HDTV For Dummies Cheat Sheet - dummies
Cheat Sheet

HDTV For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From HDTV For Dummies, 2nd Edition

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

Nowadays, there are so many options out there for you to choose from when shopping for an HDTV. How do you know which one to buy? You want to make sure it has what you need. Here are a few good things you should know about before you spend a ton of money on that new TV.

Input Jacks on Your HDTV

Input jacks only receive broadcast signals and programs from your audio/video devices so you can watch them on your HDTV. You’ll probably see most or all of the following audio/video input jacks on your HDTV:

  • ANT-IN: Two or more ports for

    • NTSC analog and ATSC off-air signals

      These ports work for ATSC only if you have an HDTV with a built-in HDTV (or ATSC) tuner.

    • Analog and digital cable-TV signals

      These ports work for digital cable only if you have a DCR (digital-cable-ready) HDTV with a built-in QAM tuner.

  • HDMI In: Most HDTVs today have at least one, if not two, HDMI inputs, which can accept the output of an HDTV set-top box or receiver, an up-converting DVD player, a Blu-ray or an HD DVD disc player, and some other devices (such as game consoles). HDMI handles both video and audio over a single cable, so you don’t need a separate input and cable for the audio portion of these signals.

  • DVI-D/HDCP IN: A digital-video input, usually teamed with two R/L inputs for audio.

    DVI-D/HDCP ports can’t plug into cables that are connected to a PC’s (similar) DVI-I connection. Nothing will blow up, but you won’t see a picture either!

  • Video In: Typically these inputs are in sets with

    • Composite-video and S-video inputs

    • Standard audio inputs

    In most cases, these inputs are connected to composite or S-video

    Your HDTV might require you to tell it whether you’re connecting to the composite-video or S-video jack. (Check your owner’s manual.)

  • Component Video In: Component-video plus standard-audio inputs for accepting signals from component-video systems such as Blu-ray players, HDTV set-top boxes, and gaming consoles.

  • PC inputs: Usually divided into

    • PC Audio Input: These audio jacks connect to the audio output ports on your PC.

    • PC Video Input: These video jacks connect to the video output port on your PC.

Output Jacks on Your HDTV

Output jacks send signals from your HDTV to your audio/video devices. With so many different options available, your output jacks are there so you can

  • Record, listen to, or distribute the programs

  • Control other devices

You probably can see most or all of the following audio/video output jacks on your HDTV:

  • IR Out: An infrared port for sending IR signals to control your attached devices.

  • Audio/video outputs: Usually an HDTV has two kinds of audio/video outputs that do a range of tasks:

    • REC Out: A “record out” connection for recording what you see on your HDTV to an analog VCR.

    • A/V Out: Regular composite-video and standard-audio outputs for connecting such devices as a VCR for editing and dubbing. Usually this output is bridged directly to an input; whatever is connected to the input jack goes to this output.

    These audio/video outputs usually have a couple of limitations:

    • They output a down-converted video signal, not HDTV.

    • You can’t adjust the audio volume with the TV remote.

  • Audio Only: HDTVs with a built-in HDTV tuner (ATSC or QAM) usually have a couple of outputs for sending audio to other devices, such as amplifiers, receivers, and decoders:

    • Digital Audio Out: A digital audio connection (usually an optical “Toslink” connector) for connecting external Dolby Digital enabled amplifiers, receivers, decoders, or other home-theater systems that receive optical audio.

    • Variable Audio Out: These are standard analog audio ports for connecting an analog amplifier with external speakers.

      Variable audio allows you to adjust the volume of your external sound system with your TV remote.

Many TVs have an on/off switch or setting within the on-screen display setup menu that governs how the onboard speakers are used. You might be able to switch your speakers so that either

  • The internal speakers carry all the normal audio signals.

  • The TV’s audio goes directly to the A/V receiver, and either

    • The TV’s speakers stay on playing back a stereo soundtrack.

    • The TV’s speakers are entirely off.

Choosing a Mount for Your HDTV

Like any construction project, it pays to plan and design well upfront. Mounting your HDTV gives you more options about how you might use it; likewise, how you might use the television can dictate the mount you buy and install. You run into three basic types of mounts:

  • Flat panel: Designed for plasma and LCD displays predominantly, you find versions for ceiling, wall, and pole mounts (for floor-based mounting). Flat-panel mounts can be static, pitch, and swing mounts. Static mounts don’t move. Pitch mounts pivot the display up and down. Swing mounts articulate up and down, and side-to-side.

  • Projector: Designed for projectors, these mounts are generally universal-style mounts that accept a lot of different projector models. This base mount unit is then complemented with other accessories for attachment to a ceiling, wall, pole, or other mount. If you have a drop ceiling, for instance, you would attach the projector mount to a variable-length pole that allows you to make your mount installation flush with the ceiling tiles.

  • Automated: Designed for applications where you want to hide your gear when not in use, automated mounts lift or drop your HDTV into the ceiling, floor, or cabinet. Click a button, and voilá, your TV is back. Automated swing mounts can, with the press of a button, swing your TV into a preprogrammed position.

You can install many mounts yourself. However, if you’re thinking about an automated mounting solution, plan to hire someone. A whole different level of expertise is typically required to manage the environmental, electrical, and other design elements of a successful implementation. If you mess up this one, you could end up dropping an expensive TV (ouch) or burning the house down (double ouch!).

Tips for Choosing Where You Get Your HDTV Content

There’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you probably have a choice of where you get your HDTV content. The bad news is, well, you have to choose. Sometimes, making your choice means hours of research and poring over websites, trying to figure out what works best to fit your HDTV needs.

Because HDTV availability is highly dependent upon exactly where you live (right down to the street address; it can differ even within neighborhoods), here’s some general advice.

There’s nothing wrong with mixing and matching amongst these different sources. For example, if you want local HDTV content along with your satellite-TV source, you need to hook up an antenna to your dish and pick up the OTA broadcasts. Luckily, most HDTV satellite receivers have a built-in OTA HDTV tuner, so you don’t need extra equipment (beyond the antenna).

So, given that wishy-washy disclaimer (sorry, but it’s true!), here’s some advice:

  • Figure out what’s even available. Check out web sites and other resources, like your local provider to help you find out what you can get in your house.

  • Look at your budget. Keep in mind the fact that “free” OTA HDTV might not be free if you have an HDTV-ready system and need to spend hundreds of dollars on an external HDTV tuner. Cable, on the other hand, might include a monthly fee but doesn’t require any up-front expenses for tuners or set-top boxes. Many cable companies give you local HDTV channels free for the price of the set-top box rental. Satellite might have lower monthly fees than cable, but it also requires an up-front purchase of the receiver.

  • Examine closely the channel lineups available to you. Remember that quantity and quality are two different things. For example, a satellite company like DIRECTV might offer more HDTV channels than your local cable company, but you might not be interested in watching all of them, and you might not be able to get your local network affiliates in HDTV on the satellite system. Look for the channels that you love.

  • Consider the performance. Different providers require different levels of hardware and software. Likewise, providers perform differently depending on where you are and what is available in your area. Not all signals are created equal.