Despite all of the hype surrounding HDTV and all of the technology surrounding it, there is still evidence that the consumer electronics industry isn’t doing enough to educate consumers about what exactly the technology is and what is required to set it up in private homes.
Apparently there is still widespread confusion about the details of High Definition Television and the fact that consumers are confused means that they’re poorly equipped to make good decisions when it comes time to purchase these devices that they’ve heard so much about, but about which they know so little.
The biggest and most common misconception is that HDTV is a type of TV set with a flat panel design and a 16:9 screen that improves the home entertainment experience by merit of its pure size, the fact that it can be hung on a wall, and the fact that the screen is proportioned so that it can display movies and all of the TV programming which is increasingly shot in wide screen format.
There are so many errors in perception rolled up in the above scenario that it’s difficult to know where to begin unraveling them all. First of all, there is a lot more to HDTV than just an HDTV set. HDTV is a TV format and an HDTV set is the instrument needed to display it. The fact that HDTV sets can display normal TV too is a bonus. Second, while a large screen is nice, there are a lot of HDTV sets that have smaller screens that deliver excellent pictures and may be a better choice for anyone who is going to watch a lot of normal TV programming on it. (The fact that normal TV doesn’t deliver very high resolutions becomes very apparent when watching it on a larger HDTV set.) Third, flat panel displays (the type of TV screen that can be hung on a wall) may be trendy, but they’re only one type equipment that can display HDTV. There are also projection screen TVs and HDTV projectors, either of which may be a better choice depending on the room your home theater will be installed in and your budget.
The most stifling misunderstanding of all, and one that was touched on earlier, is that anything that is displayed on an HDTV set automatically becomes HDTV. This misconception has led to numerous people getting an new HDTV set home and then finding that they’re dissatisfied with the picture that it produces because they’re displaying normal TV on it. Depending on the size of the HDTV screen and whether or not it has built in upconversion technology, normal TV programming might look even worse on an HDTV display than it does on an old fashioned TV set. A normal TV signal has 480 lines of resolution, so when it’s displayed on an HDTV set that is capable of displaying up to 1080 lines of resolution, it can end up looking pretty grainy. There just isn’t enough data in the normal TV signal for the HDTV set to work with. This results in the owner of the new set deciding that it must be defective and taking it back to the store.
All of this could be avoided by some educational efforts on the part of both retailers and consumers.