In the world of technology, there are the "Me first!" early adopters, the "I'll buy it as soon as the price comes down" regular folks and the "Heck no, I won't go" foot-draggers.
If you have not bought an HDTV yet and are still watching one of those big square TVs that uses bulky picture tubes, you definitely fall into the foot-dragger category.
Hey, I know the arguments:
"This TV still works fine!"
"I paid a lot of money for this thing and am not going to replace it until it dies!"
"What's the big deal about HDTV anyway?"
Well, yes. But once you make the jump to HDTV, you'll probably wonder why you waited so long. It is a vast improvement over everything that came before. And here's a big reward for all you foot-draggers out there: Your procrastination has saved you a boatload of money.
It wasn't all that long ago that a big flat-screen HDTV cost tens of thousands of dollars. A few years later, a couple of thousand. Today, you can buy a really nice 40- to 50-inch model for relative peanuts - a few hundred bucks. In fact, if you bought a big-screen tube TV more than 10 years ago, you probably paid more for it than you will for a much larger, and much more advanced HDTV.
These technological marvels are evolving along price curves very similar to the one followed by personal computers over the past several decades. Every year brings far more power and features and far less cost.
Consider the 50-inch plasma HDTV, which sold for more than $10,000 when first introduced a decade or so ago. Today, you can buy one that is much improved over that original model for $600 to $700 - quite a bargain.
OK, so the dollar figures have your attention. But you remain intimidated by all the technology behind HDTV and are not sure what to buy. No worries. Here's a little primer that will help.
LCD or Plasma?
These are the two dominant display technologies out there. Picture quality is very good with both but some experts argue plasma is a bit better in terms of blacker blacks, best contrast and richer colors. LCD's are more energy efficient and can be much thinner and lighter. Expect to pay a big premium, however, for the very thin sets with LED back lights. Plasma HDTVs are typically cheaper.
Another older display technology, digital light processing or DLP, is still around and can be a bargain if you want really big screen. But because it uses an internal projection technology, the cabinets are bulky and DLP sets suffer from limited viewing angles
720p or 1080p?
These numbers refer to the lines of resolution on the screen. More is always better, but on sets smaller than 50-inches, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two resolutions. If you are a bargain hunter, look for a 720p set. They are usually quite a bit cheaper and may be on closeout since 720p-class sets are headed for extinction.
Do I really need a $100 HDMI cable?
No. You probably do want an HDMI cable to connect your TV to a cable box and/or DVD/Blu-ray player because it provides the cleanest picture and sound. But the cable shouldn't cost more than $25 or so unless you need a very long one (more than six feet). Ignore the sales pitch for the pricey cables in the big box electronics stores. Shop online or at local discount stores.
Do I need an Internet-connected TV?
Also known as Smart TV. Many of the newest HDTVs can connect to the Internet and employ iPhone-like apps to stream movies and TV shows via Netflix and a raft of similar services. This is a personal choice but don't pay extra for such features, which you may already have access to if you have a gaming console like X-box, Wii or Playstation. You can always add this functionality later if you wish to use stand-alone boxes or certain blu-ray players.
Make sure you are really watching HDTV.
You would be amazed how many people buy an expensive HDTV and go home and continue watching the same old standard definition channels they watched on their old tube TV. HDTV arrives on different channels. If you are watching over-the-air TV, allow your new TV to search out those channels for you. If you have cable or satellite TV, make sure you have a box capable of handling HD. Call your provider and consult your programming guide for the correct HD versions of the channels you normally watch.
Tony Briggs has been a technology columnist in the Daytona Beach area for more than 20 years. His column will appear here periodically. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your technological questions.