1) Yes, analog TV is on the way out. The FCC ordered a phased transition to digital TV, and Congress is mulling a “hard date” bill that would cut off analog signals after 2006.
2) HDTV isn’t the only flavor of digital television — there’s also standard definition and enhanced def, which are miles better than analog. But high definition is by far the highest quality.
3) You’ll need both an HD display and an HD tuner.
4) Watch out for the “HD-ready” or “HD-compatible” label, which usually means the set does not have a built-in HD tuner, so you’ll need to buy one.
5) Most HD sets deliver a 16:9 aspect ratio (i.e., widescreen), which suits the way the eye naturally focuses and looks more like the images we see in theaters.
6) HD broadcasts in 5.1 surround sound, which means cinema-quality sound right there in the family room (assuming you’ve got the right sound system).
7) Low-tech touch: Much of HD programming comes from your cable- or satellite-TV provider. But if you also want “off-air” HD content — like your local stations — you’ll need an old-fashioned antenna to haul in the signal.
8) Oh yeah, money: You can spend anywhere from a few hundred bucks to $30,000 and up, depending on what kind of home-
theater extravaganza you want to build.
— Chris Tucker