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The Year in Review: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Information Overload! Take HDTV for Example

Well, we're into the final throes of 2006. Here are some of my thoughts and feelings about the year. I'm speaking as a tech enthusiast, not a tech journalist. I own a number of the products I write about here and I care passionately about them and how they work. This isn't everything I'd like to write, but it's about the most important areas from my perspective.

If there is a theme for my experience this year it's that too much happened for any one person to fully comprehend it all and make easy and timely product buying decisions. Pick the area, take a 12 month view and in most areas you'll find lots of new and improved products that you need to get your brain around and you hands on. While many "new and improved" products are me-too in nature, every year brings us new technologies that implement innovative concepts and make us sit up, take notice and start checking our financial status to see if we can afford to buy them.

For example, though it has been around for at least a couple of years, HDTV sprung full-blown on the scene in 2006. I know that because I, ever the optimistic early adopter, started getting serious (read "salivating") about HDTV early in the year. By October, I had joined the swelling ranks of awestruck, open-mouthed HDTV owners. That's the kind of shock and awe I like. Even though my cable company provides a very limited number of HDTV channels, I, my wife and our cat (really) love watching the crisp, wide 3D-like pictures that flit across the screen. We also love standard DVDs with movies in 16:9 format that are up-converted by our DVD player to beautiful high definition quality. Unless we absolutely have to, we rarely watch crappy old standard def TV any more.

HP's MediaSmart SLC3760N HDTV

For all the good stuff associated with my purchase of an HDTV monitor (none of that Mickey Mouse built-in HD tuner stuff for me), I've now got enough new issues to keep me awake for at least the next several months and enough stuff to urge our Den Guru site to tackle for most of next year. Here are a couple of the HDTV issues I've faced this year.

When I selected my HDTV monitor, I was fortunate enough to know about what I call the "i"s and the "p"s. I went for a monitor capable of 1080p resolution; 1080 lines horizontally with progressive ("p") as opposed to usually inferior interlaced ("i") scanning. 1080p is currently the highest resolution and image quality available. When push came to shove, could I really tell the difference between 1080p and 768p or 480p or between these and the "i" versions on the monitor? Not always, but sometimes I could.

This lack of significant differences is attributable to the fact that with today's hodgepodge of resolutions and scanning alternatives, images often have to be converted between resolutions and scanning technologies. So you rarely know where what you're watching came from. However, even if the 1080p decision makes little difference technically, I sleep better at night knowing I have it.

Westinghouse's LVM-47WL HDTV

Of course, there's already serious talk about an even higher resolution HDTV image standard. At the price I paid for my monitor, I won't be salivating about that standard for quite some time.

I've not been as successful working out another of the HDTV quandaries I've encountered: How to record those monster HDTV signals. There are HDTV hard disk and DVD solutions, but they're either expensive or I can't yet figure out how to get HDTV signals to them through my receiver. This involves HDMI connectors and cables, which carry both Hi Def video and audio as well as the current crop of audio/video receivers most of which have very limited HDMI signal handling capabilities. You'll hear more from us about all this and other HDTV issues next year.

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