Facepalm! Beware of the Cutsheet!

FacepalmAlright, so I’ve been in AV quite a while, long enough to know that things aren’t always what they seem or claim to be.  Anytime I did a system design, whether residential or commercial, that involved a new product, I always made sure that I opened the product in the shop to verify it had all the features, ports, and dimensions that were needed to complete the job correctly.  It was surprising how many times things didn’t quite match the marketing materials, or how many times there were some secret nuances that had to be discovered to make things work the way I needed them to.

I have also done quite a few posts on how some manufacturers market their products or write their press releases.  It is with great dismay then that I admit that I was recently taken by a manufacturer’s cutsheet myself.

I’ll start by saying that after 10 years with my Sony Flat Screen CRT I finally decided to replace it with an LCD flat panel.  I know, I know!  But I REALLY liked my CRT.  It looked great with SD satellite and DVDs.  It didn’t have strange backlight effects at the screen edges, it had awesome contrast and black levels, and there was no Judder.  However, it weighed 220lbs and sat on a stand that had quite a large footprint, so I finally caved, moving to HD satellite and a 55″ flatpanel.

I went to my local Costco and Best Buy looking for a display.  I knew I wanted a major brand and that I was leaning toward Samsung just based on my experiences with their commercial ME, UE, and UD series displays for creating touchpanel and screen wall systems in the past, (NEC was great too with their X and UN series for these applications, but its hard to find a consumer E-Series dealer at the retail level).

I have an XBox 360, so the SMART features, while nice, really weren’t necessary and I only had two HD source devices so I didn’t need a plethora of inputs.  I aimed at the lower end of the Samsung family and landed on a 120Hz set (don’t get me started on the Clear Motion 240 ploy that is now being used to describe 120Hz sets).

I am smart enough to know not to ask the guy at Best Buy anything about the TV that I want a real answer to, so I instead went to Samsung’s website to look at the features of the set.  I knew I would want a soundbar at some point so I looked at the features and specifications for the audio on the set.  This is what I found.

The model was the UN55FH6003.

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The specifications page listed “Digital Out” in the audio section.

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The features page affirmed that Digital Out meant there was digital output via S/PDIF or HDMI for connection to a receiver.

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It looked like I had found my TV!  I purchased it, took it home, hung it on the wall, and cut in two old work mudrings for all my cable pass throughs, etc.

Later that night while watching a program my wife asked what was wrong with the sound.  I told her that the nature of down firing speakers is that they wouldn’t sound like the ones on our old CRT that fired forward.  We agreed a soundbar was necessary.  The next day before going sound bar shopping, I took a look behind the TV to see if I needed a soundbar with digital coax or Toslink.

What I found was that there was not a digital audio out on the back of the TV at all.  I quickly settled for just going analog, but then noticed there were no analog outputs either.  There was in fact no audio out at all.

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I referred back to the specs and features, and confirming what I saw the day before, I was a bit befuddled.  Are they in a trap door?  Are they on the edges somewhere?  Do you have to configure one of the HDMI ports to be an out in the menu somewhere?  I inspected the set and User’s Manual and couldn’t find an answer, so I decided to go to Samsung Support.

I explained the situation with the agent on Live Chat, and the answer I got was that digital out via S/PDIF was a “specification of the speakers of the TV and not the audio out port.”  HMMM.  This may work on the average chat participant but I knew that digital out via S/PDIF was not a speaker feature so I referred them to their own website.  I was promptly disconnected from the chat session.

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I assumed the disconnect was a mistake and reengaged in another chat session, again explaining the scenario.  I was given the same answer, that this was a feature of the TV speakers.  I asked if they looked at the specs, and they replied that they had.  I asked if them to clarify that the information was incorrect on the website, at which point they again ended the chat.  I no longer assumed the disconnect was accidental.

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I made an attempt to follow up via email, phone and FaceBook, and got the same answer.

In the final scheme of things the answer from Samsung was summed up in the answer I got from both a live person on the phone and in their Facebook response:

Samsung FB2 Samsung FB1















And there it was!  The Legal CYA phrase that trumps all and excuses any mistakes that may have been made.

“Features and Specifications are subject to change without prior notification.”

Bravo!  Proof that not even the manufacturer is confident in their own spec sheets.

This is the nature of a cut and paste society.  The person putting these together most likely copied a previous model and then spot edited the information, forgetting or not knowing to remove the digital out language.

No one from engineering reviewed the final copies most likely.  The support team only had a website and user’s manuals at their disposal to answer my questions it seemed, and no access to the physical product to look at the jack pack and agree the specs were wrong.  (***Shameless Plug*** At Chief our Customer Service and Support Teams have several mounts in their department for physical reference and troubleshooting).

The Samsung website has now been updated across all products and this information is now gone.  (I take full credit for that by the way!)  However the information lived incorrectly for 2 weeks after I pointed it out, as I showed the sales guy at Best Buy the website when I returned the set and it was still touting digital out.

At the end of the day, I like the Samsung TVs so I traded the it in for another Samsung model with the features I needed and wanted.  However I spent some time exploring the mistake Samsung made, had to uninstall and return the set that had the incorrect information, and then pick up and reinstall the new set after I traded it out.

Next time I’m opening the boxes of anything I buy on the floor store to verify what is inside, just like I had always done in the past professionally.  I guess I should have known better.  I’ll read my own blogs before shopping next time. . .