HDTV Image Gallery
HDTV Image Gallery

A woman walks along the Matsushita's 150-inch Advanced High-Definition Plasma Display.  See more HDTV pictures.

Junko Kimura/Getty Images

When the first high-definition television (HDTV) sets hit the market in 1998, movie buffs, sports fans and tech aficionados got pretty excited, and for good reason. Ads for the sets hinted at a television paradise with superior resolution and digital surround sound. With HDTV, you could also play movies in their original widescreen format without the letterbox "black bars" that some people find annoying.

But for a lot of people, HDTV hasn't delivered a ready-made source for transcendent experiences in front of the tube. Instead, people have gone shopping for a TV and found themselves surrounded by confusing abbreviations and too many choices. Some have even hooked up their new HDTV sets only to discover that the picture doesn't look good. Fortunately, a few basic facts easily dispel all of this confusion.

In this article, we'll look at the differences between analog, digital and high-definition, explain the acronyms and resolution levels and give you the facts on the United States transition to all-digital television. We'll also tell you exactly what you need to know if you're thinking about upgrading to HDTV.