Shopping Guide for Your HDTV Set

What Do I Need to Buy?

If you live in an area that has active

HDTV stations

broadcasting these shows, then you can buy an HDTV set and enjoy the benefits of HDTV. You can get HDTV programming either through an antenna or through a HDTV cable or satellite box, from your cable or satellite provider.

Photo courtesy Sony Electronics
Sony's SAT-HD300 set-top box receives HDTV broadcasts as well as HD satellite programming.

Right now, there aren't that many stations broadcasting HDTV programming. Eventually, however, your current analog television set will either have to be replaced or you will need to buy a set-top box for converting the digital signal. Today's HDTV sets come in several forms.

Be sure any television receiver you purchase has input jacks that match the connectors on the VCR, cable box, DVD player and video game console you currently own. For many years, you will have to straddle the digital/analog fence, using, for example, an analog VCR on your digital TV. At the moment, there are no "standards" for what connections will appear on the back of an HDTV set. Therefore you should look for composite, S-video and component video as a minimum set of analog jacks so you can use your existing analog equipment with the new set.

Many early purchasers will have to "go back" to a traditional outside UHF television antenna to receive the over-the-air (OTA) HDTV signal. The HDTV transmission system is an eight-level vestigial sideband (VSB) technique that uses UHF channels. Your antenna rotor setting for reception of HDTV signals will be easy to adjust. You either have a picture or you do not -- there cannot be a snowy image with digital technology. There also will not be any "fringe area" reception.

The least expensive way to see HDTV shows right now is to buy an HDTV converter for your current analog TV. However, the HDTV shows you see will look no better than DVD on your analog TV -- you will get none of the resolution and format benefits of a real HDTV set.

HDTV conversion will be a process that unfolds over several years. For example, major networks still have to agree on what resolutions they will use. There is no FCC mandate on resolutions for the networks to follow. We are witnessing a merging of three huge industries: personal computers, entertainment, and consumer electronics. Many companies have turf to protect, and a lot of money will be spent on the conversion. That means that the process will be slow and sometimes uncomfortable. However, the ultimate destination is a significant advance -- remarkably better pictures and sound for both your TV and your computer!