So what's the big deal with HDTV? Unlike analog TV, high definition television uses digital signals and creates a clearer, sharper image that doesn't look as pixelated as analog TV. A higher resolution picture and better sound quality results in a stellar viewing experience.
'''Here are a few things you should know about HDTVs in general:'''
* CRTs, Plasmas, LCDs, and Rear-Projection TVs all come in HDTV formats.
* HDTV is broadcast in 16:9 as widescreen.
** Analog TV is broadcast in 4:3, the standard "square" TV shape.
* Most large HDTVs come with built-in tuners. These are labeled as integrated HDTVs.
* Not all HDTVs come with built-in tuners or speakers. Such models without integrated tuners are called "HD-ready" (with or without speakers). That means that they can receive digitally broadcast programming once you buy an additional tuner. Satellite over HD-ready TV requires a special receiver or cable box.
* Digital-cable-ready TVs are another type of HDTV that allow for both broadcast and satellite reception via an antenna or through un-encrypted digital signals, which eliminates the need for a cable box.
* EDTVs (enhanced definition TVs) are another option on the market and are slightly cheaper than HDTV models. While the lower price may seem like a nice incentive, in the long run it's not really worth saving a few hundred dollars. The picture quality is definitely not comparable to that of an HDTV.
* HDTV is all about better resolution, but not all HDTVs have the same resolution.
* Resolution is usually expressed with a single number, which actually corresponds to the vertical resolution.
** Vertical resolution is how many horizontal lines of information can appear on the screen.
* This number is usually followed by a letter, p or i, which describes how lines are scanned, or "painted," on the screen.
** "i" refers to "interlaced scanning"--this means that the odd-numbered lines are "painted" first, then the even-numbered lines are filled in.
** "p" refers to "progressive scanning," also known as "sequential scanning" - all lines are "repainted" every 1/60th of a second.
** Progressive scanning is generally considered far superior - between two broadcasts with a resolution of 480, the one in 480p will look clearer and more film-like than the 480i.
** Progressive scanning is also better because there is less flickering with added stability.
* There are four main resolutions broadcast today:
*** Standard TV broadcasts have resolutions of 480i or less.
*** Broadcast in 4:3 aspect ratio (standard "square" TV ratio).
** '''Enhanced Definition (EDTV)'''
*** Mainly available in plasma.
*** ED is 480p, the resolution equivalent to DVD movies.
** '''1080i High Definition'''
*** The most common HD resolution: 1920 x 1080.
*** All HD-ready TVs can display 1080i. They can scale the image if they are too small to display it at 1080.
*** Broadcast in 16:9 format (widescreen).
** '''720p High Definition'''
*** Used by a few channels, including ABC, Fox, and ESPN.
*** Contrary to myth, 720p is equal in quality to 1080i.
**** Both have excellent resolution.
**** 720p, being progressive, might have the upper hand in displaying high-movement shows, such as sporting events.
*** Many HD sets can display 720p to its full extent,
** '''1080p High Definition'''
*** 1080p monitors are theoretically capable of displaying every pixel of the highest-resolution HD broadcasts.
*** Offer more than twice the resolution of today's 1,280 x 720, or 720p HDTVs.
*** You can expect to pay about $2,500 extra for the bump in resolution.
*** What about content? Today's, high-def broadcasts are done in either 1080i or 720p, and there's little or no chance they'll jump to 1080p any time soon because of bandwidth issues.
*** The Sony PlayStation, Blu Ray, and even camcorders now output in 1080p.
If you live in a poor reception area, you may need an antenna for your HDTV in order to take advantage of all the benefits it has to offer. Check out some options below to decide which outdoor/indoor antenna to buy and how to mount it properly.
All dimensions refer to the length of the diagonal of the screen.
Tips for Buying
Whichever option you choose, here are a few pointers to help you find a good TV.
** Although the enhanced resolution means that you don't have to sit as far back from HDTVs as from regular TVs, you should still consider the size of a room.
** That 70" screen looks great in the showroom, but where are you going to put it back home?
* '''HDMI Input'''
** HDMI cables can carry both images and sound in digital format.
** HDMI input on your TV avoids signal degradation by passing it through an analog format, such as a cable box.
** There are a few 4:3 aspect HDTVs out there, but most are widescreen.
** Most HDTV content is in 16:9, so a widescreen will look great whether you are watching TV or DVDs.