High-definition TV: A buyer's guide

Are you hoping that Santa will bring you a little something extra to watch your favourite shows on this Christmas? Check out our guide to high-definition TVs and DVD players - and know your plasmas from your LCDs.

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Beginning with what "high-definition" generally refers to:
High-definition TV (HDTV) means TV programmes that are clearer and sharper. For instance, if you look at someone's hand on a HDTV you'll be more likely to see actual pores on the skin along with other details. This will give added "oomph" to your action movies and favourite shows. The thing that makes HDTV clearer in quality is the amount of lines and pixels, the greater these are, the better the viewing quality.

The choice of pixel and line sizes is 720p (whole picture loaded at once), 1080i (more lines and pixels), and 1080p (combines more lines and pixels along with immediate picture loading). 720p is the more affordable option, and suitable for most "general" viewing, but for gaming and Blu-ray enthusiasts the 1080p option would be a better choice.

To get these shows you'll need an HD ready TV, a set-top box and a subscription with a programmer that has HD TV shows (e.g BBC, Sky, Virgin Media). Note: Check before investing what percentage of shows are actually "high-definition" and whether it's just for a trial period. You can also watch high-definition programming via a HD-DVD/Blu-ray player. These player are bit like VHS/Beta video players (as in two different formats), though it looks like Blu-ray will win the overall battle. Now you just need the set to watch it on, so onto the next section.

What type of set to buy?
To add to the confusion, it's not just pixel and line size that affects your viewing experience, there are also two types of TV, plasma and LCD.

Plasma TVs
This is the choice for those who want larger TVs, so it's worth thinking about what would fit best in your room.
Also, they are better for contrast and for tracking motion, so if football-watching is your thing a Plasma may be the best bet.


This stands for liquid crystal display, and delivers even and brighter images; better suited for a well-lit room.
LCDs also tend to be smaller and lighter, so are more suitable for wall-hanging. However, an LCD can't track motion as well as plasma technologies can, so it's worth considering your viewing habits before investing.

Have you got a high-definition TV? Tell us what did or didn't work.