If you thought that buying your new plasma or LCD high-definition television was the hardest part of bringing a great viewing experience into your home, think again. To get the most out of your investment, you'll need to overhaul your video source, the cables you use, your sound system, your remote, and even your furniture.
If you haven't decided which TV to buy yet, we have plenty of resources to help you make the right choice. For assistance in figuring out the pros and cons of the two main high-def technologies, read our article "LCD vs. Plasma: Which HDTV Is Right for You?" And before you go to the store, check out our video "How to Buy a Flat-Screen TV." Finally, don't forget to comparison-shop for the best deal and the optimum-size set for your home.
A High-Def Glossary
Let's first look at some of the specs used to describe high-definition pictures. Video at 720p, 1080i, or 1080p is considered "high definition" because it exceeds the standard TV definition of 480i. But these three resolutions certainly don't produce pictures of identical quality.
720p: Used by ABC, Fox, and ESPN for their high-def broadcasts, 720p video has a pixel resolution of 1280 by 720, and is progressive-scan, meaning that the technology involves drawing all of the lines of each video frame in sequence, rather than interlacing the odd and even lines of succeeding frames, which can cause a flickering effect in fine detail. Most 720p flat-panel sets have a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels.
1080i: Used by all other HD broadcast networks, 1080i has a higher resolution than 720p, at 1920 by 1080 pixels but the video it produces is of roughly equivalent overall quality because of 720p's smoother scanning.
1080p: The king of HD signals and the standard for high-end flat panels, 1080p adds progressive scanning to its 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution. It is found in HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players, and in a few PC media player and game boxes.