A survey done by a consumer electronics retailer earlier this year found that almost 90% of respondents don't understand HDTVs and 50% underestimate the cost of buying one.
The reason so many consumers underestimate the cost is that retailers fail to educate consumers of the two other things you'll need besides an HDTV to watch a high definition televison show.

High-definition television or HDTV is a television broadcasting system with significantly higher resolution than traditional standard definition television (SDTV).
If you ask some experts about HDTV, they'll often begin to get into a technical discussion and begin to tell you about 720p, 1080i, 1080p and all sorts of other technical stuff but they'll never explain why you want HD or how to get it!

Simply speaking, high definition television is a relatively new technology that delivers a superior television image along with superior sound.

The biggest confusion surrounding HDTV is consumers think they only need to buy an HDTV in order to visualize stunning image quality. Unfortunately that is not the case. In order to watch high definition programming you will need three things: a source for HD Programming, a HD Set top box or tuner, a high definition television set (HDTV).

Itís important to remember that if you don't have all three you won't be watching HDTV!

There are different sources for your HD programming. The first is the cable or satellite provider that currently delivers television signals to your home.

When your favourite television program comes on and the announcer says the show you are watching is being broadcast in HD, it does not mean you are watching HD. When a show is available in HD, it means the networks are broadcasting versions of the show: a standard definition and a high definition version.
For example, let's say you want to watch CSI which airs in HD .
With cable or satellite the standard definition viewer would tune to particular channel while the high definition viewer would tune to a different channel . To receive the HD channel cable and satellite customers must first subscribe to an HD programming package. .

The second method for receiving HD programming is over-the-air (OTA) Ö which is not the same as satellite. The aerials and rabbit ears you used to receive television signals in the days before cable can now be used to receive HD signals where available. Before you have dreams of dumping your cable or satellite provider, check the number of HD signals that can be received OTA in your area..

The next step in watching HD is to buy or rent a device that will decode or tune the incoming HD signals. Once decoded, the signals can then be sent to your television in a format your set can display.

If you are interested in receiving HD signals over the air you will need an ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) tuner also an antenna. An ATSC tuner is simply the Digital equivalent of your existing televisions channel tuner. Most HDTV's sold today include an ATSC tuner, however, be sure to confirm that before buying your HD television.
  1. All OTA antennas are "digital ready" and "HDTV ready" (ignore those marketing words)
  2. Satellite Dishes cannot be used to receive OTA signals because they operate on totally different frequencies
For many people, to decode and tune HD programs you will need a High definition satellite receiver or HD digital cable set top box. The HD satellite receiver or HD digital cable box takes the encrypted HDTV programming sent by your cable or satellite company and puts it in a format that can be used by your television.

An HD satellite receiver or a cable HD set top box can often be bought from a major consumer electronics store or rented from your cable or satellite provider. These set top boxes rent for about $20 a month or they can be purchased for anywhere from $200 to $400.

Before you go and buy an HD satellite receiver or set top box, please note the following:
  • Each satellite company and cable company have their own proprietary set top boxes which typically are not compatible with others. Something to consider if you're trying to decide between buying or renting a satellite receiver or Digital terminal.
  • A regular Digital Cable terminal or Digital Satellite receiver will NOT decode HDTV signals so be sure to look for the a box that specifically states that it is an HDTV receiver or terminal

There is a third source available now ÖDVD though there are two formats HD DVD and BlueRay. There is a battle taking place between makers of the two different formats ( sounds like the familiar VHS and Beta war) and yet to be decided as to which is the format of choice.

Once you have subscribed to HD programming and bought or rented an HD terminal, the final thing you'll need is a high definition television (HDTV).

What to look for or what type of HD television is beyond the scope of this post. Be sure to confirm that you are buying an HDTV and not an EDTV or Digital television. If the television is sold as an enhanced definition television (EDTV) that accepts HD signals then donít buy it. EDTV or digital televisions have been marketed as being able to accept HD signals but the truth is they cannot actually display an HD signal. They simply take the HD signal and downconvert it to a less desirable picture.

EDTV televisions or just plain Digital televisions have pretty much disappeared from the marketplace, however, they are still being sold in the clearance aisle. If the television your are considering is much cheaper than a typical HDTV then its possible youíre getting an EDTV so be sure to ask. If you have any doubts then be sure to check the televisions manual or the companies website to confirm.

Hope this helps.