[opendtv] Re: HDTV Buyer's Guide 2008

  • From: "Adam Goldberg" <adam_g@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 11:27:33 -0500

1080i panel info:


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From: opendtv-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:opendtv-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On
Behalf Of Manfredi, Albert E
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2008 11:23 AM
To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [opendtv] HDTV Buyer's Guide 2008

This article perpetuates some myths and retailer confusion.

First off, the "dearth" of HDTV programming has not existed for years.
Prime time shows of the major networks, and sports, the categories they
mention as if only now these went to HD, have been HD for quite a long
time. We've even had local news in HD, from WUSA, for quite some time.

Secondly, just because the transmission formats are 1080i/p or 720p, it
doesn't mean that HD sets have to be 1080p or 720p. I always see this
confusion in stores. A 1366 X 768 LCD is 768p, NOT 720p. In principle, a
1080p program played through a 768p set will look better than a 720p
program through that same set. And the 768p set will look better than a
true 720p display, if only marginally. Leaving aside rescaling artifacts
that might exist.

Third, I may be wrong about this, but I doubt very much that there are
any flat panel 1080i sets. Why would any manufacturer paint a matrix
display using interlace? Maybe what they really mean is that the TV
won't accept a 1080 at 60p input, but that doesn't translate to the
display being 1080i.

Fourth, I think you will be hard pressed to show today that plasma sets
are larger or more expensive than LCDs. You can find LCDs now in the
same sizes as plasmas, and very often the plasma set is cheaper than the
LCD of that same size. (And the plasma will have lower resolution. Still
now, 1024 X 768 is commonplace for plasma, where LCDs are at least 1366
X 768 and often 1920 X 1080.)



January 23, 2008
HDTV Buyer's Guide 2008
By Alexander Wolfe

High-definition television is taking center stage at the 2008
International CES. The consumer-electronics show will spotlight
innovations such as Pioneer's self-proclaimed "world thinnest" plasma
HTDV (it's only 9-mm thick), a fully integrated wireless set from
Westinghouse, where the power cord is the only tethered connection, and
even the first laser televisions.

The pervasiveness of high-def at CES emphasizes the arrival of a
technology which is finally taking off, after numerous false starts and
failed predictions that its ubiquity was imminent. Now, that moment is
indeed upon us. HDTVs flew off store shelves during the recent Christmas
shopping season, and the U.S. installed base now estimated at 30 million
sets, according to TVPredictions.com.

Notwithstanding its rising profile, the fine points of HDTV shopping are
still a mystery to most consumers. There are questions of screen size,
resolution, scanning method (interlaced or progressive), and how the
picture is created (LCD, plasma, or projection). Most importantly,
there's price, with sets ranging from as little as $500 up to many
thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, there's no longer the dearth of programming, which formerly
caused many consumers to defer their HDTV purchasing decisions. All the
major networks offer high-def sports and news, as well as dramas such as
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and even many sit-coms. PBS's The News
Hour with Jim Lehrer went high-def in December. On the delivery side,
satellite-provider DirectTV is among the most aggressive marketers of
HD, and traditional cable providers also offer the service to their

Still, separating supporters' expectations for HDTV from today's reality
isn't always easy. Many proponents of the technology continue to
conflate high definition with digital TV (DTV). For example, the
Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently pegged the number of
households owning a digital TV at 50 percent. However, it didn't say
what proportion are true high-def sets and how many are older,
standard-resolution digital TVs. (Also in the mix, but rarely discussed,
are standard-def models fitted with digital tuners. These are widely
deployed; for example, all customers of Time-Warner Cable in New York
City who don't have HDTV are using digital cable boxes.) 

The CEA gave some harder data in its 2008 predictions, forecasting
32-million total DTV shipments and then stating that "high definition
[is] expected to account for 79 percent of total DTV shipments." This
would place the 2008 HDTV forecast at 25.3-million units.

Which means that now might be an ideal time to purchase yours.
Accordingly, we've assembled this guide, which points you to some of the
most popular options in the different screen-size and price-point
categories. Before we get to the HDTV models themselves, let's go over
some basic terminology.

What is high definition?

HDTVs come in several different resolutions, but the best is called
1080p. This means a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, with progressive
scanning. Also available are HDTVs with the 720p display format,
equating to a resolution which maxes out at 1,366 x 768 pixels.

Finally, there are 1080i sets. These have the maximum number of
horizontal lines, but they're interlaced (hence the "i"). This means
that all the odd-numbered lines are painted, followed by the even ones,
resulting in a less well-formed image than can be obtained via
progressive scan. (To fully explain this stuff gets into very arcane
technical issues, such as vertical jitter.) The upshot is that 1080p is
preferred, with lower-cost sets sporting the 720p resolution as a
secondary option, if price is the primary consideration. Note that 720p
isn't second-class, in that the picture is still light-years ahead of
standard sets. However, it's expected that 720p will ultimately fade in
favor of its high-pixel-count cousin.

How is the picture formed?

Far and away the most popular display technologies used to paint a
high-definition picture are liquid-crystal (LCD) and plasma. The former
are familiar to everyone who owns a Casio watch. LCDs work via a voltage
that's passed within a sandwich of liquid crystals between glass. Colors
are created using subpixels of red, green, and blue. LCDs are used on
low-cost and mid-level HDTVs.

Larger and more expensive sets are fitted with plasma displays. In
these, an inert gas trapped between glass gets zapped with current,
creating a plasma which in turn gets phosphors on the inside of the
front piece of glass to glow. This creates a picture, in a manner not
all that dissimilar from an old-fashioned cathode-ray tube, which used a
beam of electronics to excited phosphors deposited on the back of the TV
screen. The early rap on plasma HDTVs was that they went bad after a few
years; this problem has largely been overcome.

A third technology, called rear projection, was once a mainstay of
larger sets, but no appears to be waning in popularity. Sony recent
decided to quit the rear-projection market; Hitachi has also thrown in
the towel on this technology. However, several vendors, including
Panasonic and Mitsubishi, still sell rear-projection sets built using
Texas Instrument's impressive digital-light processing (DLP) technology.
TI's Web site accurately describes its DLP chip, which powers the sets
by Panasonic and others, as "the world's most sophisticated light
switch. It contains a rectangular array of up to 2 million hinge-mounted
microscopic mirrors; each of [which] measures less than one-fifth the
width of a human hair." Digital video is passed to the DLP and reflected
by its mirrors, from when the image goes through a projection lens and
onto the HDTV screen.

On the down side, the DLP projection lamps, which have to be replaced
after about 6,000 hours, cost around $250.

How much will it cost?

Just about whatever you want to spend. You can get a 19-inch starter set
for $500, and there are even decent 26-inch units for as little as $700.
Stepping up a notch, 40- to 46-inch HDTVs range as widely as from $1,200
to $3,000. If that's too pedestrian, the sky's the limit. For example,
Sony has a 70-inch Bravia XBR that'll set you back a cool $33,000.

Who makes HTDV sets?

For starters, there's Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp,
Sony, and Toshiba.

What are the best deals?

This is a constantly shifting landscape. There are several places to
turn for information, and for hard pricing information. As to the
former, Consumer Reports operates an HDTV blog, which stays abreast of
both tech trends and buyer-oriented information. (Consumer Reports'
actual ratings are behind a paid-subscriber firewall.)

CNNMoney.com discusses some of the pitfalls of the HDTV purchasing

Both CNET and PCMag.com have posted reviews of their top-rated sets.

Prices can be scouted out at the comparison-shopping sites Nextag and
its competitor Pricegrabber. The two are often better used to get a feel
for the market than for actual purchases; while many of the retailers
they link to are reputable, a few have a distinctly fly by night aura.

Samsung fields a full line of LCD and plasma models.

Better to stick to major retailers, such as:

Circuit City; 
Best Buy; 
Crutchfield; and 
Target (yes, Target). 

Vendor Sites 

Sony Bravia 
Sharp AQUOS 
Panasonic plasma, LCD, and projection HDTVs 
Samsung's HDTV Guide 

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