HDTV Buying Guide 2008

How to Get the Most Out of Your HDTV

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Other Video Sources

DVD players: As noted earlier, only HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc players provide a true 1080p picture. To watch standard DVDs, you'll want a player that can convert the 480i signal to 720p or 1080p, either from your TV or from the DVD player. So-called 1080p "up-converting" DVD players are relatively inexpensive, and typically do a better job of conversion than the converter built in to your TV will, since they are optimized for DVDs. You can set the output to 1080p, 1080i, or 720p, depending on your HDTV's native capabilities.

Sony DVP-NS77H/S 1080p Upconverting DVD Player
DVDs look dramatically better on HDTVs following up-conversion, and they should fill the gap quite nicely until a winner finally emerges from the increasingly juvenile skirmishes between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Relatively few movies are available yet in these competing formats anyway.

Game boxes: Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 Elite have HDMI ports and high-definition capabilities, so you can play high-def games like Halo 3 on them. The PlayStation 3, with its built-in Blu-ray drive, doubles as an HD movie player. The Xbox 360 Elite has an optional HD DVD drive ($180) as well as a built-in up-converting DVD player.

Network media players: PCs and Macs can create, edit, and play high-def video and photo slide shows, and they are a growing source of video content. To get that content onto your TV, consider buying a network media player--a box that uses your home network to stream music and video from your PC to your television and stereo. Be sure to get one that is HD-capable, such as the Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 (1080p, $400) or the AppleTV (720p, $300). Both come with HDMI ports for hooking them up to your TV, as well as wired and wireless network connections.

HD extenders: New high-definition Windows Media Center extenders are slated to roll out this fall from Linksys, D-Link, HP, and Niveus. They work directly with the Windows Media Center software incorporated into the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista, and they provide the easiest way to get high-def content from your PC to your TV. They even include Wi-Fi, so you don't need to run cables.

Digital antennas: If you don't want to (or can't) subscribe to a high-definition cable or satellite service, you can still get high-quality local digital broadcasts over-the-air by using an inexpensive digital antenna. These ATSC broadcasts come in clear as a bell compared to analog; and if you mostly bought your HDTV to view movies and don't watch much television, a simple antenna is an economical way to pull in high-def channels. Visit AntennaWeb.org to see which digital channels you can receive at your address, and to determine how strong an antenna you'll need. Not all of the digital channels shown will offer high-definition programming, or they may offer high def only for certain prime-time shows. Most digital TV is still produced in 480i resolution. The TitanTV online listings provide a quick guide to which programs are in HD format.

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