Just in time for the holidays: HDTV Buying Advice From a TV Insider.

If you’ve been reading for over a year or so then you may recall that back during my period of unemployment the old 25” console TV set we had in the apartment gave up the ghost and we never got around to replacing it mainly because we were living off my unemployment checks. When we moved in with Anne’s parents the need for a new TV set obviously went away, but it’ll be back once we purchase a home in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Given that I’m hoping that’ll be this coming spring/summer I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought on what I want our next TV to be and I’m definitely intending to make it a high-def TV of some sort or another. Problem is I don’t know jack about HDTV so that’s where HDTV Buying Advice From a TV Insider comes in handy. I particularly liked the summary from the article:

My favorite piece of research from Scientific Atlanta is that 56 percent of the HDTV sets in America are not hooked up properly and the owners do not know that they are not seeing an HDTV picture. 23 percent of the people think that they are getting a better picture anyway (trust me, they’re not) and 26 percent believe that when a show says that it is brought to you in HD that they are automatically seeing an HD picture (trust me, they really are not). Do you need an HDTV set this holiday season? Absolutely not. 99.999 percent of all programming is available in SD and will be for the next 10 or more years. In fact, you may seriously hate watching SD pictures on your new flat screen, so make sure you see some good old-fashioned cable pictures on your set before you take the plunge.

On the other hand, HDTV sets have never been cheaper and they look great. Go out and buy one, hook it up correctly and join the party. You’ll be glad you did.

The article doesn’t get too tech-speaky and offers some simple advice on how to go about finding the best set for you along with the author’s personal favorites. Good stuff.

9 thoughts on “Just in time for the holidays: HDTV Buying Advice From a TV Insider.

  1. It is a good article, but his attitude smacks of Luddism in places. For example:

    95 percent of the programming you are going to watch for the foreseeable future was not shot for, nor will it be presented in the aspect ratio of HDTV.

    95% isn’t realistic, and will become less true at quite a rapid pace. It’s also less true in other countries; for example the UK has a lot more HD broadcasting than the US currently does. How much HD programming you are going to watch depends on your location and on your viewing preferences; I spend more time on my HD channels than non-HD, even though I currently have more non-HD channels.

    1080p – Progressive Scan 1920 x 1080 – mythical format that you don’t need to think about.

    OK so he’s being facetious, but it’s still a strange attitude. 1080p exists and is in theory slightly better quality than 1080i. If you have the money and want to future-proof your purchase, 1080p is worth thinking about.

  2. I think if you are going to buy a TV you would have to be ignorant not to buy one with a built-in HDTV tuner (if you are spending over $700).  NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS, and others all have multiple HDTV channels that run for free across the same SD lines.  So while you may not have true digital HD, you can still watch some frekin cool TV (Those analog HD channels look way better than the analog SD channels and the difference is ngiht and day).  I highly recommend the PBS HD channel, PBS seems to be using the highest quality HD cameras.

    But in any case I wouldn’t buy a TV right now anyways.  I would take the money to be spent on a TV and invest it and wait for Organic LED technology to reach the TV market.  OLED’s are still slow to move right now, but they are currently being used in MP3 players, and the technology will really revolutionize monitors and TVs.  And the great thing about OLED’s for manufacturers is that the proces for making an OLED screen is very similar to making an LED screen.  So manufacturers will not have to drastically change their production lines. 

    And OLED’s are cheaper to produce than LED’s because the Light emitting substance is organically produced by the material.  So OLED screens will really drive down the market price of all screens.  OLED’s also use 25% less energy than LED’s, and LED’s alredy use very little energy.

    Meaning, even if you can’t afford an OLED TV when it first comes out, you should be able to afford an LED one.

    But some people are impatient.  OLED technology has been used in products for just about a year now, and companies are still slow to producing TV’s using the technology.  So it might be another year or two before they come out.  But to me the wait will be well worth it.

  3. I don’t think it’s necessary to buy a TV with a built in tuner. I believe in the Unix philosophy of “Do one thing and do it well”. A TV should display moving pictures in the highest quality possible. That’s all. No built in tuner, no built in speakers, no extra gizmos. Just a screen that looks nice.

    The money you save by buying a TV that is just a TV can be spent on a separate surround sound system and a separate tuner both of which should also “Do one thing and do it well”.

  4. Why buy a TV without the built-in tuner when most people just have standard cable?  That makes no sense.  Couple that with the fact that the average Joe has no idea how to hook up a separate tuner, or even what a good brand is for a separate tuner. 

    Being that I have worked in computer support for a while I have learned that there are a few things that your customers expect.
    1. The damn thing works
    2. They can do everything in a one-stop-shop fashion.  The more tech devices you give them, the more you confuse them.  Not a good scenario.

    Besides, if you buy a TV with the built in tuner, all the person has to do is pull out the old TV, put in the new one, give the new one power, plug in the cable line, and turn on the TV.  Then if the search for channels (something any new TV can do) they will have standard cable channels and HD channels at the touch of the remote.  No need to buy anything else.  I still don’t understand how this doesn’t rock.

  5. Why buy a TV without the built-in tuner when most people just have standard cable?

    Your initial premise is wrong. It may be true where you live, but in many places set-top boxes are the norm and almost nobody has standard cable that plugs straight into a regular tuner.

    As digital TV (not to be confused with HDTV) becomes more and more common and having a PVR becomes the norm, built in tuners will be obsolete.

  6. Webs; Why buy a TV without the built-in tuner when most people just have standard cable?

    What do you mean by standard cable?  The cable in our area has digital HD programming available and we use an HD-TiVo as a cable box (early xmas gift).  I don’t know how many other people have or soon will have such an arrangement, but we have no need for an HD tuner in the television.  I live in a metropolitan area and have no idea what sort of off-the-air TV we could receive as we have no antenna and have always used cable while living here.  I sometimes use the analog tuner in the TV to watch analog cable TV stations, but it is a transitional thing and I probably wouldn’t miss it if I didn’t have it.  Some people would benefit from having an HD tuner in their TV in the way that you described, and other people have no need for a tuner at all.

  7. What I mean is simply this.  If you have standard cable or extended cable, meaning you might have a cable box and you might not, but that you are not paying for HD programming and are not paying for any digital cable.  I think this constitutes the majority of Americans.  Since I have no data to back this up, I might be wrong here. 

    For anyone that doesn’t have digital cable or HD programming or both, buying a TV with a built-in HD tuner is the best way to go.  Why?  Because as I have already stated, you can have free HD channels that already run on standard cable lines, without paying any more than you already do.  This is why I think having the built in tuner is great.

  8. Webs;

    You are right that the majority of cable TV subscribers don’t subscribe to digital cable, about 1/3 of cable subscribers currently subscribe to digital cable. 

    The thing that I was not able to find were any areas that have HD channels on cable that don’t require a cable company provided digital decoder.  An HD tuner is not useful for people who do not have effective off-the-air HDTV antennas. 

    I also do not know how many people are able to put up antennas that will receive an effective HDTV signal.  HDTV signals have limited coverage areas and many people are prohibited from putting up TV antennas.  Also, I am not sure how many people who have cable TV and would want to endure the hassle of installing and maintaining an HDTV antenna.  Do TVs with HD tuners have separate antenna inputs for analog cable and for an HD antenna, or would the user have to use an external A/B antenna switch? 

    In our area have non-scrambled extended basic cable available that can be tuned with a standard analog cable-ready TV tuner; any digital or HD programming requires a cable company provided set-top box or decoder card(s).  A set-top decoder box costs $5 a month and the cards are $1.95 per month.

    In the second quarter of 2006, there were 32.9 million digital cable subscribers, and the number is steadily increasing.  In Sept, 2006 there were 65.6 million basic cable subscribers, and the number is slightly decreasing.

    Digital Cable Subscribers

  9. If you have the HD tuner built in you will be able to get free HD channels.  You don’t need to buy a special antenna or anything.  Just hook up your coaxial cable and you are set to go.

    Do TVs with HD tuners have separate antenna inputs for analog cable and for an HD antenna, or would the user have to use an external A/B antenna switch?

    As far as I know the TV figures it all out by itself. It knows how to distinguish the difference between HD and SD.  I watched my friend do it with his 42in LCD TV that has a built in HD tuner.  He just hooked it up and searched for channels, and the TV automatically searched for SD then HD channels.  No antennas or anything extra was needed.  Pretty simple really.

    In our area have non-scrambled extended basic cable available that can be tuned with a standard analog cable-ready TV tuner; any digital or HD programming requires a cable company provided set-top box or decoder card(s).  A set-top decoder box costs $5 a month and the cards are $1.95 per month.

    In my area all you have to do is call the cable company, for basic or extended (no box required) they just come out and turn you on.

    In the second quarter of 2006, there were 32.9 million digital cable subscribers, and the number is steadily increasing.  In Sept, 2006 there were 65.6 million basic cable subscribers, and the number is slightly decreasing.

    This seems reasonable.  The TV market with HD capability is pushing people to spend the extra money.

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