HDTV For Dummies Like Me!
HDTV For Dummies Like Me!
Pardon my ignorance, but some of us don't really understand this whole "High Definition" thing. We blanch when our more technically proficient pals speak of "motion blur" and "refresh rate" and the perennially popular topic of "deep blacks" in HDTV, and curl up in the fetal position at the very mention of "anamorphic video". But what do you really need when you're looking for a high definition set up? Since I once shared in the general public ignorance of such topics (until quite recently, actually), and have been forced to educate myself (though very little, to be honest) on this topic, I have a pretty good (OK, barely enough by any standard) idea of what you should know before you dip your toes into the deep, murky waters of high definition technology. You see, I too was a dummy.
Luckily for you (just humor me, ok?) I was curious enough to at least learn some of the basics of this whole HD thing. I subscribed to a Home Theater magazine (the paper kind), I read some hints and tips on the web, questioned some tech savvy friends, and ultimately cleared up some of the confusion in the terminology involved in marketing and using all things HD. OK, some things HD. And here's just some of what I discovered that maybe, just maybe, could help you find your way home through the fog.
So what exactly is high definition? The standard for television these days as defined by some geek somewhere is 480p. More than this is considered "high definition". The number refers to the number of "lines" of vertical resolution and the small "p" is for progressive scan. At the risk of boring you even further, just know that all you need to remember is that the bigger the number, the more "stuff" is on each small bit of your TV screen (measured by square inch) and the "better" you'll see it on your TV. To decide what kind of resolution you should look for when buying your television, go to the store and stand or sit about the same distance from the sets as you would do at home. How's it look? There's you answer.
What in Heaven's Name is a Refresh Rate? This term does not refer to how often you spray Air Wick in your home after the dog has had an "accident". As it pertains to the topic of high definition, the term actually refers to how often the picture "refreshes".
The Eye Test - Basically, if it looks good to you, then it's a good picture. Don't let anyone convince you that your eyes are wrong.
What are you going to do with your new HDTV? - Are you planning on playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on Xbox 360 with this thing, or is it going to Grandma's house to be used to watch "Grandma's House" on BBC? Better specs cost more. You should find out whether you need them or not before you pay for them. Don't let the pimple kid at the local "Big Box" store tell (or sell) you anything different.
Matching Components - So you bought a really nice bicycle frame from your neighbor. You decide that you need to make it great by adding 40" monster truck wheels on it because someone told you they are "the best". Unfortunately, you now need to purchase a ladder to get up on your bike. What in the world am I talking about? Simple, your TV needs to work properly with your Blu-Ray Player, Xbox 360, or whatever you hook it up to. Here's a simple guide to how to find pieces that work together.
HDMI and the Cable Issue - The geeks never make it easy for us, do they? Lording their incredible technical prowess over the rest of the populace seems to be a great source of pleasure for those in the technology field. Instead of calling it a "TV Cable" or "HD Cable", they went with "High Definition Multimedia Interface" and gave the Big Box stores all the fuel they needed to charge $92 for one such cable. The truth is, the $5 (or less!) HDMI cables at sites like Amazon, NewEgg, and others work every bit as well.
What brand should I get? - This is where things can get a bit fuzzy. Even HDTV experts tend to disagree on who makes the best HDTVs, and quality varies depending on the model in question. My suggestion is to find someone with no horse in the race. Ask your friends what brands they own and whether they are satisfied with it. Read reviews everywhere you can. Read expert reviews at sites like Cnet.com and Consumerreports.org, then compare what they have to say with User Reviews at sites like Amazon.com. If a TV gets consistently high scores, odds are good that it's a quality device.
I would like to add that none of this is as daunting as it may seem. You can learn everything you know about buying this kind of equipment on sites like Hometheater.com, soundandvisionmag.com, and even Amazon. Remember to ask people you trust what they bought and how they feel about their purchase. And never forget that you already own the ultimate High Definition source in existence: your very own eyes.
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