Getting Started With HDTV

On Afterdawn we have a lot of technical discussion, and many technical guides covering a wide array of computer oriented subjects. However, in the world of HTPCs, DVRs, and game console media centers has shifted the focus of video technology toward the HDTV. The move to digital television and development of high definition formats for everything from broadcast to game consoles is driving record sales of HDTVs. Unfortunately rapidly changing technology and differences between modern digital displays vs. older analog models can make it difficult to even figure out what you're looking for.

Don't Panic

Fortunately shopping for a HDTV isn't as daunting a task as it might seem at first. If you start with an understanding of what you're buying you should be able to find a HDTV that you can be happy with for years. Or if you'd prefer you can get a lower end TV now that you plan to upgrade in the near future.

Evaluating HD Displays

The most important thing to remember when evaluating the quality of a display is that there's no test or measurement better than your own eyes for making a decision. Many arguments about quality, even many in this guide, are theoretical. What you see with your eyes is what the actual quality of the display is - sometimes. Although it's sometimes hard to trust comparisons made in a HDTV showroom, as long as you can find a store where they're either capable of setting up their own HDTVs or willing to let you adjust them appropriately you can usually get an accurate assessment of a TV's quality. Remember, the reason there are different approaches to almost all the technology in a HDTV is that none of them is perfect. The trick is to figure out which imperfections are acceptable so you don't buy the wrong TV.

Things To Consider

There are five basic things to consider when selecting a HDTV. We'll focus on the first three here to help you understand all the technology and terminology you'll be running across.
  • Viewing Environment: Any HDTV purchase should start by examining the conditions under which it will be watched. This includes the minimum and maximum viewing distances, as well as the largest viewing angle, and even the floor or wall space required for the TV itself and ambient lighting conditions in the room.
  • Content: In addition to HDTV broadcasts and possibly HD DVD, Blu-ray, or other high quality movie formats you're likely to be watching standard definition content from DVDs, TV, and maybe even video tape.
  • HDTV Type: Once you've determined where you'll be using your HDTV and what you'll be watching on it you can consider resolution and display technology. As you'll see when you get to this section your choices for both may vary greatly depending on the environment and what you're watching, not to mention cost.
  • Research: Armed with an idea of what you should look for you can then do some research before making a purchase.
  • Personal Testing: The last step in buying an HDTV be to test each model you're considering in person to get the real final word on quality.

HDTV Technical Information

This guide only touches on the technical side of HDTV in vague terms, you can read our guides on HDTV Technology and High Definition Video and Audio for more detailed answers to questions about the technology. These tips are highlighted so you can find them easily.

Buyer's Tips

Along with detailed discussion about various aspects of HDTV technology, this guide includes some suggestions for evaluating a HDTV before you buy.

* Soon we'll be publishing an Afterdawn HDTV Buyer's Guide to complement the material presented here. In the mean time get aquainted with the technology you'll be buying.
Written by: Rich Fiscus