CNET editor David Carnoy discovered that all the HDMI inputs on his Sony LCD TV were dead. Instead of phoning customer support, he looked for a firmware upgrade using Google.
About a year ago I picked up a fairly entry-level 52-inch Sony LCD TV, the KDL-52V5100, as a second TV for a playroom. For a year, the set worked fine, then a few days ago a babysitter asked me to please fix it because it wasn't working.
At first, I figured someone had simply set the cable box to the wrong input. But a quick input assessment ruled that out as the possible culprit. I moved onto the next likely source of the problem: the cable box, which I unplugged, then waited for it to cycle through its painfully long rebooting process.
Still, nothing. No picture. Not even a menu. Conclusion: the cable box had crapped out. It had happened before, it would happen again.
I packed the thing up and the next day set off for a Time Warner Cable service center that happened to be about six blocks away from the CNET offices in Manhattan. My old cable box, a Samsung non-DVR model, was promptly chucked in a bin and I was handed a newer model Samsung box that was black instead of silver. I was happy. It matched the TV.
But upon returning home and hooking it up, the same thing happened. Nothing. Actually, for a brief second, a message flashed on the screen that said something about how the HDMI connection wasn't working and that I should switch to component video. Troubleshooting, I switched to HDMI 2 and fired up my PS3. Still nothing. So I plugged my PS3's HDMI cable into HDMI 3. Nada. I figured, That's it, Carnoy, your HDMI connectivity is shot. You're about to enter a world of pain.
I had visions of dumping the TV, selling it cheap. I'd thrown the box out, I was probably a month out of the warranty period, and I was stuck with no HDMI. Component? That was like going back to the Stone Age. My TV was almost worthless.
So I did what any CNET editor would do. I called Sony PR and said I was David Pogue of the New York Times and told them I was mad as hell.
OK, I didn't. But I thought about it. Kind of as a joke. But before I got too worked up I keyed the words "KDL-52V5100 HDMI issue" into Google. And the first search result at the top of the page had a link to this:
Loading available downloads for the KDL-52V5100, please be patient. ... Resolves an issue that may intermittently cause the TV to freeze and stop ... issue where the audio may infrequently be lost while connected via an HDMI connection...Sony eSupport - KDL-52V5100 - Software Updates & Drivers Loading available downloads for the KDL-52V5100, please be patient. ... Resolves an issue that may intermittently cause the TV to freeze and stop ... issue where the audio may infrequently be lost while connected via an HDMI connection... My problem didn't quite seem to fit the bill, but it was close enough. The magic words were "lost" and "HDMI." So what if it just said audio. I knew I was on to something. And sure enough, clicking through on the link I learned that there was a firmware upgrade available for my TV. While I'd never upgraded a TV's firmware before, I'd manually upgraded the firmware on plenty of other devices, including a Blu-ray player or two.
Truth be told, it's not all that difficult for someone who knows what they're doing, but I could certainly see how it might baffle the average consumer. Here's how it went:
I downloaded a ZIP file, which unpacked itself on my Mac. I then had to copy the files out of the folder onto a USB thumbdrive, which I stuck into the USB port on the back of my TV. About 7 tension-filled minutes later, my TV's firmware was upgraded and lo and behold, I had picture and sound again from my cable box. Why had the HDMI given out suddenly? I had no idea, but I was sure happy that my TV woes had been resolved via a software patch, not something much more tedious and time-consuming.
After the whole episode, I spoke with our resident video guru David Katzmaier about the TV firmware upgrade situation because I'd heard him discuss it before. Here are a few observations and tips we came up with: