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Setting up your HDTV will take some effort


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POSTED: Monday, October 27, 2008

As the day of reckoning for the switchover from analog to digital TV rapidly approaches (on January 15, 2009) HDTVs are flying off the racks from Costco and Best Buy.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that prices for new sets are dropping and quality, bang for buck, is improving. Nowadays, the standard size for an HDTV is 50 inches and the pros are leaning towards LCD as the best choice when considering picture quality and energy use.

Whatever technology you choose, whether it's LCD, plasma or DLP, keep in mind that setting up your system will be more than simply taking out your exacto knife and determining out what corner of the living room your spouse wants you put the thing.

I recently upgraded my own set to HDTV and here's the three essentials that I learned:

» First, you'll need to order HDTV programming from your cable company.

Sure you can watch standard definition TV on your cool new HDTV set, but why buy a high-definition TV if you're not going to get the most out of it? It will cost you a few more bucks but it's worth every penny.

Upgrading my cable at Sears Ala Moana was painless. It took me about 20 minutes on a Saturday, including wait time.

» Get your cabling down.

To watch HDTV programming you'll need special cables to link your cable box to the set. In place of the conventional rounded-S video cable or the red, yellow and white cords you'll need a different standard. These will either be component cables (green, blue and red); a DVI or digital visual interface or a HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface). Many believe the HDMI standard has emerged as the one to get because of the best picture quality and its capacity to handle audio. When setting up the cables, you may have to re-jigger the output option on your cable box to match the variety of cable you're using. Thus, a DVI should match the DVI option on the box. You can do this by clicking the setup on your remote.

Some stores might try to sell you high-end cables with gold plated connectors, but for most people I think that's a bit over the top. I purchased the regular cable, saving myself about $50. Unless you're into gaming or super high- end video, save yourself the money.

» Hook up the components correctly.

There are two ways to accomplish this: You can attach them all to an audio/video receiver that is part of your home theater system, or ... you can hook up everything to the TV. This is a bit more of a hassle because you'll need to do this in tandem with your remote, which entails pressing a button and cycling through the input process. I found the hardest part of the whole setup process was programming the remote to work with my TV correctly.

I believe when you upgrade to HD you should go for as much gusto as you can afford and are technically comfortable with. I got a new DVI cable box and subscribed to the HD programming package. Now I can watch football in all its glory—from the beads of sweat on the brows of the linebackers to the sparkling blades of grass and the flying turf.

For prices and reviews of HDTVs, check out http://reviews.cnet.com/televisions.

Just remember, after you buy, you'll have some homework.