June 6th, 2005
You’ve seen the words "Broadcast in HDTV" at the start of some of your favorite television shows. Your newspaper is flooded with ads from local electronics stores plugging the newest "must have" HDTV sets. But, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), while more than 60 percent of American television viewers recognize the abbreviation “HDTV,” they are very confused about all of the new TV terminology and what they will actually see when they invite high-definition television into their home. HDTV is all about the experience. The improvement in picture image and clarity between standard or enhanced definition and high definition is dramatic. Whether watching sporting events or television shows, when you experience true HD quality, you see the difference as clearly as when you switched from VHS to DVD. A trip to an electronics store today can prove overwhelming, A range of choices is quickly replacing traditional televisions. Plasma televisions, LCDs and projection televisions come in sizes ranging from 13 inches to greater than 70 inches with price tags from the low hundreds to thousands of dollars. Some products come equipped with “plug-and-play” technology for immediate reception of the HD signal, while others claim they are HD-ready or offer enhanced definition TV. Consumers are asked to compare standards and formats they don't understand and try to differentiate between monitors and integrated sets. The key to demystifying this technology and making sure you are investing your money in a television that will give you the best HD quality now and in the future, is to do some research and figure out which questions to ask before going into the store. Before making the final decision, you shouldn’t settle on price alone, but also make sure that your new TV lives up to its billing by comparing it to other displays. We recommend that consumers think about and ask the following questions when preparing to incorporate HDTV into their home. How do I get HDTV programming in my home? You can get HD programming the same ways you get regular television shows right now – via cable, satellite or simply over-the-air. Think about how you view your programs and then check the website of your local cable or satellite provider to find out about HDTV services in your local area.
- Cable: If your local cable provider currently supports HDTV, you simply need to ask them for a HD decoder box that will replace your current cable box and provide easy access to HD. In the near future, you will be able to purchase high definition televisions with the cable box built in (called digital cable-ready). With these new televisions, you simply call your cable company and let them know you have a cable-ready TV and they will provide you with a credit-card sized card that you insert into the television to begin receiving service. Pioneer begins offering digital cable-ready plasma televisions this fall.
- Over-The-Air: This method involves setting up an antenna and receiving HD programming from local broadcast towers. If you are in a large metropolitan area, chances are good that you can already receive many free HDTV channels over the air.
- Satellite: Almost anyone can receive HDTV via satellite and all satellite companies currently carry high definition channels. You will need to get a special HD decoder and dish from the satellite provider to watch HD programming and there’s usually a small price increase for this service.
- Actor's faces look more expressive and you'll see more detail in costumes and clothing.
- When watching sports, you can follow the ball, the puck, or a racecar more easily and see subtle details in an athlete's movements, even the fuzz on a tennis ball.
- A forest looks like a group of individual trees, not a brown and green clump.
- Concerts in HDTV feature incredible visual detail and digital sound.
- Traditional CRT (cathode ray tube) based TVs have been in homes across America for more than 50 years. It is the cheapest television technology, but it can be bulky and the image being reproduced is high quality although commonly shrunk to fit the square screen. The range of screen sizes for CRT TVs spans from just a few inches to large-size rear projection televisions.
- LCD TVs are slim monitors that are available in screen sizes up to 36 inches. Because LCDs were originally designed for computer monitors rather than televisions, they are better suited for viewing data than video. The response time of an LCD television is slower than other technologies, which means you may get a blurring effect when images move quickly across the screen. Because LCD televisions tend to be smaller, they are easy to fit in most home kitchens, workshops and the like. However, it’s important to remember that the biggest benefit of high definition television is enhancing an image so it seems that you are immersed in the picture. This quality is much more effective on larger screen sizes. The bigger the television, the more dramatic the improvement in picture quality from standard to high definition. If you’re looking at a 13-inch screen, you might not notice much difference at all.
- Plasma is one of the newest television technologies, but has been on the market just long enough to become the latest craze. Newer model plasma televisions offer picture quality and color reproduction as good as any projection television, while being thin enough to fit almost anywhere. Plasma also has a wider viewing angle than many other televisions, which means you don’t have to sit in the “sweet spot” in the living room to get a good view of the TV. The larger-size plasma televisions provide the most dramatic difference when viewing HDTV.
- Digital Light Processing (DLP) Although DLP is much slimmer than a typical rear projection television, they don’t have the viewing angle, size or brightness to be hung on a wall or perched on a stand easily. DLP technology uses micro mirrors and a color wheel to create an image. Viewing angles, life span, depth and brightness have plagued the technology. The upside is that these large screen displays are relatively inexpensive compared to other technologies.
- Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) technology is similar to how DLP works, however it uses liquid crystals (LCDs) on silicon wafers (rather then small mirrors) to reproduce images. enabling the display to show high quality image reproduction when watching movies and playing video games. Price and size of the displays are slowing the growth of the technology.