts together - done!
Yes, I know how these are made. Or perhaps I should say "knew". The last time I worked in a project that went into production was 10 years ago.

Back then, chips with hundreds of pins spaced 12.5 mil (0.3 mm) apart were just getting into common use. Prototyping with them was already a real pain. Try to probe a pin without shorting the one next to it was impossible. Worse, some critical high-frequency chips were highly dependent on the PCB design that they were soldered on. Going through a via and that added another nanohenry of inductance, and that affected the chip function. I was getting more and more frustrated working with these chips.

In the last 10 years and until recently when I stopped, I have been doing more analytical work on larger systems, and have not had hand-on experience like my previous work. Just a month ago, my son invited me to visit the electronic lab where he worked. He showed me some of the IC packages that they worked on. It blew my mind.

I am glad I am not working with modern electronics anymore. It's too tough!
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Old 12-22-2012, 07:45 PM   #62
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We have an HP 5L laser printer that's a tank; can't toss it cuz it just won't quit. We bought an all-in-one printer a couple years back for color & scanner, and looking inside, I can't believe they could produce it for what we paid for it, let alone R&D, design, marketing, etc., etc. Hundreds of parts for under $150? Even with slave labor...
Razor/blade approach. They make it up in ink costs.

But yes, my printer has a fair amount of mech assembly. I've had it apart to replace the ink 'waste' pads, and I was pretty surprised I got it back together and working. But again, in a factory they have assembly aids to hold all those springy parts in place, and very agile young people with excellent eyesight doing this. At even $5/hour, it might take 6 minutes when you become familiar with it, so that's 50 cents labor cost.

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Old 12-22-2012, 07:56 PM   #63
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Yes, I know how these are made. Or perhaps I should say "knew". The last time I worked in a project that went into production was 10 years ago.

Back then, chips with hundreds of pins spaced 12.5 mil (0.3 mm) apart were just getting into common use. Prototyping with them was already a real pain. Try to probe a pin without shorting the one next to it was impossible. Worse, some critical high-frequency chips were highly dependent on the PCB design that they were soldered on. Going through a via and that added another nanohenry of inductance, and that affected the chip function. I was getting more and more frustrated working with these chips.

In the last 10 years and until recently when I stopped, I have been doing more analytical work on larger systems, and have not had hand-on experience like my previous work. Just a month ago, my son invited me to visit the electronic lab where he worked. He showed me some of the IC packages that they worked on. It blew my mind.

I am glad I am not working with modern electronics anymore. It's too tough!
Yes, the stuff I was working with (almost 10 years ago, so I really don't know where things are today) was Ball Grid Array - there were no 'pins', nothing to probe (unless it connected to something probe-able like a surface mount component with exposed terminals, but many connections were from one BGA chip to another BGA chip) - it was all soldered underneath the package. It would take x-ray to inspect the solder joint.

I think the development guys could only do so much lab work and simulation, then they just had to have a PCB made and try it. Adding break-out points for analyzing would increase the parasitics and affect the performance, as you mentioned.

So here's a BGA, the pcb with solder paste screened on it, and a side view of the outside pads after soldering:







So when it is finished, this is all you see





-ERD50
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:02 PM   #64
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We are all Vizio. I'm embarrassed to admit that we have four of them.....never had a problem.
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Old 12-22-2012, 10:32 PM   #65
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We are all Vizio. I'm embarrassed to admit that we have four of them.....never had a problem.
If you don't mind my asking (PM if you'd rather), LCD or plasma, what size(s), & how long/old?
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:13 PM   #66
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I don't really care about 3D TV at this time, but as the article states, the better sets may all have it anyway, so we'll make sure the (whichever kind of) glasses are piggybackable over what we're wearing now.
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Learned that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away this galaxy! So I avoid electronics stores/departments unless I'm actually shopping for something specific.
If your broken CRT HD TV started working again tomorrow then would you stop shopping and still keep it?

If so, then why not try your local Craigslist for a used CRT TV? We used to pay $50-$100 for used 27"-29" CRTs (one of which was HD ready) and a few months ago we got a 29" CRT (no HD) for free.

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CRT died prematurely? I thought they all disappeared years ago.
My spouse is snapping them up as quickly as her incumbents burn out...

Her primary TiVo died a couple weeks ago (after six years of constant use, but on a lifetime agreement) and it looks like a bad hard drive. Yet she's happy with her backup TiVo (also nearly six years old, also lifetime agreement) and doesn't even want to fix the primary TiVo's HD until the backup TiVo begins glitching. If we find a cheap Series 2 TiVo on Craigslist, though, we may buy it just to cannibalize the HD.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:16 PM   #67
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If your broken CRT HD TV started working again tomorrow then would you stop shopping and still keep it?
You and your rhetorical questions...
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:49 PM   #68
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If your broken CRT HD TV started working again tomorrow then would you stop shopping and still keep it?
Yes, but irrelevant. It's toast.

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If so, then why not try your local Craigslist for a used CRT TV? We used to pay $50-$100 for used 27"-29" CRTs (one of which was HD ready) and a few months ago we got a 29" CRT (no HD) for free.
Because the decision has been made for years that the next set would be a larger flat screen HD. It just came earlier than anticipated (as have other things -- like ER).
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Old 12-23-2012, 09:58 AM   #69
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Yes, the stuff I was working with (almost 10 years ago, so I really don't know where things are today) was Ball Grid Array - there were no 'pins', nothing to probe (unless it connected to something probe-able like a surface mount component with exposed terminals, but many connections were from one BGA chip to another BGA chip) - it was all soldered underneath the package. It would take x-ray to inspect the solder joint.
BGA was available in my time too, but I preferred to use the Thin Quad Flat Package, as the stuff we built was only in low-volume production, and we wanted to avoid the hassle with BGA. The advantage of BGA is of course smaller packaging. Back then, the chips that I used were available in different packages, but I started to see newer chips were made in the BGA form only.

I saw another engineer troubleshooting a batch of boards that had BGA chips with cold-solder joints. He pressed down on the suspect chip, while turning the equipment on, for the balled pins to make contact with the board. Then, once it was confirmed, he continued to run test with a C-clamp with a throat deep enough to reach the chip. A judicial amount of pressure was needed to avoid cracking the chip or the PCB. They had a machine that could heat individual chips locally to remelt the solder, once the diagnostic had been made. I figure this kind of repair would be way too expensive for a production line of consumer products.

And what my son showed me was a form of BGA.. What blew me away was the thinness of the package, its small overall size, AND the closeness of those balls. Good grief! But I figure you need things that small to go into the newer superthin and lightweight gadgets of the future. I quit!
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Old 12-23-2012, 11:20 AM   #70
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... They had a machine that could heat individual chips locally to remelt the solder, once the diagnostic had been made. I figure this kind of repair would be way too expensive for a production line of consumer products.
No, with high production rates you could pay for that equipment pretty quickly in reduced scrap costs - at least on the more expensive consumer products. Maybe a retail $40 mp3 player or something would just be scrapped, I don't know. I didn't work on that end if it too closely, but IIRC there was a specific heat profile programmed in for each chip on the board, to optimize and not overheat anything else.

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And what my son showed me was a form of BGA.. What blew me away was the thinness of the package, its small overall size, AND the closeness of those balls. Good grief! But I figure you need things that small to go into the newer superthin and lightweight gadgets of the future. I quit!
I used BGA a bit generically - it might have had some more initials to describe the size. I don't recall any of that, but the were tiny. Some of the Rs and Cs were about the size of a grain of salt.

I still take apart just about anything that breaks before I recycle it (assuming I couldn't repair it), just to see what they are up to these days.

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Old 12-23-2012, 03:36 PM   #71
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The boards that I saw that engineer troubleshoot were very expensive, and they were for a low-volume aerospace application of perhaps 500 units/yr. The boards had been made for a while, then suddenly started to exhibit early failure. It was definitely an inadvertent change in the soldering process that was the cause. The cost of repair was not just the cost of the equipment, but the labor cost of a senior engineer plus a couple of technicians just to diagnose the problems with each board. I do not know how failures like that are treated in the consumer world, but the cost of repair if a board is to be salvaged would have to be a lot lower than what I saw, which could be $1K+ per board.

My point about what my son showed me was that the new packages are getting smaller and thinner, much minuscule compared to the BGA packages I saw 10 years ago.

Yes, I still open things up to see what is inside, but only after they fail. When I was much younger, more impatient and more curious, I would open things that were still working fine. Well, I soon learned not to do that.
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:11 PM   #72
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If you don't mind my asking (PM if you'd rather), LCD or plasma, what size(s), & how long/old?

Oldest one is from February 2006, a 42" LCD. Two others are 37" (I think) and the last one is in my kitchen (32"). All are LCD's.
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:19 PM   #73
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We went to Costco again yesterday, not to buy anything but food items for the holidays. Spent a bit of time looking at the TVs.

Son of a gun! I did not see that much difference in picture quality between the cheaper ones and the expensive ones. First, it's my palate that was gone, then my aural appreciation of HiFi equipment, now my visual acuity. What's next to go, I wonder. What's the point of taking WR above 3.5% if nothing matters to you anymore?

Anyway, the ones with WiFi built-in cost about $150 more than the ones without. However, one can add that with a $90 Sony Blu-ray player like the one I just bought as a lark. I still have to finish setting up my DLNA server to play MP3 and video files, but like that Blu-ray player so far.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:27 AM   #74
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We went to Costco again yesterday, not to buy anything but food items for the holidays. Spent a bit of time looking at the TVs.

Son of a gun! I did not see that much difference in picture quality between the cheaper ones and the expensive ones.
That may not be your sensory acuity failing. The recent (11/12) Consumer Report article on HDTVs (link below) noted that, "All .... TVs in the Ratings (which include 3D sets) are recommended models with excellent or very good picture quality." So for us peons non-videophiles there may be little/no noticeable difference, especially in that kind of less-than-optimal environment.

That said, we did make a decision and purchase, and for anyone who may be interested, here's an outline of our process, with some observations.

1. While we consulted a LOT of sources (first two pages of Google search) most were of little/no help, and/or were eliminated due to bad/biased/incomplete information. The main sources we wound up finding most helpful and useful were (in no specific order/preference, NAYY):
A. Consumer Reports -- their article & ratings are for lay consumers rather than techno-geeks, with excellent info. & advice. In their ratings, in several cases, they rated same models of different sizes differently, which didn't make sense -- the guts are the same within a model family.

B. CNET -- Excellent techno-geek stuff that admits their biases, but still provides objective information understandable by tyros like myself. Very in-depth reviews.

C. Digital Trends -- A lot like CNET; also has excellent reviews, useful for confirmation and differing POVs.

D. AVS Forum -- While a good site, much of the information they had on specific reviews/recommendations was woefully out of date (going back 2-3 years in some cases), and bias was rampant (not necessarily a bad thing -- there were definitely nuggets to be mined).

E. Amazon -- Only for customer ratings when representative of a large sample (over 100) of customers.
2. After reading the buying guides (informational articles) and deciding on which specific size and type (Plasma or LED), we accumulated several "Recommended/Best of" lists, and compiled the information on a spreadsheet, noting models, ratings, and making notes. This way we could easily spot models that were recommended by multiple sources. We also noted the ratings on Amazon if/when they constituted a large sample of customers. This compiling allowed us to pare an initial list of 50+ models down to a final list of ~10.

3. Then we read the reviews on specific models on CNET, Digital Trends, and AVS Forum (if they had one) to become familiar with features, pros/cons. By then, we had it down to 2 or 3 mfrs, and 2 or 3 models each.

4. Then we went out to SEE each model (which in the long run means more than any review/specs.) and "A-B'd" brands and models, noting prices at various outlets and online.

5. We went home, evaluated our data, and made a list of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th choices (in case of availability problems), and....

6. Went shopping.

In our case (YMMV) we didn't bother with online prices, because we weren't comfortable with having such an item shipped to find out it was damaged, and have to go through the hassle of exchanging/returning. We also like to shop local whenever possible.

BTW -- I noticed someone posted back in Nov. '12 that Best Buy included online prices in their price guarantee. That is not what it states on their website (online prices are specifically excluded) and they didn't go for it in person either. It may have been a temporary policy that didn't work out for them. N.B. Read price guarantees, warrantees, etc. carefully.

Our new set is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. (XX)

Tyro
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:13 PM   #75
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...
That said, we did make a decision and purchase, and for anyone who may be interested, here's an outline of our process, with some observations...
Congrats!

What did you buy?

Did you get an extended warranty (I believe somewhere I read that this is one purchase that warrants the warranty )?
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:26 PM   #76
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Our new set is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. (XX)

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Old 12-28-2012, 01:51 PM   #77
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Picture please.

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Old 12-28-2012, 03:13 PM   #78
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Did you get an extended warranty (I believe somewhere I read that this is one purchase that warrants the warranty )?
http://reviews.cnet.com/flat-panel-t...-35123236.html

It was very close. The VT series, while rated better, was about 50% more for features we'd never use (like gesture and voice commands). If they hadn't had the GT available, we would have opted for the ST series (one step below), which was tied for overall picture quality. Since we watch primarily movies, the THX Modes (not on the ST) and a couple of other features tilted the scales somewhat (DW had some input there). For most folks, the ST series is probably as good/better, and a few hundred less.

For 3D glasses (All Plasmas are active 3D) we're probably going to start with a couple pair of Samsung's $20 type (which will work on this set). If 3D becomes something we actually use fairly often (our cable provider offers 3D content), we'll pony up for the Panasonic glasses and keep the cheapies for friends.

Looking at Blu-ray players now. Since we can't play games anymore, this one is (so far) on the list. http://reviews.cnet.com/blu-ray-play...-35120314.html
http://reviews.cnet.com/best-blu-ray-players/

Not only did they try to push the extended warranty, they also tried to push a second extended warranty that I didn't even understand the rationale for, and they wanted to charge us some obscene amount to have some geek come to the house and connect everything properly and adjust the settings. What's to connect? We've got a DVD (soon to upgrade to Blu-ray). The "settings" will be largely subjective (our opinion vs. the geek's) and if the thing isn't adjusted correctly out of the box, the "optimum" settings can be found on several of the geek sites I mentioned. I'll probably wind up messing around with them anyway.

This isn't our first HDTV, so I feel like I've been at least most of the way around the block.
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Old 12-28-2012, 09:00 PM   #79
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I just went to a neighbors house to help them hook up a tv to the cable box. They did not know what HDMI was. Just viewing TV is getting too complicated for many people. I provided an HDMI cable out of my stash.

Still had to use two remotes to control the TV. One for the cable box for channels and one for the TV for volume. No wonder people are confused.

When I was a kid I was the remote. I had to stand by the TV and change channels with the mechanical tuner for my parents.

All three networks!
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Old 12-29-2012, 12:04 AM   #80
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I mentioned earlier about my observation that newer electronics do not seem to last as long as what we bought 15-20 years ago.
Compared to TV's made years ago, newer TV's now have more features and just have more things that can break (Murphy's law). For example, my first TV did not have a remote control (AKA Space Command). Now you have remote controls for everything that is confusing, can be broken or lost. My old TV did not any AUX inputs. Now, you have input ports for aux devices - which again can break. The connectivity/operation of TVs and aux devices is also very confusing that they may sometimes be seen as a failure of devices.

I am fortunate that my consumer electronics appliances (older or newer) have lasted long. I only replaced my CRT set because they are too bulky (as per DW).
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