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Buying an HDTV

posted on December 11, 2006


Apple Computer is expected to sell 20 million iPods this Christmas season. Total revenue from these sales will top $3 billion. These days you can watch your favorite TV show or movie just about anywhere, but sooner or later we're all going to have to decide how we're going to replace that living room staple, the family television set. The consumer electronics association predicts that 2006 will be the first year HD televisions will outsell analog TVs. CEA projects HDTV units sold will reach 15.9 million, outselling traditional analog sets by 89 percent.

Baldwin: For the people who are in the market for a new television now and they're concerned about what they're going to be able to watch in the future, there's really two things that they should be looking for. One is a television that's going to work in the environment that they have, that's going to fit in the space that they have. And then the other one is to think about what kinds of programs they want to be able to watch in high definition once they have that new set. This industry has made things about as confusing as it possibly can.

Mundt: The digital transition is confusing, especially for people in the market for a high definition or HD television. An HD set could easily be one of a family's most expensive purchases, so we decided to break things down for consumers, hopefully making the purchase a little easier.

Hi, how you doing?

Hi there. Dean Slagle.

Hi, Dean. I'm Denny Thompson. Nice to meet you. Welcome to our store.

Mundt: Dean Slagle of Urbandale recently took the plunge into his first HD television set.

Slagle: The first guy I went and listened to, it was like it was a foreign language. It hurt my head to try and understand what this all meant.

Mundt: Slagle shopped at several chains, but settled on a specialty store. He felt the staff's experience was helpful in giving him the knowledge he needed to buy the right HDTV for his home.

Slagle: Know what you want to spend. You know, whatever you really like and it's appealing to what you think looks good, don't keep trying to second guess, because I found myself -- eventually my wife had to tell me just buy a TV, because I think I'd still be looking.

Mundt: So what are some things to consider when buying an HDTV? You'll need a TV capable of displaying high definition, a digital tuner that can receive the signals, and HD programming provided by broadcasters, a cable company, or satellite provider.

Thompson: At this point in time, there are three different very popular TV technologies: Plasma, LCD, and DLP TVs. If you watch a lot of video games or old classic 4 x 3 movies or newscasts with ticker tape on the bottom, LCD or DLP would be better. If you need a very wide horizontal viewing angle, DLP and plasma do a very good job. If you watch a lot of movies, DLP and plasma have good contrast from light to dark areas. So there's not one perfect technology, and it entirely depends on your room, your situation.

Slagle: I think the main features I was looking for was this is a pretty long room, so I wanted something larger than 50 inch. And the plasmas get really expensive, so that's kind of how I arrived at getting this projection TV, and I think it's 57 inches.

Baldwin: The digital transmission is a way of getting a signal out, and high definition is a way of seeing a picture.

Mundt: Digital television, including HDTV, is available over the air free using a standard antenna or, for a fee, via digital cable or satellite. No matter how you receive your TV signal, you will need HDTV equipment to watch the high definition programming. The HDTV equipment you'll need can be purchased as an all-in-one or as a component solution. The all-in-one consists of a digital tuner built right into the television. The component solution requires an HDTV monitor and a stand-alone DTV tuner, each purchased separately. Most broadcasters today, including Iowa Public Television, are airing both analog and digital programming. But as mandated by the FCC, February 17, 2009, is the proposed shutoff date for all over-the-air analog broadcasts.

Baldwin: There's this kind of rumor out there that they're going to shut off television. If I don't have an HDTV set, I'm not going to be able to see TV.

Mundt: Even after the end of analog television, viewers who don't wish to purchase a new set will still be able to watch television with the help of a low-cost converter box.

Hayes: Probably the biggest benefit to the home consumer is the theater quality picture and sound that will be delivered. It's like having a movie theater in your house. Behind the scenes, when the broadcasters are done with the analog spectrum, the old spectrum or the old band that we're now using, that will be returned to the federal government who will resell it to balance the budget. The people that purchase it will use it to deliver personal communication services, two-way services to handheld devices. So all the industries benefit.

Mundt: According to consumer reports, prices for HDTV's are dropping sharply as the selection of HD sets, big screens especially, is growing, and display technologies are improving. And every day there is more and more HD programming available to watch. All reasons why some say now is the right time to consider buying an HDTV.

Slagle: You think you've got a good television set, and then when you actually get used to watching it in high def and go back to, you know, a football game that's not, it's like, oh, gees, I can't believe I watched it this way.

Hayes: We've always had the ability to create really high quality imagery, but when we send it out, what you see at home is never as good as what we saw when we created it. Now what we're delivering to the home is exactly what we created.

Tags: digital dtv HDTV IADTVSYM Iowa technology television

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