The HDTV Buyer's Guide

Buying a new TV? Knowledge will save you money


Gizmo Cafe's HDTV shopping guide will provide insight into the formidable task of shopping for a new television. We'll present information in plain English that explains some of the technical jargon you'll need to know when purchasing new TV technology.

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HDTV is a series of broadcast television formats that present a higher resolution image than SDTV (Standard Definition Television)--the old format of TV you grew up watching. More pixels in HDTV images give you a clearer, sharper picture and more detail than conventional TV. To watch movies and TV programming in high definition means greater viewing clarity on a wide, panoramic screen. People have described the difference between watching regular TV and HDTV as the difference between watching something on a TV and looking at it through a window.

There is another type of TV called EDTV or Enhanced Definition Television. EDTIV is a marketing term for a TV capable of displaying resolutions greater than SDTV. However, EDTV is not HDTV. Being able to identify the difference between HDTV and EDTV is a valuable piece of knowledge that will protect you form being duped by the sales representative at your local big box store.

Learning the basics of HDTV from our Big Box Store Survival Guide section will mean you'll know better than to get taken in by one of today's top scams in HDTV sales.

Here is an example of an EDTV being sold as an HDTV. The advertised resolution is not HDTV because it's only 1024 x 768. To qualify as HDTV the resoultion would have to be capable of at least 1280 x 768. This is no mere technicality. The ATSC is a technical organization that exists to define specifications that protect consumers from marketers playing fast and loose with definitions of technical terms. The consumer could own this set for months before learning that they're actually missing about 1/3rd of the picture when trying to watch HDTV broadcasts. It should be noted that Magnavox is not to blame as its website properly defines the set as EDTV.

Go to Google "1024x769 HDTV" anytime to see how many TVs are being sold under false pretenses at any given time.

Areas this guide will cover:
  • HDTV Resolutions: Exactly what defines an HDTV and why do they look so good?
  • Aspect Ratio: Explains why widescreen is so important to film and why sometimes images are squeezed or stretched
  • What HDTV is right for you?: Your homework assignment to help determine the kind of TV you're really looking for before you show up at any retail outlet. These simple steps will help you eliminate what you don't need
  • Display Technology: A breakdown of the kinds of HDTVs available that will fill your needs. Match the HDTV that's right for you [What HDTV is right for you?] with what you'll find at the TV shop
  • Big Box Store Survival Guide: Tips to surviving the big box store shopping experience. Cut through the noise and identify exactly what you need in a new HDTV
  • HDTV Tech Talk: Learn to talk the talk: quick definitions for the terms used when referring to HDTV

Independent research has concluded that average consumers appreciate the prices and selection at local big box retail outlets like Circuit City, Best Buy or Future Shop. However, at the same time, research indicated that consumers are a little intimidated by them. It's hard to blame you if you don't exactly trust an investment that can cost thousands on the words of Skip, the sales kid with spiky hair and ill fitting trousers. While the big box stores have excellent selection, the sheer volume of choices can quickly become a cacophony of brands, prices and technical specifications. Once you've got a grasp of a few technical concepts behind HDTV, we'll take you through the Big Box Store shopping experience in our Big Box Store Survival Guide.

Next, we'll learn what resolutions or formats constitute real HDTV in HDTV Resolutions.