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Before you buy anything you need to make three choices:

  • What will bethe source of your HD programming?
  • Do you wantan HDTV-Capable monitor or HDTV-Ready television?
  • What type ofdisplay technology is best for your viewing habits and your home?

Selectingthe source for your HD programming will directly impact whether you go withan HD-capable monitor or a HD-ready television. There are multiple things totake into consideration before you select the display technology that's mostaffordable and best suited for your home.

First,you need some background information to help you make the best HDTV choice.

HDTV-Ready orHDTV-Capable?

As youscan the advertisements in the newspaper from your local consumer electronicsretailers, you may notice a variance of $300-500 for HD products with thesame sized screens. Some of that may be attributable to the displaytechnology the units use but more likely it is the result of what anHDTV-ready television includes that is not available from an HDTV-capablemonitor.

HDTV-ReadyTelevision

  • Aspect ratioof 16:9 or 4:3 with scanning rates supported of 720p and 1080i, orhigher.
  • Requires anexternal HDTV tuner (i.e., HD cable box) to receive HD programs. Foroff-air broadcasts, requires an HDTV receiver and antenna.
  • To hearDolby audio, you will need a dedicated audio system connected to whicheverHDTV receiver you use.


HDTV-Capable Monitor

  • Aspect ratioof 16:9 or 4:3 with scanning rates supported of 720p and 1080i, orhigher.
  • Built-inHDTV tuner is ready for off-air HD signals from a special antenna. Toview HDTV programming, a cable box is required.
  • To hearDolby audio, you will need a dedicated audio system connected to theHDTV-ready television for off-air audio or to the HD cable box foraudio.


Digital Cable-ReadyTelevisions: Another Option

As youshop for an HDTV, you may see some digital cable-ready televisions (DTV) thatcan receive digital cable service (including HD programming) using a smallplug-in card instead of a cable box. Please note that current versions ofthese cards do not support two-way, on-demand cable service or an ElectronicProgramming Guide (EPG). You'll have to use a telephone connection to receivedownloaded EPG information. Development is underway to provide cards thatsupport two-way services.

Use this matrix to helpmatch your HD programming source with the best display.

HDTV-Capable Monitor

Broadcast

Cable

Requirements

Antenna; Built in HD tuner/receiver todeliver HD channels and Dolby Digital audio

HD Digital Cable Set-top terminal;Digital Cable and HD service

Advantages

No cost for broadcast programming; Noneed to purchase external HD tuner/receiver

Extensive HD channel availability;Nothing to buy; No long-term service agreement; Local channels included; HDvideo On Demand

Disadvantages

Viewing limited to broadcast HDprogramming; Cost of antenna; Cost of HDTV with HD tuner; Potential signalproblems

Requires purchase of Digital Cableservice to receive HD programs

HDTV-Ready Television

Broadcast

Cable

Requirements

Antenna; External HD tuner/receiver todeliver HD channels and Dolby Digital audio

HD Digital Cable Set-top terminal todeliver HD channels and Dolby Digital audio; Digital Cable and HD service

Advantages

Costs less than HDTV; Flexibility tochoose between variety HD programming services

Extensive HD channel availability;Nothing to buy; No long-term service agreement; Local channels included; HDvideo On Demand

Disadvantages

Requires purchase of an external HDtuner

N/A

Which Type of Display?

HDTVsare available in several types of displays, each with its advantages anddisadvantages. Depending on the method used for displaying the on-screenimage, you may notice differences in picture brightness or clarity based onthe viewing angle or for other reasons. Be sure you have a location in yourhome that is big enough to accommodate the HDTV. Some of the projectionmodels may require a fair amount of floor space. You don't want to end upputting nose prints on your HDTV because you're sitting three feet from thescreen in a room that is undersized for the set you buy. Also, be aware ofwhere the windows are in the room where you'll use your new HDTV. The room'sbrightness can have an impact on the display type you choose.

Theseare the primary display technologies you'll see in stores today:

DirectView CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)

This isthe familiar TV tube found in most 'regular' television sets. It is one ofthe lower-cost technologies available for displaying today's HDTV programs.However, because of the weight of the glass tube, these HD television setsare limited to a maximum size of 32 to 40 inches.

RearProjection TV

This isanother type of CRT system. In rear projection televisions, the image isprojected onto a mirror or series of mirrors that reflect the image onto thescreen at the front of the set. Rear projection technology is often the leastexpensive way to get a larger screen compared with a regular CRT. However,rear projection sets get deeper as screen size increases, so large screenmodels require a lot of space. Viewing angle may affect the perceived clarityof the on-screen image.

FrontProjection TV

Thissystem has an image source that projects the HDTV signals onto a screenpretty much the same way a projector does in a movie theater. The onlyfactors that limit size in these systems are the amount of light the system outputs,the distance from the projector to the screen and the size of the screen ontowhich the HDTV images are to be projected.

DLP(Digital Light Processing)

Thisprojection display technology is more expensive than CRT projection systems,but not as costly as LCD or plasma screens. Using a digital micromirrordevice, DLP images are produced by hundreds of thousands of microscopicmirrors, one for each pixel on the screen. This results in razor sharppicture quality and the ability to display very subtle color changes tosupport over 16 million hues on the HDTV screen. The DLP light enginedelivers a bright picture to the screen making this display a good choice foruse in a bright room. Pixels are tightly packed to deliver good color andresolution. DLP is popular choice for a projection display that combinesvalue with performance.

LCD(Liquid Crystal Display) (This technology has been used for some time inlaptop computer screens.)

LCDs areflat screens/panels filled with liquid. Each pixel on the screen is lightedindividually to produce a display. One strength of LCDs is the picturequality is very consistent even when you are not viewing images directly infront of the display.

LCoS(Liquid Crystal on Silicon)

LCoS isthe next step in LCD technology and offers remarkable resolution becauseseveral million pixels are etched into each of the silicon chips that make upthe display. This superior, concentrated pixel count delivers a great imageand enables LCoS displays to be manufactured in much smaller versions for usein portable devices.

PlasmaDisplays

Some larger flat screens/panels use a conductiveplasma instead of liquid crystal. These are commonly called plasma displays.Plasma displays are very sleek and thin, making them a hot choice among consumerswho say this technology delivers the best color saturation, accuracy andvibrancy.

Screen Size - How Big is"Too Big?"

Foroptimum viewing you need to match the size of the screen with the dimensionsof the room it will occupy and the distance you will need to sit from it. ForHD screens, one manufacturer recommends a 'rule of three' for how far to sitfrom a screen for the best view. Multiply the height of the 16:9 HD screen bythree for the best viewing distance. Surprisingly, with HDTVs, you'll discoverthat you actually need to sit closer than you think for the best view.

Usethese general guidelines for 16:9 aspect ratio screens:

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TheseHDTV connectors maximize your viewing experience:

Component Video
Using a three plug video connector, component video delivers the bestviewing experience by supporting superior color details, improved colorpurity, and a reduction in the impact that interference or other poorsignal quality issues may have.

Digital Visual Interface (DVI)
DVI connectors transfer video signals in pure digital form, which isespecially beneficial if you're using a plasma, LCD, or DLP TV. Signals areencrypted with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) to preventrecording. There are two types of DVI connectors: DVI-D carriesdigital-only signals and DVI-I passes both digital and analog videosignals. Some TVs feature DVI-I inputs for greater hookup flexibility.

High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)
An HDMI connector supports an all-digital link between an HD cable box andHDTV that combines digital video and digital audio on one connection ratherthan using separate connectors for each function. This delivers extremelyhigh-quality digital video and audio. HDMI is fully backwards compatiblewith DVI.


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