Step 1: Start with a High Definition Television (HDTV)

Start with a High Definition Television (HDTV)

Start with a High Definition Television (HDTV)

On February 17, I started a series for “cord cutters”, with a Blog entitled 6 Steps to Cutting the Cord of Cable.  In that, I presented a summary of what would need to be done in order to dump cable or satellite TV in favor of using a combination of Over The Air (OTA) for local stations and Streaming content from the Internet.

In today’s blog, I elaborate on Step 1: Start with a High Definition Television (HDTV).

It’s hard to believe that just 10 years ago, I updated my TV to a Sony WEGA model that had a flat display (it was still a CRT), 480p (progressive scan), and could handle a 16:9 aspect ratio by putting black bars at the top and bottom. I was able to get very nice pictures with a progressive scan DVD player and later with a digital tuner box if connected into the component (RGB) jacks.

Today, LCD, plasma and LED screens are common.  They provide flat screen viewing, high definition resolution at 720p and 1080p with HDMI inputs.  The network-enabled versions can handle streaming content right there in the TV, without the need for an external box (to be covered in Step 4).  With sizes ranging from 20″ to 72″ diagonal screen measurement, they cover the whole range of table top and wall-mounted options.

While you can certainly make this whole setup work with 480 lines of resolution on a 4:3 standard definition TV, I don’t recommend it.  You’ll be missing out on the joy of crisp images and modern connectivity.  Some may tell you that you need to have 1080 lines, but my experience is that 720 is fine up to 45″ diagonal.

Then there are the technology options… should you get LCD, Plasma or LED?  These represent different methods of making the color picture elements (pixels) on the screen.  I’ve never been so techno-elitest that I can’t be happy with LCD, which has been around the longest and can be more affordable in the smaller sizes.  Plasma tends to have brighter colors and blacker blacks, and may be the best value today.  LED is the newest and usually costs more, but I’m not convinced the price differential is worth it.  The best advice I can give you here is to not spend as much time worrying about this as many people do.  In the end, you’ll care more about things like viewing angle, i.e. how far to the side can you still see the picture clearly?

If you are buying new, it’s worth considering getting an Internet-ready TV that can stream Netflix and other services directly into your TV.  I don’t own any of these, but it does cut down on the number of boxes and remote controls and that’s good for my parents, who have learned to use Netflix on their TV.  Sometimes simplicity rules.

In the end, you should expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $2000 on a TV.  You can overpay for a brand (Sony, Samsung), or go cheap on an off-brand (Insignia, Sceptre) that you might dislike once you begin to use it.  Middle of the road brands (Panasonic, LG, Vizio) are generally good safe value brands.  Just check the buyer comments and ratings before choosing a model.

For the record, I have two Samsung TVs, which I bought on sale in 2007, mounted on the walls and have never had a problem with either of them.  I also have an Optoma HD20 projector in the bonus room, now The Movie Room, which is mounted upside down on the ceiling.  I built a screen for the wall and installed a home theater sound system.  Pictures are up in my Facebook photo album for those of you who have access to my photo albums.

My plan is to use the existing TVs that I own now — I won’t be buying any new TVs.  But you might have to, so do a little homework and let me know if you have any questions.

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