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HDTV (High-Definition Television) is the most advanced of 18 Advanced Television (ATSC) formats dreamt up by the industry in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has given broadcasters until 2006 to offer an HD signal, but there has been a lot of foot-dragging due to the immense costs of converting to HD. Full-blown HDTV has a built-in digital HD receiver and usually cost more. While HDTV-ready sets (meaning they have no internal digital receiver and require separate digital receivers), also known as high-resolution monitors are much cheaper.
HDTV sets are by industry definition 16:9, as opposed to the current analog standard of 4:3. This widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9 means you get to watch movies the way you would see them in the theater.
Yes, HDTV resolution displays are more expensive, but unlike most people think, it is not always better. It is claimed that there is 10-15% increase in image quality in HDTV (all other factors the same) when receiving HDTV signals. But depending on the manufacturer, the specific contrast ratio, brightness factors, even for HDTV signals, some non-HDTV/EDTV displays work better. Also, for conventional TV and DVD, mostly non-HDTV provides better image quality because less tempering is needed.
Then, why HDTV? There is 2 major reasons 1) ready for the future when more broadcasters offer HDTV signals 2) the high-resolution of HDTV displays is better for DTV signals, e.g. computer display. In the world of DTV (digital signal), higher resolution = better quality, period. Most computers use 1024x768 resolution and the typical 853 x 480 resolution for most non-HDTV is obviously not good enough for it. HDTV plasma TVs 42" and up uses 1024 x 768 or greater resolution and allows better quality computer video playback.
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