HDTV 101: 1080P, Sources, HDMI, LCD, Size.. Oh My!

A few weeks ago, a report mentioned that people are not too familiar with HDTV. I know, because I'm often asked general questions about HDTV. Last week, I was in a Costco and a man saw me looking at one HDTV. He asked me if I knew about them and I answered yes. He rapidly got his wife and I took time to help them. In this post, I will answer some basic questions to get you started but I won't go too deep so not to loose you. That's why it's a 101. What is 720P, 1080i, or 1080P? That's the number of lines on the HDTV. The best picture is 1080P because every image get displayed in one big swoop of 1080 lines. The P stand for Progressive. It is the same with 720P but with fewer lines. For 1080i, 540 lines are sent in 2 swoops. The odd lines are sent and then the even lines are sent. The i stand for interlace. At this time, 720P/1080i are supported in the basic model of HDTVs. You will pay a few hundreds more for a 1080P. If you got the money, go for 1080P. The resolutions often mentioned on the box are: 1024 x 768, 1280 x 720, 1366 x 768, 1920 x 1080(best) So, a full HD would be 1080P and 1920 x 1080. Where to get HDTV sources? Because you have HDTV, it does not mean you have an HDTV picture by default. That's one part of the equation. You need a video source to feed it to your HDTV. These are the 4 major sources: Cable/Satellite Those are the primary sources that most people have. Satellite(Dish, DirectTV, Expressvu) are digital(480p) where cable have analog and digital signals(Videotron). You will need to rent or buy a HDTV receiver box to get a HDTV signal. You may have to pay extra to get the HDTV package. Some provider over compress the video signal thus giving what some clients calls "HDTV light". Do some research if your provider do that. Over-the-air(OTA) That's the local station that send you the signal("rabbit ear"). In Quebec City, I only have access to Radio-Canada(French) for now. But those near Montreal have more local choices plus some USA stations. I'm only using $20 rabbit ears(for HDTV) but the analog TV stations are bad and was meant has a cheap test/backup. You will get less compression versus cable/satellite. Note: In February of 2009(USA), the analog signal will no longer be available. It means that OTA won't be analog but only digital. Digital does not mean HDTV but most station will switch to 720P or 1080i because of the cost involved. You can have a rebate from the US government to buy a converter box for the old TV. In Canada, the switch to digital will be a few years later(rebates ?). For cable/satellite/OTA: No live 1080P is planned for the near future. Blu-Ray/(HD-DVD) If you want to watch movies in high-definition, you will need a Blu-Ray player. I'm using a Playstation 3 for that on my 720P HDTV. Blu-ray offer 1080P movies. Note: If you don't know yet, Blu-Ray won the HD war against HD-DVD last February. Computer/Game Console Many have connected their computer(Home Theater PC) to their HDTV. They can browse on the web, watch pictures, home video or play PC games. Those can be done with a game console like the PS3 too. You can also download content in HDTV but it's not the best quality versus Blu-Ray for example. What about the HDMI cable? A HDMI cable send both audio and video signal. DVI only sent the video signal. Both are digital. If you buy a new HDTV, make sure you can connect what you currently have(DVD) or will get in the near future. For example, you should look for at least 2 HDMI input: 1 for the cable/satellite box and 1 for the Blu-Ray player. If you can, get a third one for a console game. This is why the PS3 is popular because it does 2 in 1. It's always possible to add a HDMI switch but it will cost you more. What about the size? It's up to you and your budget to decide. Many will use some kind of chart to decide what will be size. Those are only guidelines. If you like movies, you will tend to get a big HDTV and seat nearer to have that theater feeling(popcorn is extra ;) ) . In that case, 1080P would be better because the picture will be more pleasant and not be pixelated. But be seated a few feet farther and 720P will be okay. If possible, try to simulate the distance at the store. What about LCD, Plasma or DLP/LCD?  Take in consideration the size if you expect to wall mount an LCD/Plasma. It will cost a few hundreds more. LCD LCD is the most popular type for the moment. It can be placed almost everywhere, consume less power, no burn-in, thin and light, many sizes, long bulb life. However, you see a blur in fast motion scenes and pay more in the higher sizes. Plasma Plasma has come down a lot in recent months to better compete with LCD. The picture has better black for example. However, it's heavier and consume more energy than LCD, possible ghost image or burn-in(less than before) . may case some glare. DLP/LCD DLP/LCD are rear projection TV(RPTV) that use an user changeable bulb. They cost less for the same size than LCD or Plasma. However, they are wider and the bulb life is much lower. You can't wall mount them like a LCD or Plasma. Conclusion Once you find a HDTV within your budget, take some time to search for that model number. On paper, the HDTV may be good but previous buyers may had technical troubles with it or in the the room where they placed the HDTV(too much light on the screen). Leave a comment if you have any questions.
Keywords: Entertainment, High definition, HTPC, Playstation 3


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