Numerous television programs are broadcast in high definition, which provides a much crisper and more detailed image than standard definition. Many prime-time network shows, popular sporting events and upper-end programs on cable stations like HBO are already broadcast in high definition, and in the future, it’s quite likely that all programing will be HD in some capacity or another. To take full advantage of the format, however, you need an HD-ready television set that can display the image as clearly as it is sent. And that means you need to know determine if your TV fits the bill.
1. Check the packaging. The fastest way to determine if a TV is HD-ready is to look for the term “High Definition” on its box or the cover of its instruction manual. Note that “high definition” is not the same thing as “digital.” You can get a digital TV that still can’t display images in HD.
2. Examine the input ports in the back of the TV. High-definition signals usually must be sent through HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) cables. HDMI ports are thin and rectangular, as opposed to RCA ports, S-video ports or composite video ports, which are round. In addition, the ports should be clearly labeled “HDMI” to forestall any confusion. If your TV doesn’t have one, it likely can’t receive HD programming.
3. Read the instruction manual (or ask the salesperson if you haven’t bought the TV yet) to see how strong the TV’s input signal is. The input signal measures the number of pixels (lines of color) the TV screen can hold. It also tells you if the signal is displayed via an interlaced signal (in which the TV flickers between one half of the lines and the other half very quickly) or a progressive signal (in which the TV uses every line of pixels on its screen). (Progressive signals are preferable, because they don’t flicker.) The input signal is measured by a number followed by a small “p” or “i.” So a TV with a 720p signal has 720 lines of pixels displayed in a progressive format, while 1080i means a TV with 1080 lines of pixels displayed in an interlaced format. Most HD TVs are capable of at least 720p resolution.