By Jorge Sosa
My fellow Americans, 2009 will bring sweeping change to our country. The change has been a long time coming, and our lives will never be the same. I'm referring, of course, to the big digital TV changeover on Feb. 17.
That's the deadline for all full-power TV stations to cease broadcasting regular analog signals and start exclusively broadcasting in digital. Needless to say, this is a perfect excuse to go out and buy a new TV.
"It seems like you have be a genius to go about purchasing an idiot box."
If you're like me, you might have noticed this is now a process that seems about a bajillion times harder than it has to be. The last time I bought a TV, it was an old-school CRT model. "Bigger is better" was the one-and-only simple rule. Now, there's a whole new lexicon to learn and it seems like you have be a genius to go about purchasing an idiot box.
What follows is my personal cheat sheet on the digital TV hoohah. It's even in plain English, and yes, "hoohah" is a real word.
High Definition TV sets allow you to watch programming that's of higher detail and sharpness then standard TV. Most HDTV sets out there are widescreen models, in part because a lot of network TV digital programming is broadcast in a widescreen format.
HDTV sets commonly come in of four types: plasma, LCD, DLP or LCoS.
In high-school physics, you probably learned that plasma is a fourth state of matter apart from solids, liquids and gases. It's what stars and ball lightning are made out of and it is literally what's inside plasma flatscreen TVs.
Plasma TVs consist of a grid of hundreds of thousands of cells sandwiched between panes of glass. The cells contain gas which is zapped with electricity, converting the gas to plasma and emitting light.
Plasma displays are large and very bright, but expensive. Also, they have a history of not lasting as long as other HDTV types.
LCDs or liquid crystal displays use the same underlying technology as the screen on your pocket calculator. LCDs are the most common type of flat-panel display, with about a 50 percent market share of all TVs sold this year. They are popular because they are energy efficient and less expensive than other technologies.
LCDs have long had several disadvantages such as limited viewing angles, somewhat washed-out reproduction of blacks, and "ghosting" when onscreen images rapidly change. However, LCDs have come a long way in recent years and are approaching the display quality of plasmas.