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Where can I learn about HDTV?

Learn about HDTV and how to choose a HDTV set.

HDTVs offer a sharper, more defined picture than standard TV sets. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
HDTVs offer a sharper, more defined picture than standard TV sets.

Buying an HDTV is a big investment, so it's important to get the facts before you buy. This article provides answers to common questions about HDTV, including concise definitions of HDTV, LCD HDTV, HDTV tuners and HDTV receivers. We'll also discuss where to buy HDTV, find an HDTV sale, learn about HDTV and find HDTV reviews.

What is HDTV?

HDTV, or high definition television, is a type of digital TV transmission. HDTV also refers to TV sets that can receive high definition digital signals. HDTVs offer a sharper, more defined picture because they have a higher image resolution -- usually 720 or 1,080 lines of resolution -- than standard TV sets, which offer 480 lines of resolution. In addition to a better picture, most HDTVs also offer better sound quality than standard TVs. The main types of HDTVs are LCD, plasma, rear projection and front projection.

LCD HDTV

LCD HDTV is a popular type of HDTV that has a thin, flat screen. LCD, or liquid crystal display, is a flat display of liquid crystal pixels that are illuminated by a background light source. The picture quality of LCD TVs is usually brighter than that of plasma HDTVs. One downside of LCD TVs is a narrower or more limited viewing angle than plasma TVs.

How HDTV Works

One way to learn about HDTV is to read an online buying guide. ABC News' HDTV Buyer's Guide: All You Need to Know, Fortune magazine's How to Buy an HDTV, TIME magazine's How to Buy a HDTV Set, HDTV Solutions' HDTV Buying Guide, CNET's Ultimate HDTV Buying Guide and Consumer Report's HDTV for Any Budget all provide a wealth of information about HDTV. You can also check your electronic retailer's Web site or speak to an HDTV sales consultant at a store. 

High definition signals are transmitted digitally by broadcast stations, cable providers and satellite companies. An HDTV set, equipped with an HDTV tuner or receiver or accompanied by a cable or satellite box with a built-in tuner, converts those high definition digital signals so they can be viewed on the HDTV. An HDTV's 720 or 1,080 lines of resolution are responsible for the crisp, well-defined picture quality.

HDTV Tuner

An HDTV tuner, sometimes called an HDTV receiver, is a device that allows your TV to receive high-definition TV signals. An HDTV tuner converts incoming signals to fit the resolution of the TV screen. Not all HDTVs have a built-in tuner. If you purchase an HDTV-ready set, you'll need a separate digital tuner to view high-definition images. If you have HDTV service through a subscription cable or satellite television provider, the provider's box usually has a built-in HDTV tuner. As of mid-2009, all television signals will transition to digital broadcasting.

HDTV Receiver

An HDTV receiver decodes incoming digital signals and delivers them to the HDTV. If you're considering buying an HDTV, be aware that some HDTVs have a built-in receiver, while others do not. HDTVs that do not have a built-in tuner are usually called "HDTV-ready." Also note that the term "HDTV receiver" is sometimes used interchangeably with "HDTV tuner."

Additional HDTV Information

Consumer Reports gave several LG plasma and LCD models ratings of "very good" or "excellent." LG HDTV models made CNET's list of Best Plasma HDTVs, as well as PC World's lists of Top 5 50- and 52-inch HDTVs and Top 10 40- and 42-inch HDTVs

Currently, no studies have determined that watching HDTV is any less safe than using a computer monitor or standard television. Perhaps it is because of the newness of the technology, but there has not been a lot of research devoted to the safeness of HDTV signals or the long-term effects of watching HDTV. 

If you're impressed with the stunning picture quality you've seen on HDTVs, you may be wondering if there is a way to make a standard TV look like an HDTV. The simple answer is no. A standard TV, which accepts analog signals, cannot convert and display the high-resolution digital signals that an HDTV can. Standard TV sets have 480 lines of resolution or 480p, while HDTVs have 720p or 1,080p.

Purchasing HDTV Sets and Equipment

You can buy HDTV sets just about anywhere TVs are sold. This includes major electronics retailers, like Best Buy and Dell. If you know what brand of HDTV you want to buy, check out the manufacturer's Web site for a store locator search. Broadcast stations like CBS, NBC and ABC air shows in high definition for free, but you can buy HDTV programming -- movies, sports and other shows -- from your cable or satellite provider. 

Anywhere HDTV sets are sold, you're bound to find an occasional HDTV sale. Retailers often have sales right before a holiday, such as Father's Day or Christmas. Check for HDTV sales at electronics retailers' Web sites and in their paper advertisements. For special prices or sales on HDTV programming, call your cable or satellite provider or check their Web sites for online promotions.

HDTV Reviews

HDTV reviews are routinely published in magazines like PCWorldPC MagazineHDTV Magazine and Consumer Reports. HDTV reviews, as well as HDTV news and other information, are also available at CNET and HDTV Lounge. Many HDTV retailers post customers' HDTV reviews. Check out retailers like Best BuyCircuit City and Amazon.com.

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