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Television Media

To HDTV or Not to HDTV? 478

fishrokka asks: "I'm considering buying an HDTV, but before I jump in I wanted to get Slashdot's opinion. The demos I've seen at stores look great, but is it worth the extra money? I would love to hear some real-life experiences..." I have yet to actually go out and see a demo of HDTV, but from what I hear, it's markedly better than the current analog technology. Although there are HDTV broadcasts to be found today, the FCC deadline for adoption of the format is not until sometime in 2006. Are the current HDTV implementations worth the pricetags, especially when one can limp along with their existing TVs for another 4 years?
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To HDTV or Not to HDTV?

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  • GameCube supports HDTV.


    I'm still using a shoddy Zenith 19in with only RF plugs.

    My computer moniter is bigger then that. :(

    Thus, the TV in card I am using. :)

    Anybody know of a TV In card that supports HDTV signals? Seriously, I have a 36inch monitor and a fscking 19inch TV set and things aren't likely to change soon! Nifty to be able to view HDTV on my computer though. :) (heh, at least its already progressive. :) )
  • First of all, what are you going to watch there? HDTV requires a LARGE amount of bandwidth and most broadcasters would just rather have 12 regular channels than 1 HDTV channel in a sat transponder, for instance.

    I'd wait...
    • by liquidsin ( 398151 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:54AM (#2757492) Homepage
      No...THIS is a bad idea!

      ...I wanted to get Slashdot's opinion.

    • Well, I would say that a very high quality picture is a good idea, but I agree that the economics are all wrong.

      Cable and Satellite have demonstrated that people want more channels, and it will be tough arguing that 30 over-the-air channels is not in the public's and in the broadcasters' interest, despite the interest of those with $3000 TVs. And Americans in general will choose quantity over quality every time.

      HD programming will be available, but my guess is that it will be sold as a luxury service, and even then subsidized in that it won't be priced proportionally to the bandwidth used.

      Another thing - Analog TV will not go dark in 2006. The sets/converter boxes aren't being mass-marketed now and it's almost 2002. Your congressman will listen to the little old ladys on social security that worry about their TVs being turned off. I'd even be surprised if it goes dark by 2016.

      My advice? Save your cash until the open question of whether HD will be mass-marketed is resolved. Unless you want to go all the way and build the cost-is-no-object dream system, and are willing to put up with scarce programming in the meanwhile.
      • Well, I would say that a very high quality picture is a good idea, but I agree that the economics are all wrong. Cable and Satellite have demonstrated that people want more channels,

        Replace the drek currently on TV with XXX high-resolution porn and see how quickly the public changes its mind. They'll want just one extremely high resolution channel.

      • HD Programming is already available, in quite a few markets via over the air (yep, plain old rabbit ears, like mom and dad used to use). CBS has something like 15 shows in HD (CSI rocks in HD), and several of the other networks are scrambling to follow suit.

        There is HD Showtime on DISH and HD HBO on DirecTV and DISH. DirecTV also carries Mark Cuban's (owner of the Dallas Maverick's) HD-NET a 24-hour HD only channel. Both sat services also offer PPV HD movies.

        Portions of the Olympics will be aired in HD. At least one NCAA football game every week was aired in HD. The SuperBowl has been aired in HD. Quite a few big name sporting events have been aired in HD.

        Stating that "programming will be available" and that it "will be sold as a luxury service" shows just how uninformed the public is about HDTV. There is so much programming available now that many people feel that we have reached critical mass (i.e. 50% or more of the prime time lineup is in HD). Most of this programming is available free over the air, or included with your subscription price to your standard service or premium channel.

        Comcast and Time Warner are also starting to provide terrestrial cable feeds of HD in several of their markets. From what I hear, this service is only $10-15 more per month to have right now, and that increase is just your standard increase to have "Digital Cable"...the HD is included in that package.

        I say go for getting an HDTV. I bought my 61" widescreen HDTV about 6 months ago, and have never looked back. Probably one of the best "geek" purchases I have ever made.
    • HDTV fits into a single TV channel.

      The FCC has told TV stations to transition to digital TV. The 12/31/2006 date is a goal, but there are extension built into the rules that WILL be invoked, so expect analog to stay on the air through 2008 at least. Many DTV stations are already on the air, though not all shows are produced with HDTV quality. After the deadline, analog TV transmitters will go dark and the broadcasters will be back to one channel, DTV, between channels 2 and 51 (52+ are being recycled).

      The DTV standard uses a single TV channel with digital modulation to create a >20Mbps bitstream. That stream can be used for a single HDTV show or multiple lower-rate streams. MPEG-2 compression, used on satellites for high-quality feeds, is generally 6 Mbps; HDTV has various formats that compress to under 20 Mbps.
  • Not worth it Yet. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msolnik ( 536110 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:36AM (#2757424) Homepage
    I bought a HDTV last year. Yes the picture is great but the price/performance is definitely not worth it. I have digital cable and some other HDTV supporting stuff but currently its not worth it. I get 15 HDTV channels. I would say wait for 2006. Everyone will need one then and prices will drop drasticly. Plus the current tvs havent really been tested a lot. Once they all start hitting the market they will be tweaked much better and I would say the picture will increase in quality 2x.

    Don't Buy Yet. Coming from an HDTV owner spending 5K for a TV isnt worth it yet.
    • Re:Not worth it Yet. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jesup ( 8690 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:03AM (#2757518) Homepage
      Digital cable is LOWER resolution then even normal cable. In fact, because the displays are large and sharp, digital cable often looks far worse on an HDTV than on a smaller regular TV.

      Quality will improve, but not dramatically - the limits are size and (for RPTV's) gun size.

      Prices have already come down lots - I paid $5k, but that was 2 years ago for a top-of-the-line Pioneer Elite. Now effectively the same TV (minus lacquer) is $2500.
      • I agree, "Digital Cable(TM)" is nothing more than an MPEG-2 (DVD quality) encoded stream of the existing channels that run on the same copper. The bandwidth required by these signals is at a higher frequency, therefore more channels are able to get pushed down the pipe. I would not expect them to look any better than regular cable on an HDTV box. Maybe less noise, but not better picture quality.

        However I have not seen or heard of a Digital Cable service--the local offerings are AT&T Broadband [] or Click! Network []--that has any HDTV channels, since IIRC the required bandwidth of one 1080i encoded channel is approx 4 analog channels.

        This is not to say that they don't pipe them in by copper in your own city, or have them beamed in by DirectTV or Dish Network (I know one of those services offers HDTV programming)
        • I agree, "Digital Cable(TM)" is nothing more than an MPEG-2 (DVD quality) encoded stream of the existing channels that run on the same copper.

          One MPEG-2 stream is not equal to another. The digital cable I've seen is of FAR less quality than DVD. I had digital cable for a year and it looked like ass. Not horrible, but maybe halfway between the average VCD and the average DVD.
    • by putzin ( 99318 )

      Like most others, I would suggest waiting. Maybe not till 2006, but give it maybe one more year. Widescreen TV's can be had at 42+" for less than $2500, and if you're like me, then open box at Best Buy can be your friend. I got my receiver (which is also a DirecTV receiver) for $400 open box. With the stereo setup and all, I spent less than $3500 for one hell of a system.

      The good stuff is that the over air broadcasts are not as intermittent as some would say. I live 25 miles from Chicago and never lose signal. There isn't much original programming, but I caught an HD Cubs game last summer and was blown away. Waiting for the superbowl now. I figure it's about a year away from being good, 2 from being available over cable, and 3 from being almost mainstream.

      The bad parts are the lack of HD format programming, and the totally anti-HD stance from Hollywood and most of the TV and cable industry. When the copy protect issues are resolved, you can bet Hollywood will jump all over this.

      I enjoy it. Even the regular letterbox shows that are upconverted are good for now. And it will get better. Be an early adopter and show support. Dollars speak louder than anything anyone can say.

      • Re:Not worth it Yet. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Gangis ( 310282 )
        I figure it's about a year away from being good, 2 from being available over cable, and 3 from being almost mainstream.

        The Time Warner Communications service here in Brevard County, Florida offers three types of cable: Normal, Digital, and High Definition. They require separate receivers. Over here, channels 1000+ are HDTV only, and so far we have 15 HDTV channels. We don't have the High Definition service, nor a HDTV for that matter. I'd say that HDTV over cable is already here. However, I concur with your prediction about HDTV being mainstream in 3 years.
    • Worth It (Score:5, Informative)

      by renehollan ( 138013 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2001 @11:49AM (#2758801) Homepage Journal
      I recently bought a Sony 32" HDTV-ready set for US$1800 delivered from Crutchfield. Combined with a Sony Sat-HD100 terrestrial/satellite receiver (another $800, from American Satellite) and a Terk TV55 terrestrial HD/Standard TV antenna, it is great.

      Couple points, though, that will save you $$$:

      While there is a dearth of HDTV programming, there is plenty of DTV programming, even terrestrial. All satellite programming, for example, is digital. The immediate bonus is that all terrestrial digital channels look great, and a great reason to drop cable in favour of an antenna -- if you get enough local digital channels.

      16:9 sets add about $1000 to the price, and most broadcast material you will watch is still 4:3. Get a big enough screen and live with letterboxing for the next several years. Sony makes a 36" version of the set I bought, and I would say that 32" is the bare minimum you should consider. Of course, there are bigger and cheaper projection sets, but I never liked them and the convergence problems they have. Your call.

      Similarly, you can save money if you buy an HDTV-ready set instead of an HDTV set (the former lacks an HD tuner/decoder). This provides some flexibility in the choice of outboard tuner/decoder and combining such a set with a HD terrestrial/satellite reciver is a nobrainer. The total cost amounts to about the same, but the flexibility is important. RCA makes a 38" set with a built-in HD Satellite receiver, but they have had problems with early versions of that model, and I've heard people complain about the noisy fan (yes), in them. I have no opinion of my own about the RCS sets, but have generally been pleased with the Sony's I've owned.

      Important feature #0: Make sure it displays 720p, and possibly 1080i. There are some cheap DTV sets (480i, 480p) that accept HD signals (720p, 1080i) and downsample them. Beware.

      Important feature #1: progressive scan component video inputs -- at least two sets (one for sat receiver, one for DVD player). I don't know of any HD sets that don't have this, but it is important.

      Important feature #2: a line doubler. This takes interlaced material (like from an analog broadcast, or source) and makes it progressive (i.e. 480i becomes 480p). The result is a sharper-looking picture. Line doublers vary in quality and poor ones can have difficulty with motion. A bonus is that if you have a DVD player with interlaced component output, instead of progressive, the set can "sharpen" (figuratively) the picture.

      Important feature #3: On 4:3 sets, make sure that the set actually displays 720 or 1080 lines of resolution on letterboxed material, instead of downsampling to the area between the black bands. This feature goes by various names, and works by cutting the amplitude of the vertical drive to get the letterbox aspect ratio instead of downsampling. Of course, the shadow mask will be the limiting factor in actual resolution.

      DirectTV has only 3 HD channels on one of their non-main satellites, so unless you subscribe to HBO, a sports package (I think), or like to watch the demo loop, you won't find much HD material (yet). But, because it is on another satellite, you will need two LNBs and, in most of the U.S., an 18" x 24" elliptical dish with four coax cables (two from each dual-LNB), or wo dishes. Spanish programming (Para Todos) is on a third satellite and requires an additional single-LNB (for a total of three on the dish). The point of all this is that if you get an HDTV or HDTV-ready set and DirectTV (Dish competes with them in the U.S.A., and there are comparable services elsewhere in the world), spring for the twin dual-LNB 18"x24" dish instead of the standard 18" round one -- you won't want to have to redo installation later that way (while the extra LNB and elliptical dish add about $100 to the cost, initial installation is usually free, while a retrofit will probably cost that $100).

      All totaled (set, sat rx, dish) I must have spent about $2800. So far (three months later) I am pleased.

      Oh, if you do get a satellite system as well, you will have to learn all about multiswitches (satisfied customer plug: Hometech has 5x8 Trunkline multiswitches for about $160).

  • but unless you have to be an early adopter for some reason or another, I would hold off for a while. The HDTV ready TV's are still way too expensive to only be HD ready. You still have to buy the HD reciever. And the true HDTV's (with built in HD receivers) are even higher. If you just want a quality big screen, those are cheaper than they've ever been and not a bad option for limping along for a couple or few years. In a couple of years, as there actually a fair number of HD broadcasts available, the HDTV's will be more reasonable (hopefully) and (hopefully) more advanced, so why pay a premium for what will be commonplace before too long? You can't beat HD quality, but a nice FD Trinitron Vega is close enough for now.
  • Game consoles will enjoy HDTV, that will be another positive reason to get one. XBox games support it and i think so do some PS2 titles via the composit connection.
    Mini Dish receivers now have HDTV support as well. Most new stations and some old ones have HDTV support as well.
  • by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:39AM (#2757435) Journal
    If you have an XBOX and you are rich, the benefits of having HDTV may be of interest to the gamer looking for a higher quality image.

    For those who are looking to buy the Linux upgrade for their PS/2 consoles, an HDTV might be a worthy replacement for their trusted monitors...

    'the Playstation 2 is capable of displaying NTSC 640x480 interlaced resolution on a 4x3 composite screen, which does fall under HDTV standard.'

    For more info about HDTV and Consoles click here [].
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:40AM (#2757440) Journal
    I first saw HDTV on a large runco projector... they brought in a studio-quality deck to play the source material since there were no on-air broadcasts at the time (we in dc were one of the first cities to get on-air broadcasts - they had demos of this in national airport).

    The HDTV picture I saw was on a large screen (8 foot by 4 foot?), and was film-quality perfect. Lots of detail, no scan lines. Kindof what you'd expect for a $30k TV. But the coolest part was a much smaller normal-definition projection TV that was in the foreground... it was perhaps 3 feet wide, and despite the much smaller picture, it looked worse than the blown-up HDTV picture. It was amazing.

    Of course, take this with a grain of salt... I don't own a TV.
    • No salt needed. I'll vouch for what you've said. My full disclosure is that I do own a TV. It's a 1976 12" Electrohome. No cable. :-)

      KCTS, Beautiful BC Magazine, and Overwaitea Foods grocery stores [] funded a project to film British Columbia. The video is named Over BC [].

      It is stunning.

      To promote the video, it was shown in Overwaitea and Save-On stores, running off uncompressed digital tape and displayed on a true HDTV. No artifacting: 20MHz bandwidth sent to a 1080x1920x60Hz (120Hz interlaced) professional-grade display.

      Mindblowing quality. It's like watching film, but without the flicker. Amazing detail. Rock-solid imaging. Fan-fucking-tastic.

      Naturally, the HDTV that we're actually ending up with can't compare. It's been compressed, so there's all sorts of obnoxious aliasing. And the screen quality isn't quite up to the pro-quality $50,000 rig they had at the store. And it's impossible to pump 20MHz of information to consumers; current standards limit HDTV to about 6MHz bandwidth, with a subsequent loss of detail and quality.

      But, still, even the consumer-grade stuff looks a helluva lot better than the age-old NTSC format.

      Shame there's still nothing on TV worth watching.
      • Shame there's still nothing on TV worth watching.

        Nope - nothing (well very little) on TV, but there is plenty of excellent stuff to watch. I use a digital projector, have an excellent sound system, and I don't have cable. Other than Junkyard Wars, I wasn't watching *anything*, and since I only caught about every other show, I was paying $25 per hour of show.

        But I *do* sit down regularly to *watch* a movie. You know - not just on the the background (which is annoying as hell to me) or something to fill the gaps between a conversation. I pull out a movie from my collection, and watch it.

        My projector is HDTV ready... but there is nothing consumer level to play on it. I'm almost hesitant to get DVDs for this reason - I want The Wall, Apocolypse Now, End of Evangelion and wouldn't complain about Fellowship of the Rings - but I want them in HDTV. I have the first three in that list in DVD, and I know I'll be buying them again in format X when it comes out. I'd be willing to pay $120 per movie, a la my laserdiscs, just to have them in the HDTV format now... but it's just not available.


    • by foobar104 ( 206452 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @03:26AM (#2757802) Journal
      I first saw HDTV on a large runco projector... they brought in a studio-quality deck to play the source material since there were no on-air broadcasts at the time...

      It's important to note that full-bandwidth 1080i is over a billion and a quarter bits per second of data[1], while over-the-air terrestrial broadcast is encoded with MPEG-2 at just over 19 million bits per second. HDTV over satellite is even lower than that, sometimes as low as 6 million bits per second.

      The Sony HDCAM deck uses DCT compression at a ratio of around 10:1, and you have to be pretty sharp to see the difference between that format and uncompressed 1080i. But even uneducated eyes, like mine, can see the difference between uncompressed 1080i or HDCAM and over-the-air 19 Mbit, and 6 Mbit direct-broadcast satellite isn't even in the same ballpark.

      Of course, your point was that the monitor makes a difference. This is absolutely true. The difference between a consumer set (about $4000) from Sony and a broadcast monitor (about $40,000) from Sony can also be perceived by mere mortals.

      Funny story about that. I was told by a Sony rep at NAB two years ago that they manufacture all of their picture tubes on the same assembly line, then they test them. Depending on the quality of the finished tube, they'll put it in their broadcast monitors (if it can resolve 1000 lines), or their high-end consumer TVs (if it can resolve 600 lines) or their low-end consumer TVs (if it lights up when you run current through it). Is it true? Don't know. But it's amusing anyway.

      [1] Screw this "giga," "gibi," "goober," "bippi" crap.
  • Directv (Score:2, Informative)

    by enrayged ( 67136 )
    Right now Directv is supporting HDTV on a few channels (HBO comes to mind) and at one of my local electronics stores has an RCA HDTV with built in Directv receiver... also progressive scan DVD players may look decent on one... now if I only had the $2,999 to get one...
    • Re:Directv (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Osty ( 16825 )

      also progressive scan DVD players may look decent on one

      s/may/will/. Only HD-upgradeable TVs (at a minimum. HD-ready is the same but with an HD tuner) will make use of the progressive-scan features of a progressive-scan DVD player. Otherwise, you're just wasting your money on the player (unless, of course, you're worried about future-proofing your investment, in which case you may as well buy a progressive-scan player if you expect to buy a new HDTV within the next couple years). Regular TVs only do 480i.

      IMHO, an HD-upgradeable TV is very much worth it, and at $2000 for the 46" 16:9 Mitsubishi 46809 (I got the 807, but same difference), it's quite affordable. Sure, you don't get an HD tuner in the set, but for a couple hundred $$$ you can have one added. Or you can use your DirectTV tuner, or cable box (in select markets) instead, and not need an HD tuner at all. Plus as you already mentioned, it's great for progressive-scan DVD players (and non-progressive scan DVD players, even), and the latest generation of game consoles have HD support (XBox will do progressive scan natively if your TV supports it, though not all games are 16:9, and it's also capable of doing 720i, 720p, and 1080i once games begin supporting those resolutions; Gamecube requires you to enable progressive scan per game in games that support it; I don't know how the PS2 works). A good investment, and about $1000 less than you're expecting (a $2000 TV will cost you near $2700 once you've added in a base for the TV, tax, and a service contract, but then a $3000 TV will end up costing that much more as well).

  • My area has only got a couple of HDTV stations, and they aren't very good ones. (ie no guns and animal channels like TLC or Discovery.) However, DVD playback on HDTV sets is amazing. The discs carry enough data to take advantage of the high resolution, and it shows. If you've gone into a Blockbuster in the last 2 years, you'd see the greater presence of DVDs, especially with nifty stuff on them. That's a pretty good reason to adopt early, especially if you're the home theater type.
  • Problems with HDTV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:42AM (#2757447) Homepage Journal
    Although broadcasters will be broadcasting HDTV by 2006, there is a catch. HDTV can be broken up in to several different, lower quality channels. Its much cheaper for networks to do it this way, so what do you think will happen?

    The other big problem is that by 2006, the majority of us will still have plain old nonHD-TVs. What incentive will there be for the networks to provide a high-quality signal?

    I don't think its realistic to expect networks to broadcast high-quality TV for free when they can split the signal and make more money, especially when the consumer demand is not there. The only hope is to have pay channels like HBO - I think thats the only real HDTV you will see.

    • I work in the news dept. at a tv station in a smaller market. We were meeting with one of the big-wigs from corporate and someone asked about the transition to HDTV. If I remember right he said that there is a loophole that unless a certain percentage of the market has a HDTV, you don't have to broadcast in HDTV.

      When we are supposed to go HDTV, we will have to buy a new transmitter(I think) which will cost a chunk of change.

      Having said that, most of our equipment is already set up to go HDTV, and our sets were designed with that in mind.
    • Although broadcasters will be broadcasting HDTV by 2006, there is a catch. HDTV can be broken up in to several different, lower quality channels. Its much cheaper for networks to do it this way, so what do you think will happen?

      I believe that is exactly what has been happening. IIRC, this is how it went.

      FCC: Here, TV stations, take this huge chunk of spectrum.
      TV: Thanks. What do we owe you?
      FCC: Nothing right now, but you better PROMISE to be broadcasting in HDTV by 20XX.
      TV: (crossing fingers) Uh, sure. OK. Deal.

      (time passes)

      FCC: How's it going over there?
      TV: We just realized that we can either broadcast 1 channel in super high res, OR we can use the same chunk of spectrum to create 10 PPV channels and 2 free channels, each with the image quality of current annalog TV. We reckon this will make us more money, so that's what we're doing in the long run.
      FCC: That's against the spirit of our agreement.
      TV: I'm sorry, were you saying something?

      If anyone has a better summary I would be interested to hear it. Are we actually getting widespread HDTV (at high resolutions), well, ever?
      • by Detritus ( 11846 )
        The FCC wanted to take away some of the UHF TV spectrum for public safety, land mobile and other uses. The broadcasters didn't want to lose any spectrum so they said that they needed it for high-definition TV. They pointed out that the Japanese and Europeans were working on HDTV, and we didn't want to fall behind those sneaky furriners. It worked, they got to keep their spectrum on the basis of a vague promise to broadcast in HDTV, someday. Fast forward to today, those same broadcasters are now bitching about how expensive HDTV is and how they need extensions to the FCC deadlines for switching to HDTV. The transmission standard (ATSC) has severe problems coping with multipath (ghosts on NTSC). The cable companies are trying to ignore the issue of digital must-carry, they would rather have 500 channels of PPV, HSN and WWF in sub-NTSC quality digital cable. Hollywood views this as their golden opportunity to push encryption, copy protection and conditional access. The networks aren't eager to spend a lot of money on HDTV production when there are so few ATSC receivers (less than 200K) in American homes. Electronics retailers are pushing "digital ready" TV sets and DBS receivers, but ATSC receivers are hard to find, buggy and intolerant of multipath.
      • by Refrag ( 145266 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @10:32AM (#2758389) Homepage
        Well, I don't have a better summary of what you think went on behind closed doors. But, I do have an HDTV, so I can tell you what reality is.

        ABC and CBS broadcast a large portion of their shows in HDTV. Each affiliate in Charlotte has a station that broadcasts in 16:9 HDTV 24/7 (however during the daytime the programs mostly have black bars on the sides to create a 4:3 image). They both also have an additional sub-channel that is in 4:3 SDTV and continuously runs a weather map. For a brief period of time one of these stations was experimenting with running one 16:9 channel, a 4:3 sub-channel with the same content, and an additional 4:3 sub-channel with a weather map.

        NBC does a few shows in HDTV. They have a channel running in 16:9 HDTV 24/7 (most times with black bars -- not even Friends is in widescreen). They also have a sub-channel running a weather map.

        Fox does a few shows in 16:9 480P (X-Files is one). They have a sub-channel that runs 16:9 24/7 and a sub-channel that runs a weather map in 4:3 with voice synthesis reading the weather report in a loop. Fox almost always has bars on the sides of the 16:9 channel.

        PBS has five subchannels. I don't remember exactly what they all are; but one appears to be dedicated to kids, one to education, and one to 1080i HDTV.
  • It depends. (Score:5, Informative)

    by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason.nash@gmaiP ... minus physicist> on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:45AM (#2757463)
    I just bought a Pioneer 64" TV. It's 16:9 and HD capable. It replaced a Sony 53" 4:3 I've had about 4 years.

    First off widescreen rocks. It's great for movies, and go ahead and get a good progressive DVD player to make them look even better (on most sets).

    As for HD, it depends. I'm in Raleigh, NC and have Time Warner digital cable. They offer HD cable boxes here, if you can get to the right person. Luckily, I did. The local network stations all have HD digital feeds on the cable. So, first off I get better quality signal than the normal analog cable streams (When they advertise digital cable, they never mention that the broadcast channels are still analog...sigh). I also get the HD stream when shows are done in HD. This includes CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC, HBO, and PBS (Nature shows are excellent in HD). for which shows are in HD... NBC just does Leno. CBS does a LOT of their primetime stuff. FOX does some widescreen, but almost none or no actual HD. ABC does a few shows. HBO does many movies in HD, but unfortunately a lot of their original shows (Oz, Dennis Miller, etc) are not. Band of Brothers is though.

    I'm also very lucky to have WRAL, the local CBS affiliate. They are the leading station in the country for HD. They broadcast all of their local news in AMAZING high definition. Kudos to them for all their hard work in driving this.

    If your cable company doesn't do HD you can go over the air (OTA) using an antenna. That varies by area and distance. My friend did that for like 2 years until he recently got his cable box. It worked well, just wasn't as convenient. He got all the same network affiliates I do now, but no HBO or PBS. If you have DSS you can get a HD DSS receiver and they do HBO, HDNET (HD demos and movies), and I think one PPV.

    I'm very happy with my setup. Once you start watching HD shows you'll really become a snob. :)
    • I'm also very lucky to have WRAL, the local CBS affiliate. They are the leading station in the country for HD. They broadcast
      all of their local news in AMAZING high definition
      /*Begin sarcasm (särkzm)*/
      Yep thats why I want to get a HD reciever...So I can watch the local news in glorious high definition
      /*End sarcasm (särkzm)*/

      Yeah I know that wasn't the point of the comment..NetJunkie gave a balanced overview of the boils down to what the stations AND cable company in your area are doing..
      Personally I'm holding off until the local affiliates decide what they are going to do...If they opt to split the stream most of the time what signal if any is left that is HD and if they do split the streams how does that affect cable companies and must carry rules.

      Back when the cable companies were first pushing their product I seem to remember that one of the selling points of cable was a picture superior to over the air broadcasts...But now when you try to use that same logic to get national feeds from a satellite service like dtv or dish the responce is that the over the air signal is of high enough quality to prevent you from being able to legally obtain a network feed off of the satellite...
      • But the local news is actually kind of cool in HD. They do the remote cameras in HD too so it's not just the talking heads in the studios. This is WRAL, the leading station in the country for HD, so they do a great job of it. They seem to try and find good shots to really use the widescreen and increased resolution.

        Not to mention it's a great way to check out the hot news chicks.
      • Over the air PBS is split into about five sub-channels in Charlotte. I was watching some nature shows this weekend and they looked fantastic! I have a 38" RCA widescreen direct-view HDTV with the HDTV tuner and a DirecTV tuner built in. I love it. I mainly bought it for watching DVDs, though. I don't have cable, so the OTA HDTV stations were just a bonus.
  • by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica AT erica DOT biz> on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:45AM (#2757464) Homepage Journal
    My parents bought a big-screen (52") projection TV in 1986. Mom was the one who ended up buying it, because Dad insisted on waiting for HDTV.

    They still have that TV. It does everything they need (it has S-video inputs, for instance), and still looks like a lot of the models in stores today. Will they upgrade to an HDTV? Sure. But not for a couple of years.

    Take my mom's advice: Buy something you like now if there is something out there that is significantly better than what you have. You can always upgrade again later. ;)
  • A lot of the new HDTV's nowadays are utilizing new, exciting, but not consumer-proven technologies.

    Plasma screens, massive LCD's, etc. seem to be the HDTV kings right now, but all these hi-def gadgets have a major problem - price. While memory is getting cheaper and cheaper, these haven't had the kind of production surplus necessary to drive these prices down to reasonable levels. Even in Japan, the home of HDTV, these products cost more than a pretty penny. Then again, considering the recession...

    Point being, unless you have a really, really compelling reason to leap, don't. I know you're dying to hook up your freshly unwrapped GameCube and play it in full digital glory, but it really doesn't make sense right now. If you're definitely looking for a new TV or whatnot, consider a home theater projector. They run about as much as a lower-end HDTV would cost you, but you can use them as a monitor or a massive movie wall.

    Of course, the more people buy into Plasma and so forth now, the faster prices will drop... Hmmm... Go Now! Buy buy buy! Then maybe I'll be able to afford one in a few years when they're more practical. ^_^

  • by .@. ( 21735 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:49AM (#2757474) Homepage
    HDTV is worth it, but you can't balk at spending USD$5000-$10,000. If you're going to "go cheap", you're better off waiting.

    I currently enjoy quite a bit of HD content on my 56" 16:9 rear-projection set (Panasonic PT56WXF95A, which does 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i). I get my HD content OTA (over-the-air), using an imported British UHF indoor antenna. The SF Bay Area has about 10 HD OTA stations currently, and more on the way (see this page [] for info).

    At the minimum, you need a set (and I strongly recommend a 16:9 set that's at LEAST 40", and a direct-view set if you go that small. Anything bigger and you should get rear- or front-projection. My set was $3500 new), a tuner (I use a Panasonic TU-HDS20, for which I paid USD$1000), an antenna (I got mine for USD$40).

    To this, you may want to add satellite (DirecTV or Dish Network) for additional HD content (such as HD-HBO), or cable...there are a few test markets in which the cable companies are testing HD content over coax. Digital cable is NOT HD. it's not even 480p. It's just digitally-compressed analog.

    Further, you'll want a progressive-scan (480p) capable DVD player (I use a Toshiba SD6200 and Sony 7000, around USD$1700 all told. The Sony isn't progressive, though.)

    Finally, you can enjoy things like the XBox, which can output 16:9 480p for games.

    Of course, with all this visual quality, you're going to want a sound system to match. That means at least 5.1 Dolby Digital, and preferably THX. You're looking at a base of USD$2k for a system and speakers.

    Additionally, you're going to need to get your set calibrated if it's a rear- or front-projection unit. A good ISF calibration on all inputs can run USD$1000 and take two days. And you'll want the correct lighting and light control in your viewing area, which may cost you an additional $500-several thousand in screens/lamps/etc.

    Last, you may want a "toy" or two. My current toy is a standalone DVD recorder, the Panasonic DMR-E20 and a Data Video TBC1000 timebase corrector for videotape->DVD transfer. That was another $1200.

    Is it worth it? Every single penny. Is it something you should jump into if the money I just described makes you nervous? Not yet.
    • Where the hell do you get all that money to watch the boob tube? Are you a crack dealer or what? (envious)


      • I'm talented and command a rather high salary. Rather, I did until I joined the rolls of the Silicon Valley unemployed.

        Now, I'm considering the logistics of possibly moving a 56" RPTV cross-country without breaking it/scratching the screen/knocking the guns severely out of alignment. ;^)
    • I was really quite impressed by your post, until you said for videotape->DVD transfer.

      I almost wet myself laughing so hard. Why the fsck do you bother recording what I'm presuming to be VHS (or maybe SVHS, whoopee!) onto DVD? What an incredible waste of time, effort, and money...

      • I can see why -- convenience. DVD is easier to use -- random access. No tape to wear either. So if you have VHS content that is important to you, why not transfer it instead of relying on a spinning head tape-spooling nightmare contraption?
        • Exactly. I have hundreds upon hundreds of VHS tapes -- many of which will never see a commercial DVD release. They are either commercially-produced conference proceedings, reserach material, or OOP movies that will just never be released on DVD (e.g., Closetland, Laurie Anderson's Home of the Brave, Mindwalk, Solaris, Stalker, the entire series of Red Dwarf (and all of the episodes pre-BBC-retouch), every episode of Invader Zim, and so forth).

          Just as I moved my non-commercially-available-on-CD audio tapes to CD and tossed the tapes to save space, I also want to move my non-commercially-available-on-DVD video tapes to DVD, so I can toss the tapes and save space.

          It may not seem like a worthwhile effort to you, but in a small apartment with over 500 DVDs and an equal number of videotapes, the space savings is 2:1 DVD:tape. That's meaningful to me, for both storage and transport.

          Further, DVDs have a longer shelf life and replay life than VHS tapes. As my tapes age, I want to protect my investment by transferring them to longer-lived media, particularly if I cannot purchase the commercial DVD version.

          Timebase correctors are wonderful things.
    • Can you tell me more about your antenna? I have an HDTV set and don't have cable or satelite. Antennas that are available in the USA suck. I bought Terk's $100 HDTV outdoor/indoor antenna, mounted it outdoors and got worse reception than my indoor $20 RCA rabbit-ears and loop antenna.

      PS - Personally I think my $2300 (now) RCA 38" 16:9 direct-view HDTV with built in HDTV and DirecTV receiver was worth it, and the picture kicks the ass of any RPTV I've ever seen.
  • At this point there are a bunch of things you need to answer internally before deciding to DTV your world:
    1. Are you in a major DTV region? (Or are you stuck in Denver where there is none?)
    1a. If not, do you want to pay for 2 WHOLE Channels on DirecTV or 3 on DISH--both in a lowball ATSC standard (540P?)
    2. If you are in reach of a major city with fair DTV coverage, do you know anyone who can get the channels (I'm in Southern Orange County...and I get all but one LA station with a couple of Double Bow Tie RS Antennas and an amplifier on a Second Gen Tuner.)
    3. Do you give a rat's arse about primetime content or HDNet's Hockey Coverage (Thank-you for carrying a whole second channel part-time, DirecTV...Magnanimous of you.)
    4. Can you cope with knowing that in a year and a half the quality of whatever you buy will double and the price will halve--at a minimum.
    If you answered yes to most of those or enough to convince your wallet, go second and a half gen now... otherwise wait for the 4th Generation with better res, lower prices, more content, real multipath abbeyence... et al.
    PS. NBC has One Whole Primetime Show! Whooohoooo!
    This site might help you: ru mhdtvdigitaltelevisionnewsforum.html
  • Questions about HDTV (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Notre97 ( 245681 )
    I've also been looking into HDTVs. And here is a question I've wanted to ask somebody, and hopefully there is someone here that might be able to answer it.

    Which looks better, 720p or 1080i? I've noticed that a lot of HDTV don't do 720p and "upgrade" any 720p signals to 1080i. How does this affect the image quality?

    As far as I can find, he best HDTV (well technically it's a "monitor" b/c it has no built-in tuner; you need to use a cable box or VCR or something) I've seen is from Princeton []. Thier AF3.0HD [] looks to be the best one out there. And you can find it for less than half of the $4000 MSRP online right now. CNET has a good review of the Princeton Ai3.6HD []. (I think the main difference is the aspect ratio between this one and the AF3.0HD).
    If anyone owns one of these tell me what you think.
  • by FauxPasIII ( 75900 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:56AM (#2757499)
    I got myself setup with an HDTV system for under $600. I got a Princeton Graphics [] monitor and a cool chinese import DVD player from Project Design and Trading Company [] that has VGA output. So I have a high-resolution non-interlaced signal. The player, the DVD-368PS, also has normal progressive scan signals if you decide to upgrade your TV later to a 'conventional' HDTV.
  • My HDTV (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:59AM (#2757506) Homepage
    My cable company has been offering 4 HD channels (HBO East and West, SHO East and West) for free for some time, and when I decided to add a computer to my entertainment center, I took the plunge and bought a 35" Zenith HDTV/VGA monitor. It was a discontinued, slightly battered store demo, for "only" a thousand dollars. I grabbed it.

    Well, I must report that HDTV is certainly all it is cracked up to be. Although the 4:3 ratio monitor squishes some display modes a bit when it letterboxes them (I suppose to get better vertical resolution), the difference in picture clarity is phenomenal. I'd have to say it equates with the difference between VHS and DVD.

    The only that really irks me about the Zenith monitor is its inability to handle VGA at 800x600, despite its being able to display much higher HD resolutions. I think Zenith might've improved that in their newer models, though.
  • by jesup ( 8690 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:00AM (#2757509) Homepage
    I got an HDTV almost 2 years ago, when the amount available was pretty low other than Jay Leno and some football and a few other specials. Even so, it was stunning. Nowadays, it's not even that expensive, and some cable companies are starting to carry it.

    Now, there's a wealth of HDTV material available:

    - Most of HBO, including Sopranos and Band of Brothers (wow).

    - Some of Showtime (increasing)

    - HDNet on DirectTV (Marc Cuban of and Dallas Mavericks fame - sports/etc HD channel that will carry much of the winter Olympics in HD).

    - PBS (several Nova/Nature/etc shows a month, plus many stations show repeats of HD material)

    - Almost all of CBS including CSI, District, Alias, etc, also US Open tennis, football playoffs, etc

    - Much of ABC including movies of the week, The Practice, etc

    - NBC is starting to get on the bandwagon after being first with Leno; they now have Crossing Jordan and more are coming. - Fox isn't interested in HD, but they do some in 480p widescreen like Ally, X-Files, etc.

    CBS lets viewers not in range of a station or in the area of ones they own (most big cities) view the HD feeds from either NYC or LA via Dish Network.

    Dish Network has 24-hr PPV in HD; DirectTV has partial-day. Dish has a 24-hr HD promo channel.

    Comcast and Time-Warner are starting to roll out carrying HD HBO/Showtime and local HD channels (most of Philly has it now).

    HD is here to stay and has come WAY down in price. It looks even better than in the showrooms - they turn the brightness up too high; they often try to sell it using DVD's (which look great but not near as good as real HD material); they don't bother to converge the sets, etc.

    Prices are way down - I've seen $13xx in Best Buy for a small 4x3; and $1800 for an open-box 38" RCA CRT HDTV, 16x9, with HD DirectTV built-in.

    Don't forget to get an HD receiver; $400-600 currently, but if you're a new DIsh Network subscriber it can be cheaper.

    In short: Buy one. Subscribe to ($35 lifetime; daily email newsletter with the day's HDTV lineup, upcoming news, reviews, etc). You will enjoy it for a long time to come, and you'll have lots of excuses to have people over for parties (starting this winter with playoffs and the Olympics).

  • Formats (Score:2, Informative)

    by lostchicken ( 226656 )
    HDTV 'ready' TVs are almost always 'ready' to push 3 native resolutions: Standard NTSC (480i analog), 480p (4:3 MPEG2 at 480 lines progressive) and 1080i (16:9 MPEG2 at 1080 lines interlaced).

    When you see that your local TV stations are broadcasting in digital TV, they are more than likely broadcasting in 480p, or 480p converted to 1080i.

    This gives NO image quality improvement over a perfect NTSC image, like what you would get from a dish, becasue those signals started out as NTSC on BetaCam, or film.

    But that doesn't really matter, because the FCC is gonna make all those stations broadcast in HD anyways, right? Wrong. Most large-market stations are already broadcasting in the FCC mandated 480p. No 16:9, no HD, very little improvement.

    Then there's the black sheep of the DTV world, alone crying for public approval. 720p is quite possibly the best image quality on HD. Even ABC uses it for their rare HD broadcasts.

    The bad news, only one TV will show it to you without a res change. Have you ever seen a notebook trying to display a screen res other than the native? 720p on almost all HDTVs looks like that.

    If this confuses you and me, Joe Slashdot, think about what it does to the poor Joe Technophobe, or TV exec. We should all wait until the industry figures out what to do, and I can see ALL images the way they were supposed to be seen.
  • I recently replaced our older 27" Toshiba with a 36" Sony WEGA XBR, HD capable set. The difference in resolution is obvious and amazing. If you get an HDTV then make sure it has a high quality line-doubler that utilizes the 3/2 pull-down method. That feature will make it look like you have a progressive scan DVD player, since it will in essence be showing your DVD's at their recorded 480p(rogressive) resolution rather than the 480i(nterlaced). What you should do is take a couple of favorite DVD's to the store and watch your favorite scenes (that you've seen over and over again) and see of you can see a difference. It also helps to calibrate the display settings on a TV since most of the time their cranked way up in the stores to make them look "better". A DVD that has worked for me, for this purpose, is the AVIA Guide to Home Theater.
    I think the enhanced DVD picture is worth the HD price tag, but shop around to get the best deal. I was able to save $500 because I waited for a sale. Also, make sure you get in house delivery because they're heavy. Mine weighed in at 250lbs and there was no way I was going to be able to lift that from "curb-side". Some of the resellers on the Web only offer curb-side...

    Hope this helps.

    • Dead on. A few months ago I bought a 38" 16x9 tube TV from RCA, built-in HDTV (not just "ready"). I plugged in an antenna for a couple days to see what HDTV is all about. It is just the same old crap in high-res. Yeah, looks good, but I hate regular TV and this is no better.

      DVDs, especially since my recent progressive scan purchase, are simply awesome. No (or very minor on super-wide ratios) letterboxing, beautiful picture......unbelievable.

      Then there is DVD-Audio..... I can't say enough about how cool that is.
  • I'm scared! (Score:4, Funny)

    by wfmcwalter ( 124904 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:04AM (#2757523) Homepage
    I'm scared to look at an HTDV.

    Everyone I know who has done so has, to a man, come back to me and said "It's amazing - you don't know what you're missing!"

    Yep, that's right, I don't know what I'm missing. I know my NeverTwicetheSameColor TV sucks, but I'm not sure just how bad. If I find
    out, it's liable to be an expensive revelation.

    Ignorance is bliss
    • So am I!

      I work in the broadcast industry! I'm at a small market tv station somewhere in Florida. We have yet to purchase ANY HDTV or digital gear. We are waiting for the FCC to get off their lazy butts and grant us a digital channel. The cost of a digital transmitter is in the millions, and their decision determines just how many millions we will have to spend! On top of that, the Chairman of the FCC has stated that Television is a waste of bandwidth! Well I feel so much better for picking this career path now!

      Yes, buy a Digital High Definition Television so I can keep my job!
  • get a projector (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ulupoka ( 264211 )
    don't buy a tv. buy a digital projector. you won't have to worry about burn in abd u can get a very large screen like 100". go to and to find a good one in your price range.
  • I was also trying to decide 50 inch HDTV or 60 inch projection. I went for the 60 inch Projection.

    1. Letter box was actually Bigger on the 60 inch.
    2. DVD looked the same on both. (I didnt have progressive scan, so cant tell ya..)
    3. TV I watch was all NTSC, waste for the HDTV.
    4. Money, 2500 for the 60 inch, or 6500 for complete 50 inch HDTV setup.
    5. Normal TV is larger on the 60 inch. It was either squished, stretched, or had wasted space on the HDTV.
    6. I watch a 27inch in the bedroom while im on the computer or jay leno when im going to sleep. The 60 inch was for movies and some TV, but wasnt my main tv.

    1 Drawback with the projection, the kids watched too much disney channel, and the logo started to burn. Lucky I caught it in time, its very very light and I dont see it unless the screen is the same color. But make sure you dont have logos on for days.

    I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me. - Hunter S. Thompson
  • If you have, or planning on having a good DVD collection, it's worth every penny!

    I got an HDTV about a year ago and yes the prices have dropped, but then again I've been watching high quality movies for about a year now.

    If your looking at watching regular tv shows with the HDTV, you won't get any better picture. One day HDTV will be nice on regular television, but the DVD really shows what HDTV can do.

    Also I'm not sure if the rest of the HDTV manufacturers do this, but the Mitsubishi brand has a lifetime commitment to send a tech to your home and upgrade the software or hardware in your HDTV to be compliant with the new HDTV standard once it comes out.
  • Yes and No (Score:5, Informative)

    by rocur ( 183707 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:15AM (#2757559)
    First, check out HDTV Galaxy [] for lots of good information.

    I bought myself the Toshiba 34" wide-screen direct-view (tube) monitor and the matching HDTV/DirectTV receiver for Christmas. Total cost around $3000 from Best Buy (you can save at least $500 if you buy off the web, but do you really want to mail back 200 lbs of glass if it doesn't work?)

    If you only watch TV and your existing set works fine and you either get satellite or good cable, it's probably not worth the money now. If you just have bad cable, get DirectTV or Dish. If your TV set needs to be replaced but you are happy with your existing TV, get one of the new true flat screen sets (flat as in flat picture tube, not plasma); for $500 you can get a really good picture. On the other hand, if you watch a lot of DVDs, an HDTV set coupled with a progressive-scan DVD player must be seen to be believed. From a normal viewing distance it's hard to tell it's not film. Absolutely gorgeous.

    As for actual HDTV content, DirectTV currently carries both HBO and HDNet in 1080i, Dish (I believe) carries HBO and Showtime. HDNet is a startup HD-only channel that carries a mix of movies and "non-mainstream" sports (this week it seems to be mountain biking) and will be carrying several hours/day of tape-delayed Olympic events. The image quality varies from great to amazing, all 3 providers claim to not broadcast any up-converted materials.

    As for over the air broadcasts, most major markets seem to have digital broadcasts from PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. However, this doesn't mean that they are broadcasting HDTV, most of the shows are simply up-converted from NTSC. Many of CBS's night-time lineup are in 1080i, some of ABC's is in 720p (NYPD Blue and Alias). NBC claims Jay Leno is in 1080i, but that doesn't seem to be true in Boston. Fox is all 480p

    Bottom line, if you watch a lot of movies on DVD (or just want a cutting edge toy), you can't beat an HDTV monitor. If you just watch TV, there isn't enough on yet to make it worthwhile.

  • If you are buying a new TV because you don't like your old one, get an HDTV Ready TV and a Progressive Scan DVD Player. That way you can watch widescreen DVDs in 480p mode instead of NTSC, getting a slightly better resolution.

    Most areas still do not have HDTV broadcast, or if they do it is limited and you need a really weird antennae. DirecTV and Dish Network have HDTV broadcasts, but they are pay per view, and the endless loop you watch in the stores.

    I will be buying a new TV this year (bigger and better baby) and will be getting an HDTV ready TV, nothing more. Heck Kansas City isn't supposed to come close to HDTV until 2003 or 2004 anyway.
  • Don't buy it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crucini ( 98210 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:50AM (#2757624)
    HDTV is intended to prevent home copying and fair use. I looked for a simple, factual link and couldn't find one - the best I saw is this FCC ruling [] about the right of the content cartel to mandate controls in the TV set itself, as opposed to the auxiliary "POD" which the FCC had originally designated as the site for access control. Circuit City tried to get the FCC to uphold its original idea, and the FCC gave in to Time Warner. I don't understand how this particular decision impacts users; as far as I can see we are harmed by the access control regardless of which piece of equipment houses it.

    In the above mentioned ruling, a footnote claims that the DMCA nullifies the Betamax case.

    I will also point out the obvious: TV is bad for you, but when you watch it regularly you don't realize how bad it is. Unless you have severe mobility problems due to obesity or a medical condition, you really don't need a bigger, sharper TV. But recognizing that this anti-TV sentiment will not appeal to all, I note that TV lovers are frequently into archiving or sharing shows. HDTV is all about removing your ability to do this. So whether you love or hate TV, HDTV sucks.

    In any event, it will eventually be crammed down your throat, like it or not. No need to jump the gun.
  • by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason.nash@gmaiP ... minus physicist> on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:58AM (#2757647)
    For those saying you'll need to spend another $500-$1K on an HD receiver, that isn't always true. My cable company has HD cable boxes and broadcast HD signals. I just have a component cable out of the cable box in to the TV. No receiver needed. This also goes for DSS HD receivers, though those do cost more than a normal receiver. You only need a receiver if you have an antenna and get HD OTA (over the air).

    Check with your cable company, you may be surprised.
    • Most (there are one or two high-priced exceptions) OTA receivers are also Dish or DirecTV receivers as well.

      For example, I use the $1000 Panasonic TU-HDS20 as an OTA receiver. However, the HDS20 is also a DirecTV receiver. I cannot use it because my apartment is north-facing and my views of the 110 and 119 satellites are obstructed. Even the low-end ($300-400) HD satellite receivers will also do OTA with the addition of an antenna.

      Yes, certain companies are testing HD via cable in certain areas (parts of NYC in particular). However, this is an EXTREMELY limited test at the moment. Most HD set owners will not be able to get HD via their cable provider, and may get confusing answers if they ask about it (many MSO CSRs think HD==digital cable, and will actually argue with you about it if you attempt to correct them).

      On the other hand, a vast majority of HD set owners have access to either HD content via satellite, OTA, or both; and almost every HD converter box sold today does both (these days you have to actually hunt for a set-top box that is ONLY a HD satellite or HD OTA receiver. It's been a few years since these functions were performed by separate boxes.)
  • How's the weather? (Score:3, Informative)

    by TexTex ( 323298 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:07AM (#2757662)
    A couple things you'll want to be aware of.

    Depending on where you live...meaning what city AND what kind of building (house, apartment complex, downtown area, etc.) off-air broadcasts of HDTV vary greatly. They can be able to tune a picture fine in one area and fail 50 feet away. It's a whole bunch of bandwidth bouncing off everything solid around the antenna, so depending where you buy it from, you may be able to have someone check signal strength first.

    DirecTV-HD is real nice but it does require two dishes (one for the regular satellite, one for the HD feed). It's possible in some areas you won't be able to locate both and then that option is out. Not as likely as bad off-air signals, but still something to consider.

    And weather plays a huge factor. Low clouds, rain, and pretty much any other funky atmospheres can not only affect the signal you're receiving, but the one the headend is broadcasting as well. So local channel feeds of HD can look pretty bad because its raining several states away where the DirecTV is receiving them from.

    Right now, HDTV is a novelty item. The FCC battle seems to have a lot more punch in it and broadcasters have a lot more profitable ways to fill their signal space than a pretty picture (you can't charge 4x the commercial price just cause is high-def). We'll get there but for now, we're just getting there.
    • Actually, you can get DirecTV-HD with a single dish that has a dual LNB (i.e., two concentrators). They're rather common. I see them in many mainstream A/V stores.

      However, you are right. Weather can affect the UFS reception of OTA signals, and LOS (line-of-sight) is somewhat important. As is an understanding of multipathing (the signal reflection you get when the signal bounces off objects, resulting in multiple signals and difficulty in locking onto a signal, or having to reorient the antenna, or audio or video drop-outs, etc.).

      That said, I'd STILL rather have OTA content in at least 480p than cable any day.
  • by tcc ( 140386 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:20AM (#2757687) Homepage Journal
    another option if you're not watching a LOT of tv and you have the money is buying a cheap DLP projector.

    That way, you can get any size you want, at the 3000$ price point they have HDTV support, it's cool but the downside is the replacement lights are really expensive (200-300$) and lasts for 1000 or 2000 hours depending on manufacturers (that's why I specified if you Don't watch a lot of tv :) ). Why so much for the lights? I've noticed that the replacement is not only a light but somekind of module with some optics, maybe when my Nec will wear off I'll be tempted to open it up and see if I couldn't hack a new lightbulb in the system, but anyways you get the idea.

    Personnaly I think buying a tv for 3K$ (or kibidollars :) ) is kinda crazy, every year or 2 they come out with new display technologies/electronics that renders your 3K+ tv down to 1K, if you *really* enjoy it well I guess it's worth it, but when I look at the quality you can get in the sub 1000$ area, I'm not tempted to shell out 4000$ for that nice sony hdtv screen.

    In the end it's like buying a computer, you don't need a quad alpha if you want to send email, but if you do a lot of renders, you'll probably enjoy it, same goes for a tv I guess, if you watch a lot of movies and get a home theatre, you'll probably appreciate it.

    The last thing that comes to mind is the brain's adaptation of the content, I mean, it's like going to an IMAX theatre, you're like "wow" the first minutes, and after that you don't even notice you're sitting in front of a super large screen unless you "detatch" from the movie and take a look again. Then again, I'm sure it's nice to actually see the players when you watch an hockey game... get one and tell us after a month of usage :)
  • Even if I could afford one I'd wait. With a progressive scan DVD player and a wide screen HDTV (Yes, Virginia, there are non-wide screen HDTVs. Though what's the point?) you can get some awesome pictures. Oh, and don't forget the Dolby 5.1 system. But if you love TiVo even at the highest quality it looks like crap on HDTV, though it looks fine on a regular television. I have heard that DirectTV TiVo has better video quality than a standard TiVo unit but I've not seen one on a regular TV nor an HDTV.
  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:21AM (#2757691)
    Why are is there so little widescreen without high definition in N. America? I remember going to Britain 3 or 4 years ago and seeing digital wide screen (non-HD) being broadcast everywhere. Now, widescreen TVs are very commonplace. Really, I don't give a rats arse about HDTV, I just want widescreen. Going to 16:9 improves the TV experience much more than just going HD.

    HDTVs are well over-priced when compared with wide low-res TVs. What a swindle! No DVD's do better than 480p, and if I can't get much to watch out of 70 cable channels, I'm not giving them more money for the priviledge of receiving some of the same stuff as HD.

    But, if you've got lots of money that you just need to waste^H^H^H^H^Hspend, that's your business ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Standard Definition (720x576) Widescreen's are everywhere in the UK, if you walk into a store and look at the TV's over 24" then 90% of them will be Widescreen.

      If you take a look at the Sony UK site for example, there is a grand total of two 4:3 TV's [], whilst their Digital Widescreen [] page lists about 10 models, there's also about 8 Analogue Widescreen [] sets for all those people who already have an external DVB set-top-box.

      Our DTV proliferation [] in the UK is around 45%, which is the highest in the world, DVD proliferation is around 10% at the moment, but the rate of growth is off the scale []. However HDTV is nowhere to be found, and probably wont be for sometime, over the last 10 years they did try and introduce various systems like the anologue hi-def MAC satellites, PAL+ and Eureka 95.
  • by Doctor K ( 79640 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:25AM (#2757702) Homepage

    I saw lots of comments here adovocating HDTV if you have the money. I would like to offer a dissenting view.

    Some background ... several years ago, I plunged most of my summer job income and left over money from scholarships into my stereo system. It is all high end equipment that you won't find at BestBuy. For example, my CD player has a 2Hz-20kHz frequency response +/- 0.3 dB. (Yes, 0.3 dB --- not 3 dB ... and, yes, you can hear the difference a CD player makes if you do a side-by-side comparison with a mainstream CD player. The difference is really obvious on jazz tracks with walking bass lines.)

    As I assembled my system, I never upgraded the original 21" monitor (not a really a TV as it doesn't have speakers or a tuner). Why? Because, over 21", you can see the crappy resolution of an NTSC signal even at a distance. So, for me, large TVs are expensive and only serve to remind me how crappy a signal is being transmitted.

    (A side note: most people with large TVs wire up their systems in brain dead ways --- cable to vcr to tv, all with coax, such that the TV signal is decoded three times and re-encoded twice. This makes TV viewing that much more painful.)

    Now that I am gainfully employed and have a wife who doesn't appreciate the dorm wiring look, I was in the market for an entertainment center. However, I had a dilemma ...

    Most entertainment centers are designed around a 4:3 aspect ratio big screen TV. However, the FCC has been threatening to go to 16:9 HDTV ... so, do I spend over $1K for a piece of furniture that would be obsolete if HDTV becomes commonplace? And if I buy the entertainment center, do I upgrade my 21" screen?

    Here is the compromise I came up with for my wife and the reasons for it. We bought a smallish entertainment center which did not require upgrading my screen (after some fun with a drill and jigsaw). Why?

    HDTV is not just around the corner.

    - Consumer motivation is not there. See above ... most people wire their systems to get an even worse quality signal than NTSC ... do they care they can't see Jay Leno's pores on the Tonight Show? Do they want to upgrade perfectly good equipment or buy converter boxes? No.

    - Cable operators are not required by the FCC to send HDTV signals --- only free space broadcasts. Don't forget, cable has roughly a 70% market penetration. (However, I'm sure the cable company would be happy to rent you converter boxes at a monthly rate if required.)

    - Many cable operators are encouraging Digital Cable. (This absolutely sucks ... _every_ Digital Cable system I've seen has worse picture quality on average than regular cable for a variety of technical reasons including: original signal is NTSC, original signal is broadcast in a different digital format, cable companies compress the hell out of the original signal assuming customers won't know the difference ... my in-laws are now quite pissed about their Digital Cable after I showed them the quite obvious artifacts on their large screen TV screens over the holidays. Perversely, most people assume that since digital artifacts are different that NTSC artifacts that it is some kind of sign of quality.)

    - Their is still bickering about standards (modulation formats ... the plethora of resolutions ... digital "protection" schemes ...) Don't buy a technology if it might be dropped like a hot potato in the next few years. HDTV has such a low market penetration that it is not entrenched.

    - The stuff is expensive for what you get.

    I personally am waiting until the standards settle, the prices drop, the equipment becomes more widely adopted and there is an obvious quality improvement.

    I'm not going to pay several thousand dollars to see MPEG artifacts from an over compressed signal blown up life size in my living room. (Watch any shot of the rippling surface of the ocean on Digital Cable to see what I mean.)

  • by Splork ( 13498 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:29AM (#2757709) Homepage
    dude, you need to get out of the house more.

    invest that $10,000 you're about to spend on a brain cell wastage device in a good cause like a donation to the EFF [] so that you can actually record some of those digital HDTV broadcasts in the future...
  • by gavcam ( 120595 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @02:42AM (#2757731)
    Australia has had HDTV for nearly a year now, and the uptake has been, shall we say, woeful! This little beauty comes from 44&NAME=None

    Digital TV passes exciting tenth subscriber milestone

    CANBERRA, Wednesday: Television executives celebrated with Federal Communications Minister Richard Alston after Australia's new digital TV networks chalked up their tenth subscriber earlier this week. "They said we'd never make it to double figures, but we've shown them," Alston said. "And what's even better is that we've shown them in high-quality widescreen!"

    Alston believes that the future is bright. "We taxpayers gave all of that free broadcasting spectrum to the Packers, and it's inconceivable that public-spirited people like them would give us nothing in return," he said.

    The new subscriber, Bertrand Williams, joins an exclusive club of digital TV owners including Alston himself, John Howard and the Packer family. Mr Williams is also unique because he is the first subscriber who has actually paid for their set. Williams says he was convinced to buy one of the extremely expensive digital televisions after a salesperson at the SonyCentral store in Chatswood told him that conventional televisions would soon become obsolete.

    "I should have asked her for more details before I paid for it," Williams said. "Her subsequent estimate of 2030 might be wrong, though - some experts have said digital TV may become dominant as early as 2025."

    But Williams' family says it was a good decision nonetheless. "Digital TV is really cool, it has heaps of great features" his teenage son Billy said. "Because it's widescreen, I can get much more out of the cricket. You can see much more grass on either side of the batsman. Plus you can change camera angles, although when I try that, I generally find myself watching Stumpcam while someone takes a brilliant catch in the deep."

    Williams' daughter Louise has also really enjoyed the widescreen technology, which she says makes it far easier to fit all five Backstreet Boys onscreen at the same time Alston claims that digital TV is already incredibly popular, at least at his place. "Once you've tried digital, it's hard to go back," Alston insists. Williams agrees, saying that he has tried, but the shop insisted that his TV was completely non-refundable.

  • HD for DVD or TV? (Score:5, Informative)

    by maraist ( 68387 ) <michael.maraistN ... .com ['pam' in g> on Friday December 28, 2001 @03:11AM (#2757772) Homepage
    I'm personally unimpressed with HD"TV", but have been a DVD finatic for as long as the media has been out. I'm a busy tech head, and the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is watch commercials (anxiety building, just like stop lights). Every now and again I get HBO for their original programming, but most of the time, I'm perfectly happy just buying/renting every DVD in sight.

    Given that I'm from the computer world, the interlaced v.s. non-interlaced debate is very religious with me. I refuse to watch anything interlaced, no matter what the resolution. Sadly 480p is all that is left for me.

    Rather coincidently, this is the DVD resolution. Add one to the DVD-only usage of HDTV.

    There's an interesting point to be made about wide-screen. Half my family is hard of hearing, so I've become very accustomed to utilizing closed-captioning. Now I know that a majority of people out there are distracted by the feature, but even the strongest opponents have "missed subtle dialog that has so sheepishly requested that I backup and enable CC". Having a wide-screen TV means that there is no lower black-bar to hide the captioning off to. I know that there are different dimensions that can cause black bars even on 16:9, but in general CC is going to take up a greater percentage of the visible area. Since I've learned to ignore the black bars, I've found that you can get a larger TV in 4:3 than 16:9 for you dollars. Not to mention you won't have those annoying black-side bars while watching Frasier.

    Either way, the BIG difference that is going to make your life happy is a line-doubled TV set... err.. progressive-scan (non-interlaced). I say line doubled because that's what most of them are going to wind up doing.. If you get a 960 line (or 1080 line) set, then it's going to have to perform image duplication, no matter what. Some sets have the ability to perform interpolation, but as I hear, that has horrid quality. No matter how bad the line-doubler is, the loss of shimmer is a God-send.

    A little more on DVD pro-scan. I've done a lot of research into the pro-scanning of DVDs and it's not a pretty picture (pun). Apparently 60fps is the minimum that you'll want to see to avoid visial distinguishing of the strobe-effect.. NTSC uses 60fps at half the resolution (240 for traditional DVD-capable 4:3 sets). A pro-scan DVD outputs 30fps at a full 480p, and the pro-scan TV prints the full picture twice (to minimize the strobing). Thus, all you really need is a TV that's capable of accepting the pro-scan input and ideally rendering 480 distinct lines. Being 4:3 or 16:9 is merely a matter of preference.. You're not going to get that much extra detail (though there is horizontal compression for "anamorphic wide-screen 1.666" downsampled to 4:3 (1.33)). Lastly, if you're very unlucky, then the 16:9 -> 4:3 conversion is going to consume some of your 480 lines for use with the black-bars, thereby also having vertical compression. If your 4:3 pro-scan TV can accept a wide-screen input and has excess vertical resolution, then it can generate its own black-bars, thereby fully reproducing the vertical component. Note that many TV's have excess vertical resolution (i.e. for Picture in Picture). Unfortunately, no matter what you do here, there are many DVD's that aren't properly designed with pro-scan in mind, and inappropriately set the pro-scan flags. The player has to compensate (or won't properly render the picture), and the more money you spend, the better the results (usually).

    Still, unless you're in that upper income bracket, I'd say that anything below $2,000 that's pro scan, coupled with a half decent DVD player (such as the Toshiba 4700 for $225). Tweeter carries $1,100 pro-scan TVs in 4:3.

    Lastly, for those that have a size complex, there is no differnce between having a TV that's twice as large verses sitting twice as close to the TV.. It's all about field of view.. In fact, a larger set is probably going to have poorer quality (due to convergence issues on said large projection sets). I personally would rather a picture tube and a properly engineered living room over said projection sets.

  • Almost anyone will appreciate the improved definition of the HDTV broadcasts. The image is just amazing. Many major markets (and some not so major) have at least one network station sending out the HD signal.

    FWIW, I was playing with a friend's RCA set last weekend, and was pretty surprised by a couple things I didn't know about:

    1) There are sub-channels available. Briefly, we received the high-definition network broadcast itself, then we also got a "standard"-definition transmission of the Red Wings game, and, a standard "weather radar" transmission. These channels were labelled 7-1, 7-2 and 7-3 respectively. Kinda neat, if you ask me. Think FM subcarriers...

    2) Dolby Digital showed up, which I assume means a discreet 5.1 channels of sound. Beats dbx/MTS any day!

    2) While the "standard" TV broadcasts at this rural location suffered badly from ghosting and generally poor signal reception, the HDTV did not, and was basically crystal clear. Supposedly, if you can get the signal at all, this will always be the case.

    Now, here are a few warnings before you plop down all that money:

    1) If you're wanting to use that HDTV with a DVD player to enjoy the most faithful picture, you should do some homework. Depending on who you ask, you may want a "progressive-scan" player. Honestly, the whole thing is confusing as hell, to me at least: Anamorphic video, 480p, 1080i, line doublers, component video... ugh. There is an excellent FAQ at which I highly suggest you read, or perhaps news:// if you're a Usenet type.

    2) On top of that, some of these HDTV sets actually require you to buy an extra box to receive the hi-def TV broadcasts. Yes, they're *capable* of showing HDTV signals, but they're essentially missing the tuner, kind of like a monitor with no computer.

    3) Don't expect DirecTV to beam you those HDTV signals for free, even though the present equipment allegedly supports it. And if you use an emulator/hack, who really knows what works and what doesn't. ;)

    4) Play with the candidate HDTV set at the store, extensively! Note what options there are for the screen size when it's NOT hi-def. In other words, that big-ass 16:9 tube is probably going to have black or gray bars on either side, which can be annoying. Some models allow you to "stretch" and "fill" which alleviates this effect (somewhat). Furthermore, because of the innate complexity, the menus can be either easy to navigate or a button-pushing free-for-all.

    -- LunarFox (nee' LunarQT)
  • DirecTV, in all of its digital glory, only offers 2 HDTV channels. There's HBO HDTV, which requires HBO on your account, and HDNet, which comes with the base package (though much of it is pay-per-view). You also have to have a HDTV-capable receiver and an oval (multi-sat) dish.

    In other words, don't get DirecTV.
  • by NuttyBee ( 90438 )
    I had the opportunity to work with a company working on digital terrestrial broadcasting solutions..

    Here's what I learned:

    1. Signal strength matters -- If you don't have a 15.5 db Signal to Noise Ratio, you get nothing. A blank screen.

    2. A decent antenna helps immensely and sometimes an amplifier, but too much signal strength will also overdrive the receiver and you'll get .. nothing. (Helps to have a spectrum analyzer..)

    3. All reception chipsets are NOT the same. The RCA DirectTV HDTV receiver sucks compared to what is available in newer chip sets. Try different receivers and you may notice substantially different performance.

    4. If you don't live somewhere where there are DTV transmitters, none of the above matters. And currently in New York (Maybe one still up?) and outside of large markets, there are no digital television transmitters!
  • You can get some pretty nifty 21"+ monitors, or even the Apple Studio Display. It's easy to make DVDs and broadcast signals appear on those. That's plenty large for personal viewing. With the money left over you can still buy a high quality large screen display for social viewing in large groups.
  • Just my little opinion, but I think that an HD-DVD is needed (and skip the zones please) to make HDTV more worth it. Then we could speak about home cinema, as DVDs can't compare to the upcomming digital cinemas, and not to 35mm film (70mm and 135mm... well, you know).

    I would get an HDTV, but I am like many on /., a technology nut ;)
  • From The Onion's Dispatches from the 10th Circle []:

    "By the year 2005," said Bob Rowell, president of the American Association of Broadcasters, "90 percent of American homes will enjoy their favourite heap of dung on a high-definition TV."
    "Soon, your children will be able to watch shrill, grating Hanna-Barbera re-runs on the Cartoon Network with a degree of crispness unheard of when you first watched that crap in the '70s," Roswell said. "And those whose lives are so empty that each Thursday night they actually watch all of NBC's so-called 'Must-See TV' lineup will be amazed at the clarity and resolution with which all those stupid people's apartments come through."
    In addition, big-budget movies such as Independence Day and Eraser will soon be available in HDTV digital-cassette format, which manufacturers promise will offer an experience comparable to shaking your head and thinking "This sucks," in an actual movie theater.
  • I recently got a Samsung Tantus 27" HDTV monitor. The thing freaks me out. This is an affordable HDTV, and comes in a larger size. I was looking at buying an OK normal TV, but when I saw this thing there was no way I was going to throw away money at the old stuff.

    The best part is that it's not made by Sony :) Unlike most non-Sony TVs, it doesn't suck.

    DVD Video on it is just incredible. It also lets you see exactly how CRAPPY some DVDs are. The Unbreakable DVD has the worst encoding I've ever seen- at times it's like watching an 8-bit dithered QuickTime movie. I can see every single fault of every DVD, but OTOH, and I see some amazing detail come out that I've never realized that was there (and I am a pure video junkie- it just doesn't get through on those olde archaic teles). As more people get HDTVs I guess the encoding quality bar will raise.

    But by far and wide, the best reason is to hook up a Gamecube :) I haven't gotten the component video cables yet, but I picked up a cheap S-Video cable from Toys R Us (about $10 CDN, say $2 USD) and the graphical quality is just mind blowing. The difference between using composite video and S-Video is truly striking on this TV, not as much on regular TVs. I used to think that the N64 had great graphics, and on a classic TV, it does. But on this it's very obvious that it's 320x240- I can see every pixel clearly (as said above, there are no visible scan lines).

    It's a mixed bag of joy, but for the price of this thing it's a total waste of money to buy a normal TV. This is leaps and bounds better and worth every penny I paid. If you don't have the cash, wait. You'll be happier :)

  • Just too much damn money. Recently went shopping for a new TV. I ended up getting a 32" Sony WEGA. For $700, it's awesome, looks great with DVD's, etc. The HDTV one the same size was thousands and the demos weren't that convincing.

    The only thing that would tempt me with HDTV is I'm a huge hockey fan. Hockey is a tough game to show on TV (bunch of reasons: puck is small and tough to follow. Contrast of stuff on white ice is a bitch and you can't see the line changes 'cause the camera follows the puck) Anyway, I'm told that there is a trial where games are broadcast in HDTV. With the widescreen, you get full frame of the ice and can still see the puck..... if that comes into full I would probably get one.
  • HDTV is still very limited and the content's not there. Its good to watch some sports games (like the Knicks on MSG TV,) and the rest sucks as hard as it usually does. Broadcast TV, Feh!

    It is good for watching DVD movies if you happen to be anti-social, can't stand crowds and want good pop-corn.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @10:29AM (#2758381) Homepage
    I already have a 16:9 TV. Not HDTV, just a normal one. DVD playback on that gets to use pretty much the full 720x480 resoution of a DVD. Where's the 1920x1080p DTS-ES übermovies to play on a HDTV set? They aren't there.

    Use mpg4, and the 6:1 pixel increase should without problems be offset by a 1:6 compression over mpg2, to make it fit on a conventional DVD-9 (single side, double layer) like most movies are today. If I was to shell out that much money, at the very least I'd want the convinience to watch the movies when I want to. Oh and I can live with a CSS equivilant, but DROP THE DAMN REGION SYSTEM (for you US people that might not be that big a deal, but for me it is).

  • by SIWaters ( 181004 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @12:56PM (#2759190)
    I spent 1991-2 working for an HDTV production company here in the US, and then consulted for several years, writing the first book on HDTV production (The Guide to High Definition Video Production: Preparing for a Widescreen World; Focal Press 1996, ISBN-0-240-80265-9).

    HDTV was designed to deliver equivalent resolution, to the screen, as the best 35mm projection. (Although film starts out with much higher resolution, by the time it goes through all of the processing steps, each with mechanical transports, and then projection, the final resolution is quite low.)

    A minimum 36" diagonal monitor is required to display every pixel in the image. However, the full effect of HDTV is not apparent until the image is at least 8 feet (diagonal measure). Furthermore, the original color space demands very low light level conditions in order to appreciate fully. Finally, the minimum viewing distance should be 3x the height of the screen, in order to make the pixels/grain disappear, so you'd need to sit at least 15 feet away from the image.

    There are very few viewing environments that meet these conditions -- the average American home is certainly not one.

    From a production viewpoint, HDTV requires film-level production standards. The sloppiness that NTSC and PAL encourage (and hide) is clearly visible to HDTV production processes. As my old boss, Barry Rebo, used to ask, "What does HDTV bring to 'Wheel of Fortune'?" The answer is absolutely nothing, except increased production costs.

    The political stalemate in Washington is a blind for the desires of broadcasters to capitalize on the offer of free spectrum. The technical arguments are about how a broadcast signal will degrade in fringe reception areas. This is a smokescreen designed to delay introduction until terms are more favorable to broadcasters.

    In fact, there is a production medium today that can be broadcast today over existing equipment with only marginal incremental costs to broadcasters: widescreen D1. It's the appropriate aspect ratio (16:9) and is a component system from beginning to end, which is the major contributor to quality.

    This format could be delivered more or less right away and would deliver picture quality far in excess of what people expect today, and is, in fact, perfectly appropriate to the broadest range of viewing environments. Importantly, the incremental cost of production in D1 is virtually zero making it very attractive from that standpoint.

    Finally, it is very easy to downconvert an HDTV-originated image to D1, especially because the timebase is the same (60 frames (or fields)/second as opposed to 29.94 frames/sec for NTSC).

    HDTV is a perfect production medium and is great for projection in controlled viewing environments. For mass distribution D1 (or, more particularly, widescreen component) is far more appropriate, with or without line-doubling.

    -- Clay

  • by Gumber ( 17306 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @01:47PM (#2759465) Homepage
    Wait another year to 18 months. Even if you pop for an $800 normal def TV now and then a 16:9 high def set later, you will probably come out ahead.

    Plus, what compelling reason is there for an HDTV set now? DVDs aren't high def and can look pretty bad when they are pushed onto a hi-def set. Most of the high-def broadcast stuff is barely worth watching.

    Hang tight.
  • by dublin ( 31215 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @03:44PM (#2760090) Homepage

    I'm going to go somewhat against the flow of the technology-obsessed geeks posting here and point out that HDTV's success or failure will depend on the great masses of average TV viewers out there, not a few videophiles.

    HDTV almost certainly will not make its scheduled transition for several very good reasons:

    - HDTV sets are *really* expensive. They will remain so until volume grows, so this is a chicken-and-egg problem with no reasonable solution. Most people will NOT buy a new TV to deal with HDTV. TV viewership is falling as it is with more and more channels of tripe. Really high-fidelity tripe is not likely to sell any better.

    - Existing OTA (over the air) TV viewers will have to use set-top HDTV tuners after the transition. I predict that when the average TV viewer realizes the government is planning to force everyone (especially those that *only have* OTA TV access) to buy a $300-400 tuner box, there will be a huge outcry and the FCC will back down quickly. Expect the race/class card trump to be played here.

    - Remember that 70% of US TV viewers get their signal over cable. There is no standard way to deliver HDTV over cable (nor will there be for some time), and in any case, the MSOs (cable companies) are balking at burning more of thier bandwidth for local stations. The FCC has determined that MSOs are *not* required to carry both analog and digital broadcasts for local stations, and most don't want to. If the local stations then, have to choose between sending out their analog or HDTV signals over cable, they *won't* pick HDTV, since doing so would cut them off from the majority of their audience, allowing their competitors to clean their clocks.

    - There is an implicit assumption in most of the HDTV advocate posts that HDTV will be actually be worth something. In reality, the FCC has consciously not spcified that HDTV bandwidth be used to deliver HDTV picture. The stations can carve up the HDTV bandwidth in any way they want to - it's likely that many will choose to use that bandwidth to deliver several lower-quality channels and datacasting services, for example, rather than a single HD channel. This is fairly predictable, since there's more money in several smaller chunks of bandwidth than one big one.

    - The technological complexity that HDTV throws into the already overly complex interconnections of DVD players, VCRS, cable tuner boxes, satellite receivers, etc. is not to be overlooked. Most people (even many geeks, from what I've seen) do *not* have the skills required to figure out how everything *should* be connected, and even if correctly connected, the devices themselves don't lend themselves to quick or easy reconfiguration during viewing. The simple fact that hooking up more than two sources to the average TV is a major PITA will keep many away.

    - Another ugly secret of HDTV today is that (in almost all cities today), if you want it, you'll have to re-enter the wild and wooly world of TV antennas in order to receive your local HDTV broadcast. This is the ugly secret of the HDTV industry - there are almost no cable systems that can deliver HDTV signals. Don't confuse "Digital Cable", which is just the regular NTSC stuff with MPEG encoding and a digital conditional access system (CAS) with delivery of HDTV over cable. They are very different. In almost all areas of the country today, you have only two options for receiving an HDTV signal: Broadcast antenna, or the few channels that are available via satellite, if you have a new enough box/dish and deep pockets for programming.

    - Further, the lack of off-line HDTV video sources (videotapes, discs, etc.) is another crippling blow. 16:9 is nice, but not enough to drive most people to HDTV. The MPAA and its ilk are not likely to allow HD media anytime soon, so don't expect to use that capability you paid for except as noted above.

    All in all, HDTV is *far* too expensive, troublesome, and immature to reach the market penetration it *must* achieve to be successful. Personally, I laugh at people paying thousands of dollars for technology that will be obsolete by the time they get a chance to use it.

    My call: HDTV will remain an expensive toy for several years, and the FCC will back off from its timetable once the general populace realizes it's being railroaded, leaving the industry in a shambles. It is possible, although not entirely likely, that HDTV will wither away entirely at that time, replaced by HD-over-IP standards that avoid the problems of HDTV entirely. I wouldn't buy any HDTV gear for another several years in any case, even if there were anything out there worth watching.

    (As an aside, one of the more interesting (and terrifying, for the industry) possible outcomes of the FCC sticking to its guns and forcing analog off the air would be a wholesale exodus of people simply deciding that they can easily live without TV at all given the cost in both dollars and aggravation to go through with the "upgrade". Forced upgrades are likely to work even less well here than in the Microsoft world. If these people started reading old books again instead, HDTV could turn out to be a very good thing for society... ;-) )

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen