What You Should Know Before You Buy

Digital Television (DTV) is a new type of broadcasting that will transform your television viewing experience.  That means better quality, more choices, and more control over your television.

Here's what you should know about DTV before you buy:

Compare DTV picture quality.  DTV comes in several levels of picture quality.  The most common are: High Definition Television (HDTV), Enhanced Definition Television (EDTV) and Standard Definition Television (SDTV).  HDTV is DTV at its finest.  With HDTV, you can enjoy a true home theater experience.  EDTV is a step up from basic television.  SDTV is the basic display.

Make sure you have all the DTV equipment you need.  DTV equipment can be purchased as an integrated set or as separate components.  "Integrated" digital televisions have built-in tuners and a monitor to display the programming.  If you buy a DTV monitor (without an integrated tuner), you will need a stand-alone tuner, cable set-top box, or satellite set-top box to watch DTV.

HDTV is not the same as DTV.  HDTV requires special equipment, so make sure to ask about HDTV-capable equipment and talk to your cable or satellite provider to verify you have the proper set-top box to view HDTV.

"Digital cable ready" (or "plug-and-play") televisions are also available.  These can be used to receive digital cable TV (and often HD over cable) without a separate set-top box.  A CableCARD is needed to watch certain cable programming. These televisions do not work directly with satellite - you still need a set-top box to view satellite programming.

Compare screen types.  You have a choice in DTV screens.  Today, the primary options are:  Cathode ray tube (CRT) screens - traditional color television screens updated for digital; Rear Projection TVs - rear projection TVs can create brilliant, wide angle pictures on ever-larger screens; LCD screens - are very thin and produce extremely clear pictures, but are currently expensive and limited in size; Plasma screens - create a bright, clear picture up to enormous sizes while remaining very thin.

Ask what connectors you need to make sure your new DTV set works with your other electronic equipment (DVD player, digital video recorder (DVR), camcorder, VCR, computer, video games, and other equipment).  The electronic equipment you have now should work with your new DTV, but you may need new connectors.  Make a list of what you have now and ask your retailer what you need to connect the components.

Your current TV will not be obsolete at the end of the transition to DTV.  Your current TV will work once the DTV transition is complete but you must have a digital set-top converter box to receive broadcast signals or be connected to a cable or satellite service.  This converter box, much like your cable box, will allow you to receive a picture, but it won't be able to show high-definition pictures or give you access to other digital services.  To experience the full benefits of digital television, you will need a digital television set.

Source:  http://www.dtv.gov