I spent this weekend making the plunge into the world of HD television. After a ton of reading of posts on avsforum, the mother of all audio-video discussion boards, and a lot of good advice from my former colleague Dave Passmore, I plopped down a few bucks on a new JVC D-ILA 56" TV and set about figuring out how to get HD television into my living room.
For those of you who haven't taken the plunge, be prepared for a lot, and I mean a lot of research and work. The terms and concepts that one has to learn to become proficient in HD-TV "speak"are just astounding. To give you a small sample, just picking the right TV requires as much work as the typical college course. First off you have to learn the interface types, HDMI, composite, component, digital, and so on. Then you have to learn about resolutions, 720p versus 1080i, or the newer 1080p. Each of which have their relative strengths and weaknesses. For example, most HD TVs come in either 720p or 1080i. 1080i has slightly better resolution, but is interlaced, meaning that fast-action scenes such as sporting events aren't as crisp. The new breed of sets now hitting the market are 1080p, which gives you the best of both worlds, but the drawback is that only the new generation of DVD's can take advantage of 1080p. Almost all high-def broadcasts are in 720p or 1080i. And before we leave our discussion of sets, one has to learn the difference between plasma, LCD, LCD projection, DLP, LCoS, and conventional tube TV. And don't even think about picking the size of your TV until you've measured your room and how far your seating position will be from the TV.
Selecting the right programming is another challenge. For those of you lucky enough to have access to Verizon's FiOS service, well from what I've read your work is done. For the 88.5% of us that don't have FiOS, it gets a little tougher. DirecTV and Dish Network all offer various service packages, DirecTV's is the most complicated, you can only get local HD channels via the dish if you are willing to give up TiVo (though their own DVR is hitting the streets now), otherwise you need an antenna, something my parents had on their roof in the 1970s but is now back in vogue in the HD-TV world. Cable presents another alternative, but reports are that cable infrastructures are strapped for bandwidth so new channels will be few and far between. DirecTV compresses its HD signal, which many argue offers lower picture quality (PQ) than cable.
In the end I wentwith DirecTV's current (but soon to be obsolete) HD-TiVo since I got them to give me one in exchange for buying NFL Sunday Ticket, but I'm expecting to replace ithe TiVo with their new DVR (assuming they can avoid losing a lawsuit to TiVo - for those of you who haven't heard, Dish Network is now under court order to disable most of their customers DVR's after losing such a suit). For local channels I'm using one of those old fashioned UHF antennas that I haven't seen in 20 years (not quite the old metal loop, but pretty close).
Anyway the point here is that I don't believe HD-TV is ready for the masses just yet. There is a terrific opportunity for reputable organizations to help educate the the consumer market, but unfortunately there is also a huge opportunity to take advantage of the uninformed - witness Best Buy and others selling "Monster" brand HDMI cables for a hundred bucks when a $15 cable from a place like monocable.comwill work just as well(thank youavsforum for saving me $250)
But in the end, it's worth it. The picture quality of HD, especially for sports, is just astounding. It's the future of television, but it will be a bumpy road getting there.