February 16, 2009

Let me be upfront… I’m on the fence about HD.

Sports, especially outdoor sports, looks great using HD. Certain movies look great using HD, but I don’t think the local news, or CNN or your typical sitcom/Prime-time drama benefits from HD.

High Definition (HD) broadcasts and televisions all you to display more “lines of resolution” than a Standard Definition (SD) broadcast/television. And that means more details per frame. It’s like megapixels in a digital camera; the higher the number of megapixels the more detail you can get out of a single shot. 10MP means more details than 5MP. 1080P (see the Wikipedia Link) means more details than your standard 480P.

If you want the history of  TV and the SD/HD standards look at the following Wikipedia Link. This post is not about the technology but the use of the technology.

I’m not against HD. While I don’t have an HD television it is on my list of things to get. I was using a Dell 33inch HD monitor for a few months and liked it just fine but back then there wasn’t much HD content. The problem I have with HD is this idea that it improves anything and everything.

As I mentioned if you watch a lot of sports HD is great but that’s not even for all sports. If you watch a lot of movies HD can be great. Action flicks with explosions and car chases and… action will benefit but if you are watching Little Miss Sunshine it won’t make the movie better. And HD can’t make a bad movie better. I saw Wanted this weekend; HD couldn’t help that movie… NOTHING could make that movie better but for the sake of this discussion let’s just stick to HD. Using HD I would have been able to get some better detail on a crappy movie.

Here is the other thing to consider: Equipment. I don’t “need” another television. My old 32″ died and I was fortunate to get a 37″ CRT free from work. So the first thing I would have to do is buy a new TV/monitor. Low end is 37″ (why get anything smaller?) Vizio from Sam’s Club or Walmart for $647 and that is only 720P.  The “best” rated 46″ LCD (as subjectively rated by CNET) will run you about $1750.

Let’s say we spend $1100. That gives us the ability to view HD content we still have to receive HD content. Most HDTV’s that are sold are actually not televisions; to be a TV you have to have a tuner. Without a tuner what you have is a monitor, and even with a TV you still need an HD antenna which is an added expense. My sister found this out after buying an HDTV this Christmas season.

I have Comcast but the regular cable box will not show HD content so I have to upgrade to a more expensive box and usually pay more for the additional HD channels.

 Next is cables. No cable you would currently have will handle HD content. You have to buy Component cable or DVI/HDMI. Don’t buy Monster Cable. You will pay a LOT more than you have to for cables. Your source is almost always more important than the cable you buy. Don’t believe me? Buy Monster Cable, a mid level cable and the cheapest cable you can find. 99% of the time you will see a bigger difference between the cheap and mid-level cable than between the mid-level and the Monster Cable (and sometimes between the cheap and the Monster).

But wait, there’s more! That only covers broadcast content. For you DVD movie lovers you won’t see a difference since your DVD player is not HD  unless you were lucky/educated/informed enough to get a Upconverting DVD player. And your cables will have to be changed… Or you could upgrade to Blu-ray which has beat out HD-DVD as the next standard. Additional cost (at least they sometimes come with cables though).

If you have a home theater system (where your Broadcast receiving source, TV and DVD player are played through your stereo) which also switches between sources you will now need a new receiver that can handle not only all your new content but your new cables.

And we still get back to the point where not all your content will be enhanced because of HD. If you want to invest all that money so that you can see more blemishes on your local anchors face be my guest but I think I’ll watch the news on the 21″ CRT in my office.



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