Have the bastards sorted out the competing standards yet? I’d like to buy one, but it seems pretty pointless if I’d just have to buy a new one in a few years.

Theoretically, by 2006, all stations must be broadcasting digital TV exclusively. I doubt that will actually happen, but the writing is on the wall.

Here are the resolutions you need to worry about:

480i – standard definition TV, interlaced.
480p – widescreen models, aka “extended definition”, typically 852x480
720p – widescreen, 1280x720, progressive scan
1080i – widescreen, interlaced, 1920x1080

Having said that, it’s a crapshoot as to the actual TV. CRT TV’s have variable resolutions, so an HD unit that’s labeled “1080i” may not actually do full res, but has hardware that generally does a good job of scaling the image so it looks correct.

Any TV with the HDTV logo can accept all four above – but the TV may scale to a different resolution. For example, there are lots of 1080i units out there, but relatively few 720p units. 720p is actually more demanding due to the lack of interlacing. But any 1080i set can accept 720p and scale. So if you get a TV with the HDTV logo, you won’t really have to worry about what resolution it supports – unless you want to hook up a PC to it.

If you want to get really deep into this, check out avsforum (www.avsforum.com). But be aware that it can be a huge time sink. Kinda like PC hardware ;-)

My wife and I are going through the HD debate too. We need a new TV, we want widescreen and HD, but we don’t want to buy something that’s going to a) become obsolete in just a few years or b) overpay for a technology whose price plummets the day after we buy it. We also aren’t sure if we want the hassels of a dish, and our local cable company can’t seem to make up its mind about offering HD through the cable. Broadcast HD isn’t really an option for us–we don’t get good reception in our area.

It’s a pain.

One other key issue if you want to stave off obsolescence is to make sure the TV has a DVI input with HDCP copy protection. This will allow HDTV set-top boxes (cable and satellite) to connect easily. In the future, when more HD content is available, you will only be able to get 480i unless you have a DVI connector with HDCP or one of the newer HDMI connectors that will come out later this year. But HDMI will not obsolete DVI, just be more convenient going forward.

So the answer is “fuck it, the market hasn’t cleared out yet.” :D

Actually, it’s pretty clear:

Anything with the HDTV logo and a DVI input will not be obsolete
for at least a few years.

Decision on other features are up to you of course.

will not be obsolete
for at least a few years.

So at 3 years, that would be $1,000 per year before it is obsolete?

“Few” > 3.

I’d say more than double that. After that, set-top boxes will
have adapters, so that extends it even more.

HDTVs are dropping in price. Samsung makes a direct view
30" for under $1000. There are more sub-$1k units arriving,
though I do not know if they support DVI – but most new
sets will have it by year’s end.

Last I heard, the 2006 deadline was a pipe dream and it was more likely going to be 2009 or even later. However, prices for HD screens are dropping fast (direct view, plasma, and rear projection), so consumer demand will likely push broadcasters faster than Congress. Already the competition between DirectTV and cable has pushed Comcast to offer a few HD channels on their digital lineup.

Also, for what it’s worth, DirectTV is adding a dedicated HDTV satellite in the near future, or something like that. For HDTV owners, that means adding another, whatsitcalled, LMB to the double LMB dish you already own. Right now DirectTV isn’t saying what programming they’re planning on offering but I imagine that ESPN HD is right up there and hopefull at least one of the major networks.

Despite all the confusion over HDTV standards, a widescreen HD-capable set is still worth buying. Hook up a progressive-scan DVD player to it and you’ve got a near-film quality picture.

DVDs are 720x480 resolution, right?

It’s interesting that my old school Sony non-hdtv Wega is capable of producing a legible, reasonably crisp 800x600 screen in Windows XP when connected via s-video to my HTPC.

That implies, to me, that I’m not missing much by not having HDTV for DVDs.

I’m talking about widescreen. The HDTV part makes no difference–most widescreen sets are sold without HDTV tuners anyway.

Oh, yeah. Widescreen is nice, agreed. I think Lloyd purchased a widescreen HDTV model.

I bought a Toshiba 40" widescreen almost 4 years ago. Absolutely amazing TV, especially after I had it professionally calibrated. I’m probably going to buy a Pioneer Elite 53" very soon because I’m itching for a little more screen space.