|Originally posted by brentski
[b]99% of my TV viewing is watching movie channels via digital cable(soon to be HD cable with a HD set top box provided by Cox, my local cable co.) as soon as I buy my set.
For the few times I do watch a DVD or HDTV broadcast, everything I've seen or read so far points to the 36XBR800 easily being able to provide the wide screen formats to view them.
If I'm wrong, please explain why !!
Since I was under the impression your decision was already made, I haven't spoken up for a while to avoid looking like or being associated with Donberg by arguing widescreen's superiority to someone who's already asked for advice, considered it, and made a decision that just doesn't happen to be the one I like. But I do believe you will be happier with the 34. And not because you're "wrong". It's a fact that the 36 does indeed have the ability to show the widescreen stuff, almost as large as the 34.
BUT... As you describe it, 99% of your viewing would fit the wide screen better. It's generally best to have the screen that is the best fit for the material you plan to use it for. If you watch in letterbox mode, the presentation will feel squished and the rest of the screen wasted; if you watch zoomed in (or P&S), you'll be losing material and you'll be able to tell. And I'm not sure that's really an option anyway, whereas the 34 offers four different modes for you to choose from for the best possible presentation of 4:3 on that set. Also, if you were to watch a mix of 4:3 and 16:9 on the same set, whichever one fills the screen in its original format will be overwhelming compared to the one that requires alteration or shrinking. Whichever you watch more of, you'll get used to as the standard presentation; the other will feel like either too little or too much. Would you rather make low-res standard 4:3 stuff overwhelming and make HD and movies feel somehow lessened and wimpified, or vice versa?
Also, even if you ignore or disagree with my point on human viewing psychology and just figure bigger is better, there's a simple matter of mathematics in the size differences. The 34 is only wider by a bit over five sixths of an inch for widescreen pictures, while the 36 is about 4.9 inches taller for NTSC. But with the 34, you'll get that almost-an-inch 99% of the time, while you'd get the 36's 4.9 inches 1% of the time.
0.833568 x 0.99 = 0.82523232
4.931118 x 0.01 = 0.04931118
This shows that, for your viewing, the 34 is bigger than the 36. (The breakeven point would be about 94.4% widescreen viewing, 5.6% 4:3 viewing.)
Also, consider that the numbers above assume that programming remains constant, which it won't; they'd shift even more in favor of wide screens if we could calculate the time factor. Things are changing over from 4:3 to 16:9 anyway, so, over the TV's life, you'll end up watching nothing but widescreen shows and leaving 4:3 material behind completely. This is, of course, assuming that you plan to keep it for several years... but if you don't, then you're better off not investing the big bucks in ANY kind of HD-capable TV anyway, but sticking with an analog 4:3 until replacement time.
Some would point out that some widescreen programming is actually filmed in 4:3 and then has black bars added at the sides, so it's really a 4:3 picture adjusted for widescreen TVs. But making sure your 4:3 TV and/or STB allows you to watch this at full size on a 4:3 TV is, at the moment, a hassle and posisbly an extra expense if it's possible at all, and you wouldn't be increasing resolution while you increase the size... while it's already a guarantee that, with a widescreen TV, you can watch it as intended. (The size would be similar to the same picture's size with black bars on all four sides on the 36, but think "watchability" rather than size, and I'm sure you'd conclude it's more annoying to have 4 black bars than 2, especially if the 4 bars happen to come in two different shades of black.)
One more thing to consider... when you think of the aspect ratios of the movies you're watching, there are actually THREE basic ratios to deal with: 1.33 (4:3), 1.8 (16:9 and some insignificantly wider movies), and 2.35. If you get a wide screen, you're in the middle of the three, and thus fairly close to the other two. If you were to get a screen with a native shape of 1.33 or 2.35, you'd still be fairly close for showing 1.8 material, but either of these ratios is AWFUL for showing programs in the other ratio; you'd have to lose roughly HALF of the picture or else show it all but at HALF the size with not just black bars, but HUGE black bars.