Picture Perfect

As Consumer Reports' top TV tester, Claudio Ciacci works to ensure you never experience "technical difficulties" at home.



Photo by John rizzo

As a self-described ‘electronics enthusiast,’ this must be a labor of love for you.
Yes, it is, although the quantity of TVs they keep rolling in is a challenge.

Are you ever surprised by a disconnect between your results/rankings and what the consumers will say about a given product?
If we say a TV is not such high quality, and you have readers saying how great it is, I accept that because they’re not as rigorous in their standards as we are. I haven’t experienced the converse: we say a TV is great and people say it’s terrible.

What’s the average shelf life for a TV—from the time it first becomes available in stores to the time it’s rendered ‘obsolete’ and replaced in the stores by an upgraded model?
Generally, about seven months to a year.

Has there been an overall increase in the production quality and reliability of TVs over the years?
The difference between the best and worst of TVs has narrowed. If you look at our ratings, we have a lot of ‘excellents’ and ‘very goods.’ In the past, we had more ‘fair’-rated TVs in the CRT-style era.

Do so-called ‘name brands’ generally deserve their rep for better quality?
As a general rule, the name brands have stood consistently above the‘no-name’ brands that pop up.

Has your line of work made you jaded about advertisement claims?
No. These companies are competing so hard that they’re adding features that really can improve performance, like resolution, depth of black level. Competition is good.

What’s the biggest challenge to your job?
Staying on top of the new technologies, incorporating them into our tests, and handling the number of TVs we bring into our labs for testing—nearly two hundred a year.

What happens to all the TVs after they’ve been tested?
We have a warehouse in our basement where we store everything we’ve tested—not just TVs but computers, toasters, barbecue grills, treadmills, and eventually we hold in-house silent auctions.

Sounds like a great job perk.
Yes—if you’re lucky enough to win!

What kind of TV do you own at home?
I have a fifty-inch Panasonic plasma. I also have a commercial-grade overhead projector and screen. That’s my real home theater.