Remember when buying a television was easy?
You just settled on what size you wanted and chose a cabinet in black, silver or the look of real wood.
Now you have a plethora of choices, including technologies such as LCD, plasma and DLP rear projection. And youre shopping with the knowledge that whichever type you pick, it will get more advanced technologically and less taxing financially if you just wait a little longer.
The latest thing to watch for is a mysterious number-letter combination that has been cropping up increasingly in advertisements and reviews: 1080p. The term is sometimes mentioned in hushed, reverent tones, as if it were a secret covenant known only to those who have reached the highest state of consumer electronics enlightenment.
Its the maximum possible resolution in high-definition television.
Technically, it refers to an image that is made up of 1,080 lines of digital information. The p stands for progressive - a regimen that scans those lines all at once 60 times a second for a brighter image than with earlier scan technologies.
Until recently, only a handful of 1080p models were available, and they cost several thousand dollars more than the more common 720p sets.
But this year, 1080p has gone mainstream. You can purchase a 1080p, 42-inch LCD flat-panel set for as little as about $1,800.
A TV at 720p is available for about $1,000.
Is 1080p worth the premium cost? Experts are divided, mostly because no home TV channels - whether conveyed by broadcast, cable or satellite - show programming in resolution as high as 1080p.
Richard Doherty, head of consulting firm Envisioneering Group, thinks that will change.
If you plan to keep your TV a long time, youll get the benefit, he said. I would be surprised if there is not broadcast of 1080p within a decade.
While youre waiting, there are movies that can be viewed in 1080p. These are in the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats, which are kind of like regular DVDs on steroids. Studios are turning out more and more of these upgraded discs, especially of recent releases. But you will need either a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player to play them.
Van Baker, a research analyst at Gardner Inc., wasnt so bullish on 1080p for home users.
We are in the era of specs-manship, he said. People have gotten hung up on the numbers.
The real question is, how much resolution do you really need?
Baker doesnt foresee that broadcast or cable channels will be offering up 1080p programming anytime soon because it uses up valuable bandwidth.
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