Originally posted on our blog at http://tbgoods.blogspot.com/2011/01/tv-or-not-tv.html
Hi-Def vs Standard Definition
Nearly all large tube TVs or old projection TVs are standard definition, meaning they don't have as many pixels to them as newer high definition TVs. Pixels are the small dots that will change color to make up the picture and moving images on your TV. Standard definiton has 480 pixels vertically (up and down), regardless of the size of the TV. High definition TVs will have either 720 pixels or 1,080 pixels vertically. The more pixels, the sharper the picture will be. Commonly, these TVs will show standard definition on them by upscaling or blurring the image slightly to make use of the extra pixels. This is just like taking a small image on a computer and enlarging it to fill the screen.
The other major difference between standard definition and high definition is the aspect or size of the screen. Standard definition is typically shown in a 4:3 aspect, and high definition is usually 16:9, giving you that widescreen picture with hi-def broadcasts and movies. Upscaling standard definition 4:3 to a 16:9 TV will typically give you a 'stretched' picture or black bars on the side of the image (called 'letterbox').
LCD? LED? Plasma?
There are three main types of 'flat screen' TVs available. The first, and most common, is liquid-crystal display, or LCD. These provide brighter color and better contrast that common tube TVs, and while initially expensive, have really come down in price in recent years. The next most-common type of flat screen are plasma screen TVs. These TVs have pixels that work in a smiliar way that flourescent lighting works, lighting up with a red, blue or green depending on the image. Plasma TVs generally have a brighter-colored picture than similar sized LCDs, but consume more electricity to run, and may not have the same lifespan. LED TVs are a newer technology, and use a combination of LCD display and very small lights to give very vibrant color and brightness, but generally will have a much higher price.
In addition to these three types, there are projection TVs, DLPs, and even some tube style (CRT or cathode-ray tube) TVs that can also display high definition, but are less common, have a higher cost to operate due to bulbs that need to be replaced and higher electricity usage, give off more heat when running, and are not as 'flat' in profile.
Bigger is better...right?
When getting that new TV, you want the biggest one you can find, right? That huge TV that will take up the entire wall of your living room...Well, not necessarily. When you are shopping for a TV, think about the size of the room it will be going in and how far away you will be sitting from it. Too big of a TV in too small of a space will result in a 'screen door' picture...making the pixels on the screen stand out more than the image, as if the TV is being viewed through a screen door.
To get a good idea of the perfect size, use the '2 by 3' rule:
- Measure the distance between where you will be viewing the TV and where the TV will go (for example, 72")
- Divide this by two (72"/2 = 36") and you will have the maximum recommended size.
- Divide it by three (72" /2 = 24") and you will have the minimum recommended size.
It's also important to note that nearly all TVs are measured by the screen size from one side top corner to the other side bottom corner, and not from side to side.
So I have a HiDef TV...now what?
The difference between high definition and standard definition are similar to the differences between black-and-white to color. Just having a high definition TV will not make everything you watch high definition, in much the same way having a color TV will not make the grass green on an old black-and-white movie. To view a program or movie in high definition, you need three things:
- A TV that can display high-definition (either 720 or 1080).
- A program or movie that was filmed in high definition (HDTV or Blu-ray movies, for example).
- The program or movie needs to be broadcast or shown in high definition.
This last part will require either subscribing to high definition service through your cable or satellite provider or using an antenna to get over-the-air digital broadcasts. For movies, Blu-ray has become the standard for high definition, and require a blu-ray player to view.
Also, connecting a blu-ray player or high-definition broadcast from a cable or satellite provide will require either an HDMI cable to your TV, or component cables. With an HDMI cable, you are getting digital video and digital audio signal, and depending on your equipment, may allow your TV and other audio/video devices to communicate with each other and share functions such as powering on and off, and volume control. Component cables are a set of three video cables, red, blue, and green, which can carry an analog high definition signal to the TV, and will need an additional cable to carry audio. While there is slightly more signal loss using component video cables, the loss is hardly noticeable in most cases, and you can still enjoy a sharp, high definition picture.