Buying an HDTV: High Definition Content

So you’ve got your nice brand new (or slightly used) high definition television to your home and you’ve got it turned on.  What in the world are you going to watch?  What high definition content is out there in the world?  How do you get it onto your television?

You do have a few options when it comes to high definition content.  The easiest is your local channels’ digital signal, but there is cable, satellite, or even Blu-Ray players.  All give you some form of high definition content, but not all of it is that covenanted 1080p resolution.  In fact, the only true 1080p source at the moment is a Blu-Ray player.  Television (either OTA or cable/satellite) is only

Local Stations Over-The-Air (OTA)

The quickest (and probably cheapest) way to get high definition content onto your new HDTV is to plug in an antenna to receive your local channels’ digital signals.  Most high definition televisions come with a digital tuner that will allow you to receive the digital signal with ease.  Something to keep in mind though is that different networks will broadcast different resolutions.  For example, Fox affiliates transmit a 720p signal while ABC affiliates will send out a 1080i signal.  You’ll probably want to take a look at AVSForum’s Local HDTV Info to find specific information about your area.  There is a lot of great information such as antenna aiming suggestions and signal information for various channels in several of the city specific threads.


The next option is the all digital option of cable or satellite (or fiber optic).  These options are generally completely digital and do not require the use of an antenna or digital tuner in the television since the digital tuner is in the cable/satellite box.  Most of these signals for these kinds of connections are completely digital.  The main reason to go with a cable/satellite feed for HD content is that a lot of cable channels (HBO, Discovery, etc) have high definition versions of their channels, so you get access to more high def content.  Also, if you get something that has on demand content (i.e. Comcast) they also offer high definition content through this channel.  So you can get some pay-per-view movies in high definition.

Upconverting DVD Player

Finally, you have upconverting DVD players, while not truly “high definition” they do offer a nice way to take advantage of your television without having to buy a lot of expensive new equipment.  Upconverting DVD players can be had for less that 100 dollars (really good ones go as high as $200) and can send a higher quality image to your television.  A good upconverting DVD player will give you a noticeably higher quality picture on your screen (assuming your screen can handle the resolution).  You can rewatch a nice chunk of your movie collection and enjoy it in a whole new way for less than one hundred dollars.


The only true 1080p source is Blu-Ray.  If you have a 720p television, you can still send out a 1080p signal from your Blu-Ray player and the television will usually down-convert to a resolution that it can handle.  There are  a lot of Blu-Ray players on the market, and not all of them are equal.  The players that you see for sale for cheap (well below $200) are what are known as “Profile 1.0” players and do not conform to the latest standard of Blu-Ray discs.  This means that you might run into trouble playing newer BDs (Blu-Ray Disc) on these players.  Most of the players being released today however, are  “Profile 2.0” players and can play the latest discs, as well as do something that is called BDLive, which can give you additional content stored on servers for online access.

Something else to think about is that all Blu-Ray players work as upconverting DVD players as well.

Next Week

Next week, as we look towards finishing this series we’ll be looking at cables to connect this all together.

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