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What are some useful add-ons for my HDTV?

HDTV Accessories

Great, you've got a high-definition television! If you don't want to stop there, consider some of these add-ons:

  • HD DVR: Many digital video recorders are not capable of recording high-definition programming at full quality. If you want to save those episodes of 24 at the highest possible resolution, you'll need one of these.
  • "Upscaling" DVD player: These take ordinary pictures and convert them to higher quality for output on your HDTV.
  • Universal remote: If your family members are complaining about the array of remote controls needed to put on, say, a SpongeBob video, try condensing everything into one.
  • Calibration DVDs: These are the test images the pros use to get the best picture quality out of their installations. You can use them to tweak your own system for the best picture you can get.

What is a home theater?

The Home Theater Experience

Want movie theater power without having to shush someone else's kid or pay $6 for stale popcorn? It's surprisingly achievable. Many electronics stores sell "home theater in a box" systems, which are sound systems designed to hook up to your HDTV and DVD player, as well as audio sources (whether they're CD players or iPods).

If you care a lot about audio quality and like to mess around with wires, you may want to consider assembling and installing your own home theater system.

Some companies specialize in designing and installing home theater systems and if you have money and not the time, you may be better off going with one of these. Experts can set up systems that spread well-calibrated sound throughout your house, allow access to saved video from different rooms, and provide stunning video-game experiences.

What's different about sound with HDTV?

The Promise of Digital Audio

Many HDTV buyers spend a lot of time comparing picture quality on various sets, but pay little or no attention to the quality of the sound. That's too bad, because high-definition television allows TV watchers to get a lot better sound quality than they've been used to in the past. Digital audio signals can carry more information, allowing for splitting of the signal to each speaker.

If you're looking for a great sound experience, one place to start is your DVD player. Sure, there are inexpensive players available, but audiophiles will find it worth the extra money to get one with good sound quality.

Your speaker setup will depend on your tastes and the shape of your room. Freestanding speakers allow the greatest flexibility in fine-tuning your sound quality, while in-wall speakers save space. Some audiophiles want to show off their speakers, while others would rather not see them at all.

How is "widescreen" different from the TV I'm used to?

HDTV in Widescreen

Virtually all HDTV sets sold today are "widescreen." That means the width-to-height ratio is 16:9, the same as used in the movies. Viewing DVDs on these sets is a delight because nothing gets cut off, as it did with older televisions.

Unfortunately, however, a great deal of television content is still being broadcast in the old ratio of 4:3. Most HDTV receivers will let you choose whether to watch this content as is (with black bars at the sides), "stretched" (which fills the screen but distorts the image) or "zoomed" (which fills the screen but cuts off some of the picture).

What is an HDTV monitor?

HDTV or Monitor?

When you're shopping for HDTV, pay attention to whether your TV is a "monitor." A true high-definition television has a tuner built in to receive HDTV channels. Monitors, sometimes called HDTV receivers, require outside tuners to make them work.

A monitor may be the best solution if you're looking for HDTV deals. It may also give you the best flexibility if you know you're going to buy a larger screen or a better home theater system eventually.

Knowing the difference, however, can help prevent unpleasant surprises. Some buyers purchase monitors thinking they've found a cheap HDTV, only to find that they have to make another purchase before they can enjoy the best picture quality.

How do I set up my HDTV?

Installing Your HDTV

Installation of a high definition TV may seem daunting at first, especially to those who haven't messed with the wires behind the entertainment center since they bought that DVD player three Christmases ago.

Here's your first decision: Do you want to be able to hear audio signals through your stereo system, or are you OK with using the speakers on your HDTV?
The second option is simpler but often of lower quality.

The next decision is: Where are you going to put the TV? This may not seem as obvious as it looks at first. Optimal viewing ranges for HDTV sets are two to three times the diagonal screen size. So for a 42-inch set, you'll want to sit about seven feet away. HDTV broadcasts are also easily washed out by other light sources, so you'll want to make it easy to close blinds and dim room lights.

Finally, if you're upgrading from an older TV set, you may find that other parts of your setup -- your cable box, stereo and furniture -- may need to be updated, as well.

Once you've got all your parts in place, begin by connecting the HDTV and any outside audio source to your cable or satellite receiver. Follow the setup instructions for your cable box to match its resolution to the one on your TV.

Then follow the instructions for your HDTV to get it set up for use. Enjoy!

Why can't I see the great quality I saw in the store?

Help! It Doesn't Look Any Different!

There are a number of issues that can reduce the quality of an HDTV picture. If you're not seeing the same crisp, clear images you saw in the store, start by checking out these potential problems:

  • The top resolution broadcasters are currently using is 1080i (for "interlaced"). Some low-cost signal processors use a cheaper method of interpreting those pictures, which cuts down on image quality.
  • Most television programs are filmed and broadcast at 24 frames per second. Your HDTV is capable of displaying 60 frames per second. Cheaper signal processors may use an inadequate method of compensating for the difference, again eroding image quality.
  • Your cable or satellite box may not be capable of processing HDTV signals. Check with your provider.
  • The broadcast you are trying to watch may not be an HDTV signal.
  • Your cable box and your television may not be properly set up to communicate with one another.
If all else fails, consider a return to another era: Many broadcast stations are available as high definition signals over the air, if you connect an outside antenna.

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