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Understanding HDTV

HDTVs first appeared in 1998, since then, high-definition television has been on the list for almost every TV buyer. For most the question was, do I need it yet, and is it worth the extra cost? This article will help to answer that question.

The key to understanding HDTV is to understand the difference between the various television formats, in particular, analog, digital, and HDTV.


An analog TV can only display standard-definition programs such as those found on regular TV, cable, or satellite--including digital cable and DirecTV or Dish Network. They cannot display progressive-scan DVD or HDTV. Search for Analog TV's


Digital TV

Digital TV is synonymous with terms such as SDTV, EDTV, or HDTV, but each of these terms represent a slightly different television format. Search for Digital TV's



Standard-definition television is an analog television equipped with a built-in ATSC tuner to allow it to receive digital TV broadcasts. Although the picture will display, the detail is not as good as on an HDTV set. Search for SDTV's


Enhanced-Definition television, is a TV that can display HDTV signals but does not have the same level of resolution as an HDTV, such that the picture quality is lesser quality. Most plasma TVs fit this category, with 852x480 pixels. Search for EDTV's


High-definition televisions are the most common type of digital television. HDTVs can display standard TV, progressive-scan DVD, and HDTV signals. Search for HDTV's


EDTV Monitor or HDTV Monitor

EDTV monitor or HDTV monitor is a television without a built-in tuner. They use external tuners, such as HD-compatible satellite and cable boxes. Search for EDTV HDTV Monitors


Safegarding Your TV Future

Over the air: as of March 1, 2007, FCC mandates that all imported or distributed televisions should include a built-in tuner [HDTV, Digital, or ATSC tuners]. This means they can receive high-definition programs over the air by simply connecting an antenna. You don’t need an additional set-top box [STB]. If your HDTV doesn't have a tuner, you need an external tuner [cable or satellite box] to watch high-definition programming. External OTA HDTV tuners cost around $150.

FCC exception: if the product contains no TV tuner, in other words, it is just a TV monitor, then the mandate does not apply.


Digital Cable Ready [DCR]

DCR means the television can tune digital cable channels, including HDTV, without needing an external cable box. This requires a CableCard [access card] from your cable provider. Current DCR TVs cannot do video-on-demand, and to order pay-per-view programs, you need to use your phone. Search for DCR TV's

NOTE: Using the card with some sets prevents access the electronic program guide (EPG), although many new DCR HDTVs include a substitute third-party EPG, such as the TV Guide system.

So to answer your question: If you buy an HDTV today, you can feel confident it will not become obsolete anytime soon. There is still a possibility that Hollywood studios will enforce some sort of copy protection on analog HDTV connections, so your best bet is to get an HDTV with a DVI/HDCP or HDMI connection. These the most future-proof HDTV connectors currently available.


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