The good and the bad about high-definition TV
While shopping at a big-box store the other day, I couldn't help but see row upon row of big-screen digital TV sets, all tuned to the same channel. Standing transfixed in front of them were throngs of Christmas shoppers trying to figure out which one deserved to be in their living rooms. Yes, holiday season is here again and people are ready to drop big bucks on these flat-screened monsters.
However as those who purchased these sets last year can attest, there's more to it that simply getting the box into your SUV and propping it up on your coffee table. Owning a high-definition TV (HTDV) has wonderful benefits, but there are also hoops to jump through to get the most for your money.
OK, so what's the good news?
Watched with HDTV programming, these digital sets really are 21st century jewels. Not only is the size of the picture greater, but clarity and definition are vastly improved over the old technology. Colors are rich and saturated, and the large-screen experience is more like being in a theater than in your home.
However, as they say, there's no free lunch. There are a lot of factors to consider. First of all, the price: The cost for a decent 50- or 60-inch model will run you anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.
You also need to realize that most TV programming has not yet shifted to HDTV. Thus, chances are you're going to be watching a lot of old-fashioned analog programs that may look fuzzy and possibly distorted on your expensive new TV. To get HD programming, you will need to subscribe to HD Cable TV service or, if you're lucky, catch a couple HD signals off the air.
Installation can also be a hassle, and to get the most out of your investment, you'll need to upgrade your TV service.
In order to upgrade your DVDs, you'll also want to get a spiffy new HD DVD player that can take advantage of the HDTV technology. Oh yes, and you'll also need to buy special cables, special furniture and adapters to attach the huge screen to your wall.
Then there's the issue of which technology to choose. HDTV comes in three flavors:
» LCDs are the thinnest and lightest of the bunch, but many reviewers don't like their colors, which tend to be on the cold side.
» Rear-projection sets are cheapest, but the screens tend to be the bulkiest.
» Plasma TVs have the widest viewing angles and rich warm colors but may also have "burn-in," which could permanently embed an image if not used properly.
So is it worth getting the new flat-panel monsters after all?
I'd have to say yes. Despite the hassles, our family is hooked on watching HTDV, and I suspect you'll feel the same way once you get a taste for this cool new technology.
Which brand to choose? I'd start by checking out the reviews on CNET (reviews.cnet.com) which has a whole section called "Best HDTVs Overall" with "editors ratings" on the various models.
The next step would be to go to your favorite store and eyeball the models that you like. What it comes down to is which set looks the most aesthetically pleasing to you.
is general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at email@example.com