HDTV basics

One of the hottest items in television right now is HDTV, or high-definition television. This is a digital television which offers high resolution, typically coupled with Dolby Digital Surround sound. This is the ideal television to form the foundation for a home theater system. This higher resolution means crisper, clearer pictures that available on traditional televisions, which are based on standards such as NTSC and PAL. Colors will look better, with much more detail.

Despite HDTV looking and sounding so great, it should be understood that not all stations will be broadcast in HDTV, or even all programs on a station that supports it. You may sometimes be faced with choosing between a non-HD show you prefer and an HD show you don’t prefer as much. A term you’ll run into is “simulcast in HD”, which means a program in shown both in the standard format, and in high definition. You’ll have to tune to the right channel to see the HD version. It’s important to find out what your television service offers, and consider switching to satellite if necessary. HD can even be picked up over the air There are even differences between the different satellite providers in what is offered. Be aware however that once you buy a particular HD receiver, it may lock you into that service.

How much better exactly is HDTV? Standard television offers 525 lines of resolution, while HDTV offers 720 to 1080. This creates a much more life-like picture, that will be hard to give up once you see it.

Another phrase you’ll see when shopping is “HDTV Ready”. What does this mean? It simply means the HD tuner is not built into the television, it has to be connected externally. If you’re going to buy a satellite based HDTV tuner anyway, this shouldn’t present a problem. You’ll also be faced with other choices such as flat-panel, big-screen, or tube type models. There are also a variety of different pixel format, which is beyond the scope of the article, however the most common format is called 1080i, which means 1080 interlaced lines. Another common one is 720p, which is 720 lines of progressive scan.

Keep in mind that when playing DVD’s, it’s going to typically drop down to a lower resolution such as 480p, so the HDTV’s will support these formats also for full compatibility.

This has only touched on some of the basics, so we recommend researching carefully and looking at a lot of different types of televisions before making an investment in HDTV.