High Def Forum
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HD newby has questions

03-19-2005, 03:10 PM
Ok. Im thinking of getting an hdtv but am confused about what programming to get and the prices. First off, if something one network tv is beign broadcasted in HD like monday night football, do I haft to have a actual HDsatalite or cable service or can I use my basic for that. Also, which is the cheapest. All I want is espn and some of the local channels in HD. ALso voom seems so expensive cmpared to satalite. How could you pay that much for hd programming. The extra price almost makes me not want to get it yet.

03-19-2005, 05:09 PM
I REALLY like your approach, Jman... a good place to start is to first find out what is really out there to see, NOW, and THEN figure out what system you need to present it well... a lot of us fall into the 'impulse buy' category, and drag home something completely inappropriate... then try to make it work.

HDTV is a completely new television standard (ATSC) that is FAR better than the old SDTV (standard definition TV, analog NTSC). It can carry 18 different image formats, including SDTV, in digital video perfection with digital surround sound. HDTV signals are being delivered, today, via digital Satellite & digital Cable & digital OTA (over the air) broadcasts. In all three cases you need new tuners that can handle the HDTV signal, and can output HDTV video signals... you can't just 'convert' any old device, it needs to be designed than way since HDTV signals have 3-5 times the detail and 3-5 times the memory & CPU power requirements for decompression of the digital MPEG2 stream. REAL HDTV, of best quality, must be captured, stored, transmitted, and displayed in HD. Any weak point in the chain gives less than ideal results (a bottleneck). But even the worst DTV (digital TV) signal is better than analog SDTV... SD digital TV is lower res but no 'snow' or 'ghosts' because it's digital... like DVD.

Although it's somewhat confused at the moment, after July 1 of this year all TVs larger than 36" will have a tuner included that is compatible with the new ATSC standard. This includes digital cable compatiblility (with use of a CableCard) that will let you use a digital cable service without an external STB (set top box) and ability to receive digital broadcasts with an antenna. If you don't have a built in tuner, you will have to use an external STB tuner, or if you want to receive Satellite, since that ability is not in the standard digital tuner. If you have a set without tuner, you can forego an external an OTA tuner if you will use an external Sat or Cable STB. Sat boxes include an OTA tuner for receiving your local digital stations via an antenna. Cable retransmits local digital stations as digital cable channels, so you don't need an antenna.

Up front costs for getting HD Satellite can be high if you have to purchase equiptment. Many times the companies will give you a discount on equiptment when you agree to commit to a 24 month contract. Penalty for early withdrawl. There are several 'tiers' of service, some more expensive than others. You pay extra for the 'good stuff' which currently includes HDTV. Prices for Sat service & cable of similar level service are not that different. Of all the services, VOOM offers more HDTV content than anyone - but they are on very shaky financial ground right now & might not survive for 6 months.

You can receive digital OTA broadcasts for free with an antenna and a digital tuner. But, unfortunately, ESPN is not a broadcast channel but delivered over Satellite & Cable only. If you surf to www.antennaweb.org you can enter your location and get a list of local stations, the direction & distance to their transmitters (for pointing), and recommendation of antenna type needed. There's probably a lot more out there than you expect... including HD Monday Night Football from ABC in beautiful 720p/60.

If 'by using my basic' you mean receive digital channels over your analog cable connection, no, you'll have to upgrade to digital service at least. All DTV is digital so it has to be carried over digital cable, too. This added about $15 per month to my bill. You could then not only receive the 200 digital channels, but some of them will be your local digital stations, retransmitted, so you won't need an antenna. If you use a CableCard, the rental is much less than getting a STB.

Price of antenna varies hugely depending on where you are... close to towers = cheap, far out & complex = expensive.

Realistically, if you are shopping new equiptment, you need at least $650 to get started, but things are much better if you can afford $1200 for an interlaced RPTV or $2000 for a progressive scan one. Of course, the REALLY good stuff goes up to $25,000... but we won't go there... :D