Is All This HDTV Stuff Worth It?

As to whether HDTV is worth it or not, that is a very personal question. For people who watch a lot of live sports, I would say it is worth a lot more than the people who watch primarily news channels. Not in every case, but on the whole. People who watch TV only occasionally and hardly ever watch movies on their TVs will also not benefit that much with HDTV.

But then there is the issue that eventually every TV watcher will be forced to get a HDTV set, so the issue for them could be delayed, but not avoided. Unfortunately, the SD picture on many HD sets, especially the low cost sets, will not look as good as on their old SD set. Partially because of screen size, but also because people are better at “filling in the blanks” than electronics. HDTVs have to come up with something for the increased pixels of HDTV and often that will fall short of what out brains would come up with. I am constantly amazed at friends that still have their 32″ SDTVs, and larger RPTVs, and do not notice the horizontal scan lines on their sets at all. I used to be like that myself until I got into HDTVs.

Eventually if a person is forced to replace their SDTV with a HDTV then having HD service will be worth it in most cases due to the poor SD picture they will get trying to use SD receivers with a HDTV.

One thing about the internet that people should keep in mind is that the stuff never, or rarely, goes away. Things that were problems of yesteryear still show up in searches. Also the people who pose questions do so only after they have made their purchase only to find out they have problems. I don’t have an answer for this, just and observation. But of those who ask, there are thousands, if not millions, who don’t.

Most of the sets that require a lot of “tweaking” to get a good picture are going to be the low cost “value” brands. Even these are getting to the point where out of the box you will get a very watchable picture. As the industry moves out of the CRT age and into other technologies, the ability for the manufacturers to build consistent sets is much better, thus the more likely the out of the box picture quality will be more consistent. Many flat panels today come from the factory with a color temperature setting that will be very close to the 6500k standard. That was rare in the CRT age and that is what really spawned the ISF tech service requirement.

My view of the providers is mixed. The satellite providers have been guilty of sending HD signals that have been dubbed “HD-Lite” because rather than the 1920×1080 pixels for the 1080i channels, they send out 1280×1080 pixels. Some are 1440×1080. Since neither is a 16:9 ratio, it causes some weird artifacts when rescaled to 1920×1080. Crazy, but they are bandwidth limited. Here again, though there are tons of information that is basically obsolete on the internet. The current satellite technology is far better than it used to be.

Cable providers and IPTV providers have a bit different issue than the satellite providers. They have the ability to send only the channel requested by the receiver to the house rather than the necessity of sending every channel continuously. The IPTV providers (U-verse and FiOS) only sent the channels requested by the receiver, thus reducing the bandwidth requirements by a factor of several hundred. This allows the cable and IPTV providers to add programming choices without bandwidth limitations. This is possible with these providers because of the two way communication they can have that satellite providers do not have. Again, there is a lot of old information on this subject available on the internet.

It seems to me the current programming providers have struck a fair balance to provide reasonable HD service. Cost is a whole different issue. Satellite providers have gone through a period of bandwidth bottlenecks that cause a lot of dissatisfaction with users and have come to realize that they need to address the issue or lose customers. In order to do this they have had to add satellites to increase bandwidth. Directv also switched to a completely new signal format the was more efficient allowing less bandwidth for the same quality picture. This is an expensive approach which found people needing to get new equipment that had to be installed by trained personnel. Cable providers developed their video on demand that only send the requested program to better utilize their bandwidth. IPTV providers utilize this approach for every channel even further reducing the overall bandwidth required.

A question sent to me:

I’ve really begun to wonder if there’s an awful lot of hype about the whole HD system, and that, at least for the near future, it’s mostly a marketing technique for new sets and more expensive programming packages.

I don’t think this can be disputed, at least the hype. I’m not sure it is correct about the inference that the HDTV system was created as a marketing ploy alone, but it is definitely more expensive than the old SDTV. But then new autos are also, spurred somewhat by mandated safety and efficiency standards.

When asked, I tell people that get a new HDTV to go with OTA if possible. Cable is my second choice unless an IPTV service is available. There are still too many issues with satellite service for me to recommend them at the time of this post. Some are quality and others are cost of new satellite equipment. The reason I’d recommend cable over satellite is the equipment is leased, thus no up front high cost and service can be terminated at any time. Thus it can be auditioned and terminated if dissatisfied, unlike satellite service that locks you into a long term contract. It’s too bad people can’t do the same thing with their HDTVs. You would be suprised how many of the top tier sets have pitiful video processors compared to the lower tier sets. People think because they buy a top brand that the picture will follow, and that is not always the case. Feed them a HD signal and they are spectacular, but feed a SD signal and they fall off sharply.

One Response to “Is All This HDTV Stuff Worth It?”

  1. Satellite TV Says:

    It may be quite time consuming finding satellite tv on line. You sometimes have to search through a tonne of junk to discover the real deal. Cheers for this first rate article.

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