We took the plunge this Christmas. We bought a wide-screen high-definition (HD) television for the family. Now, we’ve been on satellite TV (Star Choice) for quite a few years (we have no access to cable TV here in rural Alberta), so we had access to HD programming; but without an HD TV and HD satellite receiver, it didn’t mean much to us.

Of course that is the problem with switching to HD–you have to make a significant investment in equipment. But that’s not all. You have to understand something about what you are buying, and HD techno-language was all new to me. What is always frustrating is how stores and sales reps just assume you understand all the jargon when obviously most of their customers do not (exception: the Best Buy website has much information–when looking at the product details, click on any of the titles for a glossary of terms–very helpful).

After doing much research on the web, we decided on a Samsung 40 inch 1080p, 120 hz, LCD screen. What does all that mean? 40 inch refers to the diagonal dimension of the screen–a 40 inch screen more than filled our requirements for our small living room.

1080p refers to the resolution of the screen, 1080 pixels being the maximum available today and best for HD TV–although smaller resolutions are adequate for screens smaller than 40 inches. In comparing TVs we did notice a difference between 1080 and 720 pixels.

120 hz refers to the refreshing rate. Most screens refresh at 60 hz, but if you are watching sports or video games, you may notice blurring of fast moving objects. 120 hz reduces the blurring. On our display the rate can be adjusted with 120 hz being the limit.

LCD refers to liquid-crystal-diode, the light source delivering the picture–the screen is made up of thousands of LCDs. LCD screens are lighter than their plasma counterparts, use less power and work best in a brightly lit room. Plasma screens used to deliver the best pictures and the larger ones still do, but recently LCD has closed the quality gap and in screens 50 inches and smaller their quality is just as good if not better.

The Samsung picture was the best we saw in the stores. Contrast was good. Also the sound was excellent. As well, the company has an excellent reputation for these kind of TVs.

After securing the TV we next had to switch our satellite receiver for one that could interpret HD signals. We purchased a Digital Video Recorder receiver that allows us to record one show while watching another. It also lets you pause a live show–a great feature that ensures you don’t miss anything because, for example, you had to take a telephone call or go to the bathroom. The DVR might have been the best investment :-).

Getting the DVR receiver is one thing; installing it is another. I already had the appropriate satellite dish on the house, so it was just a matter of switching receivers, right? Wrong. A DVR requires two (2) cables coming from the dish, one for the picture you are watching, the other for the picture you are recording. So, I had to purchase a cable; and on a cold afternoon, attach it to the dish and string it down to my basement, where I made the appropriate ground connections and pushed it through the floor to the receiver along with the previously installed cable.

Now, everything is ready, right? Wrong! I had to figure out the connections between the receiver and the display. The TV manual was the most informative about what to do, as was the Star Choice DVR manual–but the latter had to be downloaded from the Star Choice website–why it wasn’t in the receiver box I don’t know.

However, there are several options as to how to hook up an HD receiver to an HD display. At the store, the clerks wanted to sell me an HDMI cable–an expensive thing that I was told would transmit the best HD signal to the TV. Not knowing what was already in the box, I did not purchase that cable–good thing! As I eventually learned on-line and from a Star Choice technician over the phone, the HDMI cable works well only with display screens 53 inches or larger. So, I connected the display to the receiver with the supplied component cables. The picture and sound are great.

So, since I made my call to Star Choice to register the receiver, everything has been working well. It was an involved process that probably could have been made a lot easier by more focused user manuals–but at least it was a process which solution I did eventually solve.

So, what’s wrong with that?



About Don Meredith

I am a writer and biologist living in Alberta, Canada. I wrote a monthly column for the Alberta Outdoorsmen magazine, and have published articles for several other magazines.
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