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9/8/06 Is an HDTV worth buying even without an HD source?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 7, 2006 2:31 AM PDT

We bought a huge DLP HDTV for our basement, and I just love it!. We're now looking at buying a new TV for our bedroom, but I'm completely lost this time. I don't want to buy a new HD digital cable box, and all we want to watch on it is regular cable programming. So my question is, if I want to buy a plasma or LCD TV that we can hang on our bedroom wall, what should I be looking for? EDTV? Would an HDTV set offer a better picture, even though it's not an HD source? Is there some other stat or rating I should be looking for? Help!

Submitted by: Brian M.



Brian, buying a new TV right now is one of the most complex consumer purchases a person can make. Very few consumers understand the options and offerings, and the sales people sometimes are not much help either. On top of that, there are a bewildering number of offerings: There are at least 6 technologies available for actually displaying the image, there are at least 5 relevant screen resolutions, there are at least 9 different forms of video input connections, and there are 18 different broadcast formats approved by the FCC for HDTV (really ?digital TV? or ?DTV?) broadcasting. Consequently, choosing an actual product becomes a bewildering task.

You mention that you don?t want to buy a new cable box, from which I gather that your intent is to actually receive and use only NTSC-standard (analog) signals direct from your antenna or cable with no set-top box or satellite receiver. While I understand that objective, you should understand its important limitations: The US has decreed that NTSC signal broadcasting will cease on February 17th, 2009. Consequently, after that date, a set used as you describe would ?go dark? and could not be subsequently used without an external set-top box (STB) of some type. Since that date is relatively close (certainly it?s early in the life span of any TV that you would buy today), let?s consider ways to accommodate both immediate use and use after February 17, 2009. And, in the process, we may be able to exceed your objectives.

In terms of signal reception, any ?TV set? (as opposed to ?monitor?) that you buy today will have an NTSC (analog) TV tuner to receive conventional analog TV programming (technically known as NTSC). Our current NTSC TV system was approved by the FCC in March of 1941, nine months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Color was added in 1954 and stereo sound was added in 1984, but basically NTSC is a system that is now 67 years old, and it?s well past time to move on. However, a set with an NTSC tuner will receive off-the-air analog TV broadcasts, and on most cable systems it will receive unscrambled (non-premium) analog content without any type of set-top box. But only until February 17th, 2009, after which no such signals will continue to be broadcast.

Most but not all ?HDTV? TV sets (really better described as ?digital TV? or ?DTV? sets) will also receive off-the-air HDTV/DTV broadcasts using an antenna. Since this is not universal, however, it?s a specification that you need to verify when you consider a particular TV receiver. This feature would be described as an ?ATSC tuner?. But it is of limited or no use to people who get their TV programming via satellite or cable.

If you have cable TV, then what you really want is the ability, first, to receive unscrambled (non-premium) HDTV channels on your cable system without any type of converter of set-top box. And, second, the ability to receive scrambled premium HDTV content on the set, also without a set-top box. Fortunately, in many but not all cases, both of these objectives are possible.

What I am about to say is cable-TV system specific, so if you want to receive digital cable programming without a STB (and keep in mind that this will apply to all programming after 2/17/2009), it is imperative that you check with your cable company to find out what they are broadcasting, how it is transmitted, and what you need to receive it (and you won?t always get straight answers). But, in general:

-If the TV set has a ?QAM tuner?, it may be able to receive unscrambled non-premium digital broadcasts as transmitted by many cable systems.

-If, in addition, the TV set has a ?cable card slot?, it may also be able to receive premium scrambled channels without an external STB as well.

A ?QAM? tuner is a tuner for digital TV channels as transmitted over many cable systems. Sets with such a tuner will sometimes be described as ?digital cable ready?.

A ?cable card slot? is a slot for a card usually supplied by your cable company (purchased or rented for a monthly fee) that allows the TV to unscramble premium content internally, without an external STB. Physically, a cable card looks a lot like a ?PC Card? (?PCMCIA? Card) that goes into a laptop computer.

So, for maximum versatility, what you want to look for is an HDTV (DTV) receiver that has an NTSC analog tuner (off the air and cable analog TV), an ATSC tuner (off-the-air HDTV/DTV), a QAM tuner (digital cable tuner) and a cable card slot (allowing internal decoding of premium content scrambled TV channels). Note again, however, that even having all of these doesn?t absolutely guarantee the ability to receive cable HDTV broadcasts without a STB, as each cable company sets their own broadcasting standards. So check with your cable company. But this is as much as you can currently do to maximize your capabilities both currently and subsequent to February 17, 2009.

Now let?s talk about the display. Given your ?on the wall? requirement, you are looking for either a plasma or a direct-view LCD TV set.

You mentioned EDTV and, very frankly, I?d avoid that like the plague. EDTV is an intermediate resolution format (neither NTSC nor HDTV) that was kind of a ?stop gap? measure created primarily to enable sales of flat plasma panel TV sets at reasonable prices a couple of years ago when true HDTV plasma panels were cost prohibitive ($4,500 to $10,000). However, the price of true HDTV plasma and LCD displays has dropped so much that it?s hard to justify an EDTV display, and in fact there are not a lot of them still being made. EDTV was an interim standard, far inferior to ?real? HDTV, and it?s time has passed. Also note that ?EDTV? only relates to the resolution and has no bearing, either way, on your ability (or lack thereof) to receive programming as transmitted by your cable company without a STB.

You didn?t say anything about size, but basically on a wall mounted set of about 42 inches and less, you are probably looking at an LCD set, and over that you are probably looking at a plasma set (there is some overlap in the 40 to 50-inch range). Common LCD sizes include 32, 37 and 42 inches (some other sizes do exist), and LCD sets in both 32? and 37? now start well under $1,000 and typically have a resolution of 1366 x 768. While prices do start well under $1,000, feature-rich premium sets from top name brands may cost nearly twice as much as low-end sets of the same screen size and format.

Plasma sets start at about 42 inches and go up from there, but 50 inches is a common plasma size. It?s now possible to get a 50-inch plasma set (true HDTV, not EDTV) for under $2,000. There is far less standardization of the size and resolution of plasma screens. Again, similar sets (e.g. same size) may have surprisingly different prices depending on the manufacturer and the features, but ideally you will be looking for a resolution of 1280 x 720.

In any HDTV set of any type, look for a good variety of video input signals, including at least composite, S-Video, component video and digital (HDMI and/or DVI) inputs. A VGA (computer) input and multiple inputs of each type are all desirable.

I hope that this is helpful, and best of luck in finding just the right TV set for your application.

Submitted by: Barry W. of North Canton, Ohio
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Honorable mention
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 7, 2006 2:31 AM PDT

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to HDTV. Many places that sell televisions have an inadequate understanding of the concept, and often compound the confusion by offering wrong information.

For starters, it is important to know what a television is, what HDTV is, and what sorts of signals are available. It may seem obvious what a television is, but surprisingly, that's one of the more confusing parts of the problem. Television is a broadcast medium. In other words, signals are sent over the public airwaves on assigned frequencies to television tuners. "A television" is a device with a monitor and tuner built in. An HDTV, therefore, has a high definition monitor and an ATSC (high definition) tuner.

A big problem for television dealers is that people buy a set that looks good in the store, take it home, and then complain that the picture quality looks terrible when they watch it. As with the computer adage, "garbage in, garbage out," what you see will be no better than the incoming signal. That's why many stores now admonish customers that they must upgrade to an HD cable feed or an HD satellite service to get an HD picture. But that answer is not quite correct.

A monitor will not be able to display a picture with any more resolution than the source provides. That means that if you have a standard cable box, an HD monitor, or even an ED monitor may give no better resolution than a high quality NTSC (standard TV) monitor. If you switch to an HD source, you might get a better picture, but that ultimately depends on the source of the material being viewed. If the HD cable channel is showing a videotape that was made in NTSC format, you cannot expect it to have the clarity of a show that was produced in HD. So it's still possible, even with an HD cable box, to end up with no improvement, depending on what you typically watch.

One thing that you don't hear asked very often is what would happen if you try to use an HD source with a standard television (SDTV.) Most people will tell you that there's no point, since an SDTV is not capable of showing high definition pictures. That's only partly true. Anybody who has seen an SDTV's remarkable increase in detail with a DVD player hooked up to it can tell you that an SDTV is capable of a lot more than what the NTSC broadcast standard offers. While it's not HD, the picture quality improvement achieved by hooking up an HD source to an SDTV results in better-than-DVD quality. Actually, the source would need to have a lower resolution output, such as an SVHS connection, but HD devices typically offer that as a connection option.

Although I mentioned a problem with the admonishment to upgrade your cable or satellite source as a requirement for HD, there is another fundamental problem with that advice. As I mentioned, television is a broadcast medium. HDTV is a broadcast standard. Depending on where you live, you can get HDTV signals for free over the air. It's possible in all major US markets, and many smaller ones. NTSC broadcasts are scheduled to stop completely, and the government has mandated a switch to HD broadcasts. When that will happen depends on whether Congress extends the deadline or not.

In the San Francisco Bay area, I get 36 HD channels for free over the air. Most stations offer sub channels, so instead of getting channel 4, for example, you might get 4-1,4-2, and 4-3. Some stations allocate more bandwidth to some sub channels than others, so they may have one HD feed, and one or more standard feeds. So your local PBS channel might show their regular feed, their world channel, their encore channel, their life channel, and their kids channel. Those might not show up at all on basic cable.

I live in an area where I was never able to get more than one channel clearly with an antenna, but since HDTV is digital, either you get enough signal for a crystal clear picture, or you don't get it at all. I now get a lot more channels with an indoor antenna than I did with basic cable, and a simple roof antenna, even if placed in your attic, can go a long way with HDTV.

Ultimately, the picture quality depends on the source of the material, the medium used to get it to your monitor, and the quality of the monitor. If you stick with basic cable, your picture may improve slightly simply because you got a better quality monitor. But the resolution might not improve. On the other hand, you might find that you have a good variety of material for free. Or you might want something that will be ready for the next generation of DVD players, or anything else that will come along in the next decade or more, depending on how long you plan to keep the set. If you get a lower resolution monitor, you will see slight improvements as your input sources improve. You will see bigger improvements if you get an HD monitor. But for now, unless you take advantage of the built in tuner, don't expect a remarkable improvement from your cable box.

Submitted by: Wayne R. of San Francisco
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Excellent information on all the new "TV" options
by marygib / September 7, 2006 11:13 PM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mention

This message and all the posts came at a time when we (my husband and I) were entertaining the idea of changing our television, sound system and method of receiving broadcast. My "hat is off" to everyone that submitted this source of information.

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Clear as mud.
by QuartetmanIA / September 12, 2006 12:47 PM PDT

The whole explanation was clear and mud and totally confusing. All I know now is the brand new 27" flat-panel analog TV I got last Christmas will get pitched long before the extended warranty is used up.

Makes me fighting mad as hell that the public is being duped into buying soon-to-be-worthless television sets. I don't need to count the wrinkles on Joan River's face while watching her review Academy Award winning actresses gowns.

Somebody in government had better design some black box to convert these HDTV signals back to analog so me and other Joe Sixpack's can watch UFC, NASCAR (take your pick) or there's going to be a second Revolution.

That's my 2 cents.

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by haf canadian / September 12, 2006 1:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Clear as mud.

Don't tell us. Take the time to write your congressmen or don't complain about the problem at all, cuz they're the only ones that can change it.

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Clear as mud: Well, yes and no ....
by Watzman / September 13, 2006 4:53 AM PDT
In reply to: Clear as mud.

As I mentioned in my resonse, the current NTSC TV system was approved by the FCC before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In view of the advances in ... well, just about everything in the intervening 67 years, it really is time to replace the broadcasting system. And while the public may not have been following this closely, it's been no secret, this started in the 1990's, and the coversion date has been moved many times, it's now almost a decade later than the first original conversion date. However, from appearances, the current date of 2/17/2009 really is the final date and is very, very unlikely to move again.

I do agree with you that the sale of TVs that won't pick up the new signals should have been ended a year or two ago, but in fact is not going to end until NEXT year. It's not the way I would have done it, but that's water over the dam now.

Converter boxes to allow old TV sets to watch the new broadcasting standard will be available, they will probably cost $100 to $150. There will be a government program to subsidize the cost of these boxes. The details of this are still being finalized by congress, but apparently the subsidy will be $40 or so per converter, there will be a limit of two subsidies per household, and the subsiday MAY only be available to "low income" households. But none of those details are final yet.

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shop smart
by 812 / September 13, 2006 11:42 AM PDT
In reply to: Clear as mud.

Quit buying TVs at WalMart; find a real electronics store and ask questions. The market was flooded with flat panel TVs with NTSC tuners prior to the gov't. requiring the ATSC tuners in certain sizes. They were cheaper to build and sell--and America always wants a bargain...

It is beyond me how anyone could not know that there were changes in the industry. It has been widely reported for many years what was going on. Try reading the business section of your local newspaper once in awhile.

Now that that is out of my system, please realize that if you're using cable, your analog TV will be just fine for a number of years yet. Cable and Satellite providers have all said that analog TVs will continue to work for the foreseeable future when using on of these sources.

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HDTV comments
by ldfessler / September 8, 2006 12:27 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mention

A few months ago after extensive research and looking at almost every brand on the market, plus reading professional reviews and ratings about the various brands, my wife and I purchased Panasonic 50'' Plasma HDTV,
Model: TH-50PX60U.

The picture is great and we love it. I do not use the card slot, but still use my HDTV converter box that is supplied from COX cable here in Oklahoma City. The cards still have some issues that have not been resolved and we have been told by COX that the next generation of cards that are due out next spring should, I repeat should bring the cards in line with all of the capabilities of the converter box. Reception and quality of picture and sound is much, much better than it was in the electronics store that we purchase the TV from. This is a superb unit and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

I tried to closely look at and check out the LCD's, Plasma's, and DLP's for all of the pros and cons, before we made out final decision, actually took about 6 months doing this ---- yes I'm a bit anal!

First of all I (strictly a personal opinion) strongly recommend that people do not purchase any TV to hang on the wall. If you research this ahead of time you will fine out that the connections are not easy, and unless you want to go to the trouble of putting the connection wires into the wall to hide them you have for the most part additional costs and still a very unwieldy connection issue.

Don't buy a TV that looks nice hanging on the wall, rather purchase a quality TV that provided you a very good picture. Their are a lot of very nice looking stands on the market to sit TV on.

My opinon and comments -- Larry D - Olkahoma City

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Mounting On Wall a Very Heavy 42" Plasma
by henry_apple / September 8, 2006 3:48 AM PDT
In reply to: HDTV comments

Not an easy task. First determine if you want fixed mounting bracket or expandable, which I would advise. Yes, It will stick out a couple of inches more from wall (and cost a lot more), but the versitility of running cables to it and to view TV from different angles is worth it. If you don't want to view ALL the wires and power cord, you'll have to drill a BIG hole to run the component wires (not HMDI), power wire, DVD wires, VCR wires. If you don't want the power cord to show, where are you going to get power? I was fortunate that on the other side of the TV wall was a closet. I just had to add a electrical box inside the closet, and placed all my equipment on a stand inside the closet. So, think it out before you start cutting holes. And don't forget the Cable wire to the box or Cabe card. And TWO people will be required to mount that large plasma.

Good Luck!

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Cable cards ...
by Watzman / September 13, 2006 5:00 AM PDT
In reply to: HDTV comments

The issue with cable cards is that the cards that were out as of early this year were one-way only. Consequently, they could not be used to order movies, pay-per-view or "on-demand" programming. Otherwise, they were fine (but since movies, PPV and on-demand programming generate revenue for the cable companies, the cable companies may not have viewed them as "fine"). Anyway, bidirectional cable cards were supposed to have been out by now (not sure if they are or not, but they were supposed to have been).

Hanging a TV on a wall sounds great, but aside from the cable issue that you mentioned (and it's very real), if the TV is too high (and it likely will be if it's hung on the wall at picture height) you will have a sore neck after watching TV. The TV really needs to be at approximately eye level as you are watching it ... that usually means seated eye level. And yes, the cabling and interconnection can become VERY complex. Costco says it's the number one reason for returns, people could not install the TV themselves (and the warehouse clubs like Costco are strictly "cash and carry"). On the other hand, Consumer's Reports says that it's readers are truly delighted with their HDTVs, overall, and that the biggest "complaint", if you can call it that, is that owners would have bought a larger screen size if they had it to do over again.

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How Do You Receive 36 HD Channels?
by Maringuy / September 8, 2006 12:41 PM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mention


I live in Marin and subscribe to Comcast who provides only 18 HD channels. 36 channels sounds like a pipe dream! Who do you have your service with?


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DishNetwork has 29 HD channels
by elainecleo / September 9, 2006 12:08 AM PDT

Am not lucky enough to have an HDTV yet, but do love DishNetwork

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How to Get 36 HD Channels
by LaserMark4 / September 9, 2006 6:25 AM PDT

Dish TV/HD will deliver that. At a pure 1080i with new MPEG4 DVR (622), it is one awesome quality and line-up. Very please with Dish here in Colorado.

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Over the air, for free! (in certain places)
by albizzia / September 9, 2006 12:55 PM PDT

You must have missed that part where he said " I get 36 HD channels for free over the air". He was using a rooftop antenna and a digital ATSC tuner.

Of course, how many digital channels can be received depends a lot on location, and how good of an antenna you have. I've found that in some cases, an antenna mounted signal amplifier will help bring in more stations.

If you can't put up a rooftop antenna, and an indoor antenna is insufficient, then you are stuck with either a satellite dish or cable.

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Getting 36 HD channels in San Francisco Bay Area
by Maringuy / September 10, 2006 2:39 AM PDT

"Upon further review", I see where I overlooked that important fact. Thanks.

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Lots of Bad Info
by mrgadget2 / January 26, 2007 4:37 PM PST
In reply to: Honorable mention

I work for a major retailer, in home electronics. One of the biggest problems I see on a daily basis is mis-information. The post by Lee Koo is a good example of what I see on a daily basis.

He stated: "NTSC broadcasts are scheduled to stop completely, and the government has mandated a switch to HD broadcasts. When that will happen depends on whether Congress extends the deadline or not."

This is totally NOT TRUE. Of the three signals being used for the transmission of television (1- Hi Def; 2- Digital; 3- Analog), the truth of the matter is that analog is being eliminated. The government is not mandating a switch to Hi Def. Analog is being removed from the equation, which leaves Hi Def and Digital.

Having read Mr Koo's article, I appreciate much of what he has to say. But telling people that the government is mandating HD can cause a lot of problems... especially since it is not true.

There is so much mis-information out there right now that most consumers are lost. One of the biggest reasons they are lost is that too many people that we assume are authorities on the subject, are themselves only semi-informed.

I have seen articles in PC Magazine, Consumer Reports, and countless other places where someone is saying things about HD or the purchase of an HDTV that is totally wrong, and off the wall.

Aside from my job responsibilities to inform and educate, I have taken it upon myself to gain as much insight about HDTV as possible. And after many months of extensive research, the conclusion that I have come to is that this is such a vast topic with so many variables that one has to pretty much be an industry-insider to accurately differentiate all the components that must be in place to offer the best HDTV picture experience. I have also discovered that most of the people claiming to be authorities are far from it.

This topic is like the proverbial onion, with layer after layer, under each layer that is removed. 1080p vs. 720p; DLP, LCOS, DDILA, OLED, LASER; native resolution versus signal source; LCD versus plasma; motion blur, pixelization, motion artifacts, response time, etc, etc, etc.

Unless they/you work in the technical side of a television manufacturer, it is very highly unlikely that they/you are as HDTV savvy as supposed.

There are many factors affecting picture quality. Aside from the HD technology itself, there is no "one-thing" that trumps everything else. And even though HD is relatively new, there is already technology poised to sooner or later replace it. Such is life in the technological age.

It is important to do some level of homework before making a major purchase. It can save you the heartache of being led down the wrong path. What is really needed are some good web sights along the line of (a sight for digital camera info) that will do for HDTV what DPReview does for cameras. But just as important, these sights must go to great pains to ensure that they are providing accurate information.

Buying an HDTV does not have to be placed in a category equivalent to buying a home. The whole thing about "spec's" is being blown so far out of proportion that many people are refusing to wade in because they have become inundated with information... most of which is bad.

Unfortunately for most, unless you have access to someone like myself... who will shoot straight with you, and cut-to-the-chase... or unless you know someone that has some expertise gained from working on the manufacturing side of the HDTV industry, you are probably in for a rough go in making a good decision.

But just as we know: everything that glitters, is not gold... it is also true that just because a person sounds like they know what they are talking about... does not mean that they do.

Choose your advisor's carefully, and don't get caught up in all the hype.

When you set out to buy a car, you don't care about the density of the radiator hose, or the gear ratios of the transmission or rear end. You have some things that are important to you, and you seek out those things. But you look at a lot of the other stuff as minutia. If you didn't, you would never buy a car, because it would take a lifetime gaining the kind of knowledge necessary to understand what was and what was not important.

In my opinion, you should approach buying your HDTV from a similar perspective. You may as well, since neither you nor 99.9% of the people you talk to have enough insight to properly guide you.

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Other recommendations from our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 7, 2006 2:32 AM PDT

My only suggestion is yes buy an HDTV, however be sure that in addition to the ATSC tuner and the NTSC tuner, that whatever set you get has a clear QAM tuner.

That will enable you to receive any digital cable channels that your cable passes though your system unencrytped.

Our local cable system carries all of the local stations digital signals, but you have to have clear QAM tuning to receive the signals.

Even better, but now getting harder to find is a TV that is Digital Cable Ready (DCR) and has a CableCARD slot for encrypted digital cable channels. IF you ever decide to get premium (encrypted) services, THEN you would just get a CableCARD from your local cable company. No need for a set top box!

To summarize, unless you are a fan of set top boxes from the cable company (I'm NOT), buy whatever HDTV suites your size and taste requirements, but be sure in has the ATSC tuner, NTSC tuner, and clear QAM tuner.

Even better is a DCR HDTV which will allow for receiving encrypted digital cable with the addition of a CableCARD from your cable provider.

Submitted by: Bruce R. of Indianapolis



Dear Brian,

Let?s review some basics display information:

1. A general rule for all types of displays: to match
the size of the display (measured diagonally) to the room so you do not have to sit too close or far-away to see the full picture in full detail. A general rule for comfortable viewing distance is about twice the diagonal screen size. For example, if your set has a 40-inch screen measured diagonally, you should sit at least 6 1/2 feet away from the display screen. You should measure your viewing distance to find the proper screen size for your bedroom and that will determine the type of flat-screen display that you will pick.

2. LCD Flat-Panel Displays
a. The Direct-view models flat-panel LCD screens currently max out at 46 inches. (If you need something bigger than 46 inches to hang on the wall you will have to look at plasma displays.)
b. Flat-panel models tend to be pricey as you move to larger screen size.
c. If you are looking for a 42-inch screen size where plasma displays screen size begins go for the plasma because in a Sound and Vision magazine face off, Plasma vs. LCD, the Plasma won.
d. If you are looking for 20 inch ? 32 inch screen size, then LCD would be the choice of display to hang on the wall.

3. Plasma Displays
a. The display screen-size starts at 37-inches and max out at 65-inches.
b. Plasma won the face-off in Sound and Vision magazine?s Plasma vs. LCD
c. Prices are currently dropping on the 42-inch sets
i. Ex. Panasonic - 42" Plasma HDTV TH-42PX60U
($1,993.99) vs.
ii. Ex. Samsung - 40" Flat-Panel LCD HDTV LN-S4041D

4. Most of the flat-panel sets more than 27-inches have 16:9 wide-screens and are HDTV. EDTV is a marketing term for digital TVs that can show standard-definition video in progressive-scan format and accept high-definition signals but can't display full-resolution HDTV. The bottom-line: Get a HDTV.

5. Look for a set with a Cable-Card feature so that you can rent a cable card and not have a cable box to get HDTV from your cable company.

6. Both flat panel technologies can produce great picture only if you have the proper setup (This is true of all types of displays). The key to proper setup is proper calibration from a DVD Video Test disc (ex. Sound and Vision HOME THEATER TUNE-UP) or have your set professionally calibrated by a professional home theater installer.

Source: Sound and Vision Magazine

Submitted by: Nick C. of San Francisco




The best TV on the market is really only as good as the signal you provide to it. So, since you've already determined that you'll be using a cable signal, and it's not going to be the main set for family viewing, you can spend as much or as little as you want to get your wall-mounted TV.

Keep in mind also that these slim-stylish wonders aren't always the best when it comes to audio quality. If that's important to you, you might want to consider a small HTiB system for the bedroom.

Finally, check into the cost of having this professionally installed. Nothing takes the fun out of a new television or home theater purchase like having to conceal wires or patch "mistakes" in walls. Installers know all the right tricks, and will usually accomplish it in less time than it will usually take the average homeowner to do the clean-up.

Submitted by: Thomas P.



I recommend purchasing a HDTV, however one needs to do a little investigation first. Most all of the standard broadcast stations now also broadcast, over the air or sometimes referred to as terrestrial, in digital, for free. For example, one of our local stations is channel 10 and the HD channels show up as 10-1 and 10-2. The digital signals are broadcast in UHF where as stations numbered 2 through 12 are broadcast in VHF. UHF signals do not transmit as far as VHF and are more susceptible to interference from hills and buildings. I found the website to be extremely helpful. You enter your address and it will provide you with a list of stations in your area, analog and digital. The site can also provide you with a map showing the compass headings to the transmitting towers for these stations. For digital stations it is important to get a good signal from your antenna, so I added a $25 amplifier in line with our antenna. We receive a number of stations that we did not know previously existed and we have been very pleased with the reception. We are fortunate in that most all of the local stations in our area are located on the same general area, thus there is no need for a rotor to turn the antenna in our attack. I recommend talking to local independent stores that sell TV?s and ask them how good the reception is in your area. I found that the sales people in the big chain stores assume that you have cable or satellite service. Most all of them didn?t even realize that one could receive these signals from for free with an antenna.

Submitted by: Roger P.



Actually, any new set with an ATSC tuner, will tune in all the basic and digital channels available on your respective cable system.
Also, any generally available OTA HD Channels that cable also carries may be received by the new set.

My Sharp 32? LCD, having the ATSC Tuner, does a great job directly connected to the cable feed, receiving HD, Digital, and Analog.
Downside, some of the channel numbers may not agree with the TV guide information.

Many do not realize that they do not need the cable box to receive these signals as long as the TV is capable, that is, has an ATSC tuner.

Submitted by: Art



I bought a LCD HDTV after reading that if you had a outside antenna you no doubt could pick up digital signals from your local stations. I have Direct TV, and the HD channels are scarce, except local. I receive the local channels fine, and as my set converts the old signal to progressive scan, and fills in the scan lines, the picture from the satellite is certainly improved. After fiddling with the "ratio" control I can fill the screen with minimal picture stretch. I would get one.

Submitted by: B. J. H.



For Brian, who wants to know about buying a TV for his bedroom, even though
he will only be watching standard (non-HD) cable there.

Quick answer: Hey Brian, do you want to return to the store to spend more to buy a converter box for HD?

The deadline although pushed back many times, is coming for the networks to switch broadcasting to an HD only signal. The FCC has mandated that all broadcast must be in digital starting on February 17, 2009. If you only buy "compatible" instead of "HD Ready" you will need the box. That is, unless you like spending a chunk of quan for a TV that you hope only lasts 5 years. Who would? I bought my "dinosaur" Sony 52" XBR in 1997, and despite Consumer Report's dire predictions, it is still projecting. They will pry it's remote from my hand when it dies man. When it dies..!

I would also recommend looking at "p" "progressive" instead of "i" or "interlace" sets for quality and ability to watch fast moving events without blurring.
check out: for a slew of useful info.

Help this hopes!

Submitted by: Taylor S.




In my opinion, as a user of both HDTV and Standard Digital Cable TV, is that if you have standard digital cable playing on a HDTV the signal is worst than the standard digital TV signal.

I suggest you use one of your older TV's to watch standard digital TV and upgrade to HDTV when, supposedly in 2007, all the signals will be in HDTV.

Submitted by: George L. of Sarasota, Florida




Shouldn't the variety of television technologies out there today tell you something? Sooner or later one of these technologies will come out on top, and when it does, prices will fall. Right now buyers of Plasma, LCD, HDTV, EDTV, and others are paying premium prices to satisfy their need for the latest in television technology. For me, I can wait. My conventional CRT televisions have served me well and will suit me fine until the dust settles and one technology emerges as the market leader. Who knows, it may not be any of the ones that are popular today. You may be stuck with an expensive piece of glass hanging on your walls. Remember Sony's Betamax?

Submitted by: Ben O. of Hazlet, New Jersey



A good quality plasma EDTV such as Panasonic can actually give you as good or better picture quality than a HDTV plasma when viewing poorer quality programming like standard cable. From what I understand this is due in part to EDTV requiring less downward processing of the cable signal than HDTV. Good quality EDTV's can also produce a brighter picture than lesser quality HDTV's in the same price range. There's loads of good info online addressing this if you search EDTV. I personally bought the TH-42PD60U after some research and watching it at the local showrooms. I actually preferred it too many HDTV displays with HD content!

Submitted by: Jim R.



If you're going to spend the money on a new LCD or plasma screen, don't waste it. Get the HD box.

That's like buying a Mercedes and deleting the air conditioning to save a few dollars. The reason you buy the Mercedes is to enjoy the quiet ride -- not to listen to wind noise. You pay the extra money (over a conventional tube set) for an LCD or plasma screen for the beautiful picture they provide. Limiting it to SD video is just wasting that extra money.

Besides, you've already had a taste of HD with your first set. When you look at SD on the new set, you'll be severely disappointed and left wondering why you wasted your money to watch distorted pictures (from the set stretching SD to fit 16x9) or black bars (SD on 16x9).

I don't like coughing up an extra $6 a month to my cable company any more than the next guy, but I never once thought about NOT doing it as I replaced my old TVs with HD screens (42- and 50-inch plasma and 30-inch CRT). And, I haven't regretted it for one minute.

Submitted by: Brian T.



I think that you should go ahead and buy an HDTV LCD or Plasma for your bedroom. If there is one thing that I know about all the TVs in our house, is that over the years, they tend to move from room to room. Today's bedroom TV might be in the den next year. The other reason to invest in HDTV even for a room where you are going to be watching mostly regular TV is that sooner or later (hopefully sooner), all TV programming is going to be HDTV. You don't want to invest in a TV that will be obsolete soon.

Submitted by: Jeff C.



Go get the Panasonic or Samsung EDTV and read this article:

You won't notice a difference between HDTV & EDTV.

Submitted by: Douglas O.
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HDTVs Usually Do Improve the NTSC Image
by middlebass / September 7, 2006 7:18 PM PDT

Most HDTVs use software image sharpening to improve the standard NTSC TV image, so even if you don't receive HDTV signals, you will get a better image with a HDTV set. I know I do.

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by saskiacentral / September 7, 2006 8:27 PM PDT

My Television (CRT) runs at a maximum of 1024x768 and I know that the common HDTV runs at 1366X768 so you will see a difference, when I run my TV through my computers monitor at 1280x1024 I see a big difference.

Im not going to buy a HDTV unless its one of the Mac cinema displays which actually has high resolutions, like their 30" which does 2560 x 1600

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Don't hold your breath
by Wolfpacker96 / September 7, 2006 11:15 PM PDT
In reply to: HDTV

You are going to see anything higher than 1080p anytime in the near future. There's nothing even in development. As far as why your computer screen looks better, I'll bet it's a whole lot smaller. Smaller screens almost always have a better picture for obvious reasons.

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by saskiacentral / September 12, 2006 7:27 PM PDT
In reply to: Don't hold your breath

One of my friends has bought an Xbox360 and is next going to get a 27'' HDTV. Is it worth it?

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by Wolfpacker96 / September 12, 2006 11:03 PM PDT
In reply to: HDTV

It depends on your room size and how much money he paid for the TV to determine "worth it". But the 360 is going to look spectacular on any HDTV.

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TV on PC
by Attitude2000 / September 7, 2006 10:28 PM PDT

This may not be a good comparison, but when I watch standard TV on my PC monitor with my TV Tuner Card, the picture looks all fuzzy.

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by saskiacentral / September 7, 2006 11:15 PM PDT
In reply to: TV on PC

Do you use an aerial socket or a mini-aerial, by mini I mean one that comes with the PCTV package?

I have used two different PCTV devices; Freecom DV3 & Happauge WinTV GO2. The Freecom gave superior quality and had freeview addon.

You may also find it fuzzy because they broadcast TV for normal low-resolution Televisions, if they broadcasted it at 1280x1024, the quality would be superior.

I have seen many HDTV's playing normal low-res content and they are fuzzy. HDTV is merly a high-res monitor, nothing amazing, way overprices and hyped up.

Only HD screen I'd recommend is Mac's Cinema 30'' HD which has a very high resolution and its DVI socket will work with computers unlike most others.

What resolution is HD encoded at? 1366x768?

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There are a few HDTV formats
by kmchattie / September 8, 2006 12:18 AM PDT
In reply to: HDTV

There is 720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Therefore a resolution of 1280x768 would cover you for all HDTV broadcasts.

I disagree with buying a set that has the cablecard. None of the cable systems have agreed on a standard and they often change their systems. So you could get stuck with a tv that needs an STB after 3 years no matter how careful you are.

You might as well accept the fact that you will need to either buy or rent an STB and just make room for it in your entertainment center along with your Media center PC and your reciever.

That way you can go buy a computer monitor that doesn't need all the extra useless features like a tuner or inputs like HDMI (useless draconian DRM managed standard that forces you to run your audio along with video and can be encrypted so you may have to pay for regular broadcasts. I beg all of you to not use hdmi and buy a set with DVI inputs instead), that is used how a monitor SHOULD be used: For high resoltion video.

You don't need Mac's over-priced puny 30" monitor to get high resolution HDTV video either.

Go for plasma. LCD has crappy contrast ratios (generally 1000:1 is the best you can hope for and 350:1 is the norm). Plasma has a contrast ratio of 10,000:1, which basically means your picture looks sharp and colorful versus LCDs washed out look.

You can buy plasma for less than LCD now anyway so it's really a no-brainer.

The only disadvantage to buying plasma over LCD is that the plasma screens tend to burn out after 10 years. I heard that they have that resolved though, but I am not sure.

I own several LCD monitors (a dell DLP projector and a hyundai 19" LCD monitor that sits right in front of me in my recliner). I have a friend that has a 42" plasma screen and it looks way better than my LCDs.

This was just my opinion, so take it for what it's worth and decide for yourself.

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re: TV on PC
by Attitude2000 / September 8, 2006 12:43 AM PDT
In reply to: HDTV

I can't remember what it's ancient. In fact I think the resolution is 320 x 240. No HD.

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This statement is not true
by siclmn / September 7, 2006 11:10 PM PDT

HD channels will look better but all other channels will look worse on your new big screen TV. It's just the way it is. And it sucks. I still would rather watch my old sony tube TV up in my bedroom when I want all channels to be crystal clear.

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I agree...non-HD source poor on HDTV...
by baseman / September 7, 2006 11:36 PM PDT

I couldn't wait to get an HDTV. About 6 months ago I got into the game even though I knew there were trade-offs and that standard definition would not be as good as my old CRT-based TV. Well, it was far the point of being unwatchable to me. I returned it and purchased another brand. Same thing. I returned this one as well and went back to my old TV. Even though the prime time lineup and sports are broadcast in HD, as well as the movie channels, much of my viewing is still non-HD. The trade-off of dazzling HD sources wasn't worth the poor standard definition...for me. My old 27" gets a beautiful crisp clear picture all the time. PS: I kept the HD cablebox from my cable company and it works great with my old CRT Panasonic. Watched the US Open on the HD channel and it was eye-popping-though not HD.

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by Wolfpacker96 / September 8, 2006 12:10 AM PDT

Well, you should try doing some more research. Some HDTVs convert the analog better than others. One thing you may want to look at are the CRT tube HDTVs like the Sony. They weigh a ton, but they're analog display is comparable (maybe even better) than your old TV.

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Research,, no
by baseman / September 8, 2006 5:21 AM PDT
In reply to: research

I actually did quite a bit of research before the purchase. I didn't buy no-name brands either. One of them was a top name brand. As I said, I knew standard def wouldn't look as good but was surprised how bad it was. Afterwards, I did look into a CRT based widescreen HDTV, but PIP was a must and the CRT brands are few now and even Pansasonic dropped PIP this year on theirs. Like I said in my subject title, money is an object. Research may have found me an HDTV that got decent standard def, but it wouldn't be in my budget. I'll just wait a bit more until more broadcasting is in HD and/or "scalers" and the internal electronics are able to display it better. price will probably come down a bit too.

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Not Necessarily
by aswnc / September 7, 2006 11:53 PM PDT

This statement has some merit, but isn't accurate. Digital TV's have pixels (dots) like computer monitors. Analog content created for tube TV's used horizontal lines, not pixels. So, as this information is transformed into pixel data, it loses some of the quality. When this is viewed on on a large screen TV, those pixels (and quality defects) are just magnified (depending on resolution - a higher resolution would have smaller pixels and the problems would be less noticeable). So, watching analog video on a large-screen digital TV will result in lower quality. However, as the analog signal will be ending soon; as VHS tapes disappear, and as television signals become digital, this problem will become less of an issue. So, a digital signal that is not HD will not necessarily look worse (unless the TV just has a low resolution which isn't likely).

Also, not to start a cable/satellite war here because it isn't as much an issue now as it was, but in smaller towns with analog cable systems, it is more likely you'll experience this problem than with satellite which is all digital. Even some "digital" cable services only have some digital channels with others being analog.

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