Claim: You bought an HDTV, so everything you view will be in HD.
Today, not everything on television is broadcast in high definition. DVDs and shows that were recorded for broadcast under the prior analog standard will continue to look about the same as before. (Some HDTV sets even make old shows look worse, by showing off more imperfections of the original recording.)
For satellite or cable TV service, you may need to ask your provider to activate HD content. The transition might require setup on both the provider's end and your end; some cable boxes need to be reconfigured to output HD signals even after you connect them with the proper cables.
A 500-station cable lineup may carry both the high-def and standard-def versions of many channels, so make sure that you've selected the HD version of the one you're watching.
Nearly all prime-time broadcast channels and many daytime shows present their content in high definition. If you don't see a night-and-day difference between a prime-time broadcast in HD and what you remember from analog TV, something isn't configured properly. (Check to confirm that the cable box and service provider are sending an HD signal and that you are using HD-capable cables.)
An Xbox 360, a PS3, a cable box, TiVo, and nearly any other HD-capable device can output in either high definition or standard definition. After you connect an HD-capable cable, you'll probably need to update a settings screen to tell the device what resolution of signal to output. Here's how to get started with a few common devices.
On the Xbox 360, if you're using the component connection, be sure to flip the switch on the cable to HDTV. Go to My Xbox, System Settings, Console Settings, Display, and choose HDTV Settings. Select the option that matches your TV's highest resolution.
On the PlayStation 3, choose Settings, Display Settings, Video Output Settings. Select the cable type connected to your TV, and choose the resolutions that your TV can display.
On the TiVo HD, select TiVo, Messages and Settings, Settings, Video, Video Output Format. Since broadcasters may present different TV shows at different standards, you can instruct your TiVo to keep their native settings or to scale them for your TV. Review the options here; I like to keep the Native setting.
Claim: DRM can prevent content from playing on your HDTV.
Digital rights management (DRM) tools prevent you from copying copyrighted content. In most cases, HDCP--High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection--is the benevolent cop. HDCP is a handshaking protocol that provides a foundation for DRM. (The actual DRM can vary or be hidden, so look for HDCP labeling.) To avoid any problems, though, you need to use the correct gear.
HDCP works with Blu-ray discs, digital downloads, and other content sources. The technology checks for an unbroken digital connection from your content source to your TV. If the digital connection breaks off--perhaps because you connected to an unauthorized splitter or are using an analog feed--HDCP will detect that fact. In such situations, using DRM enforcement, HDCP can throttle your show quality or stop you from watching at all.
To ensure--or to be as sure as possible--that DRM won't prevent you from watching shows, connect an HDMI or DVI cable between your source and your TV or monitor. (If you use HDMI, then by default you have an HDCP-protected connection, and you're good to go. But if you try to use a monitor or an older HDTV with DVI as a display device for protected content, verify in their manuals that both devices support HDCP.) If you need to connect to a splitter, receiver, or other device in the middle, make sure that it supports HDCP, too.