HDTV Buyers' Guide

  • Posted June 11th, 2006 by

(continued from previous page) ...would still suggest going for the 60GB PS3 if you can shell out an extra $100 (or €100), because ICT is a very real threat. It’s a bit of strange direction Sony’s taken with the 20GB PS3, given their love for digital rights management.

So personally, I would recommend going for a TV with HDMI. It may cost you more, but it’s worth it if you don’t plan to buy another TV for the next few years. And HDCP is not the only reason. HDMI carries both audio and video.

Resolutions

The terminology used to describe the resolution HDTVs are able to display can be pretty confusing.

Let’s start off with the most common resolution supported by cheap or affordable, HD ready TVs: 720p. A TV that supports 720p high definition must be able to output a picture at a resolution of 1280x720. More commonly, however, 720p TVs will support up to 1366x768. This is just a strange bending of the rules, and should not result in any significant changes in quality.

The ‘p’ parts stands for ‘progressive’, and describes the way in which the lines on the screen form the picture that is produced. As a simple explanation, when a TV can output a resolution in ‘progressive’ mode, it produces each line of the image in order, and all at once. What this means is a higher number of frames per second, and generally a clearer and sharper picture.

The other mode is called ‘interlaced’, and is abbreviated to ‘i’. This format draws all the odd lines first, and then goes back and draws the even lines. Whilst this happens too quickly for the human eye to see in action, interlaced TVs will often exhibit very slightly flickering. Usually this will go unnoticed because up till now most TVs have been interlaced so we’re all used to it. But put side by side with a progressive scan TV, and you’ll probably notice the difference.

HD ready interlaced TVs support 1080i. This resolution is 1920x1080. Since it displays a higher resolution than 720p TVs, the picture quality should be far better, especially on larger TVs.

But the behemoth of HDTV resolutions is 1080p. This combines the benefits of an extremely high resolution with progressive scan. Unfortunately, broadcasters do not transmit their programmes in this resolution (probably due to the high bandwidth requirements). But next generation DVD formats offer the capability of 1080p movies. In particular, Blu-ray players are able to output 1080p movies. Unfortunately, the first HD-DVD players are not able to output this resolution, but will in the future.

Be aware, however, that in order to view high definition content in 1080i or 1080p, you must have a compatible TV. Currently, 1080p TVs are rare, and those that do exist are very expensive. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced TV, you’ll probably end up purchasing a 1080i TV, or on lower budgets a 720p TV.

Here’s an image, courtesy of Wikipedia, that demonstrates the differences in resolution:

 

 


Sizes

If you’ve got the money, you’ll want a big TV. The cost of 40” TVs is dropping all the time, but they will still require some saving up if you want a quality 1080i (or even 1080p next year). Remember from Part 1 that any TV you buy should include at least DVI with HDCP compliance, or even better, HDMI. This generally pushes the price up slightly, but in the 40” range, the difference is often negligible. So be careful!

The smallest TVs that support the requirements I specified in Part 1 are usually 26”. Be warned that you will not see the true benefits of HD on this size TV, but it’s a perfectly good HD solution for gaming in a bedroom.

Moving on to some of the questions members have asked. I’ve removed some of the slang and “1337speek” for clarity.

DeAdLy_cOoKiE: Is it possible for HDTV to have 100Hz or even 120Hz?

HDTVs already support 100Hz. I suspect your question about 120Hz is related to Sony’s claim that the future will see 120 frames per second content. Whilst I’m sure the technology could be developed to support 120Hz, it seems ... (continued on next page)

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