Wednesday, December 12, 2007

HDTV sources

The rise in popularity of large screens and projectors has made the limitations of conventional Standard Definition TV (SDTV) increasingly evident. An HDTV compatible television set will not improve the quality of SDTV channels. To get a better picture HDTV televisions require a High Definition (HD) signal. Typical sources of HD signals are as follows:

  • Over the air with an antenna. Most cities in the US with major network affiliates broadcast over the air in HD. To receive this signal an HD tuner is required. Most newer HDTV televisions have a HD tuner built in. For HDTV televisions without a built in HD tuner, a separate set-top HD tuner box can be rented from a cable or satellite company or purchased.
  • Cable television companies often offer HDTV broadcasts as part of their digital broadcast service. This is usually done with a set-top box or CableCARD issued by the cable company. Alternatively one can usually get the network HDTV channels for free with basic cable by using a QAM tuner built into their HDTV or set-top box. Some cable carriers also offer HDTV on-demand playback of movies and commonly viewed shows.
  • Satellite-based TV companies, such as DirecTV and Dish Network (both in North America), Sky Digital (in the UK and Ireland), Bell ExpressVu (in Canada) and NTV Plus (in Russia), offer HDTV to customers as an upgrade. New satellite receiver boxes and a new satellite dish are often required to receive HD content.
  • Video game systems, such as the Xbox (NTSC only), Xbox 360, Playstation 2 (Gran Turismo 4) and Playstation 3 can output an HD signal. The Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network services offers HD movies, TV shows, movie trailers, and clips for download to their respective consoles.
  • Most newer computer graphics cards have either HDMI or DVI interface, which can be used to output image to HDTV television.
  • Two optical disc standards, Blu-ray and HD DVD, can provide enough digital storage to store hours of HD video content.

HDTV Buying Tips: Avoid Financing Traps

Is zero-percent financing really a good deal? What should you look out for? Read our report before signing up for any special HDTV promotions.

If you've been thinking of buying an HDTV this holiday season, but don't want to spend the cash up front, there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that major retailers are offering some pretty good deals. Best Buy, for example, advertises no interest until January 2011 on HDTVs over $1000. Similar attractive financing is offered by Circuit City, Wal-Mart, and Dell.

The bad news about some of these offers, say experts, is that paying nothing up front for an expensive HDTV can end up being a bad deal for unqualified buyers. Financial experts warn that buyers lured into "money-saver" deals are apt to purchase a more expensive television than they can afford, and may end up spending more than they intended.

The HDTV deals available this holiday season vary from store to store, but most involve either no monthly payments for a certain period of time or no interest on payments made during a promotional period. To take advantage of the deals you have to sign up for the store's credit card.

I asked personal-credit experts to share their thoughts on what HDTV shoppers should be watching out for.

The Consumer Trap

If you can't afford the HDTV, then you shouldn't buy it, says credit expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of Zero Debt for College Grads.

Many people think that because they qualified for a zero-percent financing deal that means they can afford it, Khalfani-Cox says. "Credit card companies are not looking out for your best interest," she says.

Khalfani-Cox points out that, in some deals, if you don't pay for the HDTV within the promotional time period, you must pay interest as if it had been accumulating from the date you bought the HDTV.

For example, if you purchased a Sharp 37-inch Aquos LCD HDTV priced at $1450 from Circuit City and took advantage of its "no interest, no payments for 12 months" offer, then didn't pay for it within the promotional period, you would be subject to 23.99 percent interest. That's at least $194 in finance charges. If you violate the terms of the promotion by missing a payment, or by being late with a payment, your interest rate jumps to 29.49 percent--at least $242 in finance charges.

High Prices, Bait-and-Switch Tactics

One thing to keep in mind, says Jim Tehan with Myvesta, a nonprofit financial counseling organization, is that even if you do qualify for zero-percent financing, sellers often make up for the lost finance charges by jacking up the price of the product.

PC World took a look at several HDTVs offered as part of zero-percent financing promotions. We found identical models being sold for sometimes hundreds of dollars less at competing retailers without special offers.

"Don't think retailers aren't making money on promotions like these," Tehan says.

He adds that a trap consumers fall into is when they are approved for more money than expected. This can lead some people to spend much more than they originally intended on an HDTV.

Another dirty little secret of zero-percent financing is that it's a gimmick. Retailers use it to get you into the store, says Khalfani-Cox. She says zero-percent offers are used for bait-and-switch sales. Once the offer lures you into the showroom, a sales rep says you don't qualify, then tries to sell you the HDTV anyway, Khalfani-Cox says.

How to Get a Good Deal

Gerri Detweiler, credit advisor for, says that zero-percent financing deals can be great for the right person.

"If you are going to take advantage of one of these types of deals, now is the time to do it," she says. The best promotions are right around the holidays, she says. "So you might as well take advantage of the best promotion you can," Detweiler says.

Khalfani-Cox agrees: "Zero-percent interest rates work very well for people with excellent credit ratings who always pay their bills on time and have an above-average income."

Detweiler advises buyers who haven't paid off their HDTV within the zero-percent financing timeframe to consider transferring the debt to a low-interest credit card.

However, Jim Hanson, vice president of the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance, says most people should avoid in-store gimmicks and come-ons altogether: "Even though it's tough, you should resist when a retail store offers zero-percent financing or 15 percent off your first purchase with credit approval."

Store credit cards typically have lower limits and higher fees. He suggests if you're dead set on buying a big-ticket item, you should consider getting a low-interest credit card from a credit union.

"It boils down to simple elementary advice that never changes," Hanson says. "Cash is always best. If you need a special promotion to buy an HDTV, you can't afford it.",140473-c,hdtv/article.html

Most Noteworthy HDTVs for the Holidays

We scoured the Earth (and the Web) and shook down all the top vendors to find the hottest high-definition televisions on the market this holiday season.

1 of 14
Darkness is Good: Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-1150HD 50-Inch Plasma

Pioneer chose Kuro, which means "black" in Japanese, as the moniker for its latest line of plasma TVs in order to call attention to the sets' performance when displaying dark images. Pioneer says the HDTVs' black levels are 80 percent better than their predecessors'. The 50-inch model shown here, like the others in the Kuro line, also has what Pioneer calls Optimum Video Mode. An integrated room-light sensor not only monitors ambient lighting, but also appraises the content displayed and makes adjustments (such as noise reduction) accordingly. In addition, features like the four HDMI 1.3 ports, detachable side speakers, a CableCard slot, and a two-year warranty make this TV very appealing.

This model, like the 42-inch Kuro PRO-950HD, has a native resolution of 1365-by-768; for full 1920-by-1080 resolution, you'll need to graduate to its more pricey siblings, the Kuro PRO-110FD and the Kuro PRO-150FD.,140246-c,hdtv/article.html

Introduction to How HDTV Works

When the first high-definition television (HDTV) sets hit the market in 1998, movie buffs, sports fans and tech aficionados got pretty excited, and for good reason. Ads for the sets hinted at a television paradise with superior resolution and digital surround sound. With HDTV, you could also play movies in their original widescreen format without the letterbox "black bars" that some people find annoying.

HDTV Image Gallery

plasma HDTV
Photo courtesy Consumer Guide Products
An 84-inch HDTV-ready plasma TV. See more HDTV pictures.
But for a lot of people, HDTV hasn't delivered a ready-made source for transcendent experiences in front of the tube. Instead, people have gone shopping for a TV and found themselves surrounded by confusing abbreviations and too many choices. Some have even hooked up their new HDTV sets only to discover that the picture doesn't look good.
Fortunately, a few basic facts easily dispel all of this confusion. In this article, we'll look at the differences between analog, digital and high-definition, explain the acronyms and resolution levels and give you the facts on the United States transition to all-digital television. We'll also tell you exactly what you need to know if you're thinking about upgrading to HDTV.

High-Definition Television (HDTV)

High-definition television (HDTV) is a digital television broadcasting system with greater resolution than traditional television systems (NTSC, SECAM, PAL). HDTV is digitally broadcast, because digital television (DTV) requires less bandwidth if sufficient video compression is used. HDTV technology was introduced in the U.S. in the 1990s by the Digital HDTV Grand Alliance, a group of television companies.[1][2]

Projection screen in a home theater, displaying a high-definition television image.
Projection screen in a home theater, displaying a high-definition television image.

History of high-definition television

In 1949, France launched 819 lines television, first high definition public television network (778 active lines). This 819 lines network remained operational until 1983.[citation needed]

In 1958, the U.S.S.R created Трансформатор (Transformer), the first high-resolution (definition) television system capable of producing an image composed of 1,125 lines of resolution for the purpose of television conferences among military commands; as it was a military product, it was not commercialised.[3]

In 1969, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) first developed commercial, high-definition television, [4] yet, the system was not commercialized until late in the 1990s.

In 1983, the International Telecommunication Union ITU-R set up a working party (IWP11/6) with the aim of setting a single international HDTV standard. This WP considered many views and through the 1980s served to encourage development in a number of video digital processing areas such as conversion between 30/60 and 25/50 picture rates using motion vectors that lead to other outcomes. While a single standard was never finalized, a common aspect ratio of 16:9 was agreed to at the first meeting at the BBC's R & D establishment at Kingswood Warren. Initially the Japanese 5:3 ratio was considered but a proposal to widen it to 5 1/3:3 = 16:9 was accepted. The ITU-R Recommendation BT.709 includes 16:9, colorimetry and the 1080i (1,080 actively-interlaced lines of resolution) and the 1080p (1,080 progressively-scanned lines). It also included the 1440 x 1152 HDMAC scanning format. 720p formats were strongly resisted by some ITU-R members and were not standardized there. Both 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720p (720 progressively-scanned lines), systems for a range of frame and field rates are also defined by several SMPTE standards.

No matter how hard developers tried, and despite the over 20 different standards proposed, high definition television lacked the basics of any successful media application; that is the means of distributing it.

First HDTV commercial experiments as NHK's MUSE required over four times the bandwidth of a standard definition broadcast, and despite the effort made to shrink the required bandwidth in about 2 times of that of the SDTV's, it still was distributable only by satellite.

Recording and reproducing HDTV signal was also a technical challenge in the early years of HDTV.

It was not before the first decade of the new millennium, that storage means of enough capacity and computer processing power for dense compression algorithms made commercial applications of HDTV affordable for consumers and profitable for TV channels or the video rental industry.

Digital HDTV was finally viable due to the evolution of TV broadcasting, where the broadcasting systems all over the world were designed from scratch to use digital means of transmission. Thus, through digital compression equipment, and the evolution of standards such as MPEG 2, H264, a single TV channel could be used either for broadcasting up to 5 TV programs of standard definition, or for broadcasting up to 2 channels of high definition.

High-definition television refers to the image resolution and, loosely, to photo- and videographic media capable of such image resolution, i.e. photographic film and digital video. Current HDTV broadcast standards are in the ATSC and DVB specifications. HDTV is capable of cinema-quality audio, because it uses the Dolby Digital (AC-3) format to support the 5.1 surround sound system.