How Digital Television Works

Buying a Digital TV Set

If you go to an electronics store today to buy a new TV set, there are four types of sets that you will see on the shelf:

  • Analog TV sets
  • Digital-ready sets - They should be identified as standard definition (SDTV) sets. These TVs are normally 480p displays with a digital tuner built in. The problem with these sets is that their maximum resolution is the low 480p SD resolution, so if you want to watch high-definition TV, you won't be able to use these sets.
  • HDTV-ready sets - These sets are essentially monitors able to display 1080i/p resolution in the 16:9 aspect ratio. They may or may not have tuners built in.
  • Integrated HDTV sets - These sets have a digital tuner for broadcast DTV signals integrated into an HDTV display. With the standards changing so much, you may end up paying for an integrated tuner that becomes obsolete.

The preferred way to handle HDTV is to purchase the components separately:


  • A 16:9 HDTV display capable of 720p and 1080i/p resolution
  • A digital receiver
  • An antenna

Since the HDTV display will be the most expensive piece and will likely last 10 years or more, buying the components in this way allows you to change the receiver if you need to. There are currently three types of receivers:

  1. You can purchase a set-top box and a Yagi antenna to receive broadcast HDTV signals.
  2. You can purchase a set-top box and a small satellite dish to receive HDTV signals from a satellite. 
  3. You can purchase a board for your computer that lets you use your hard disk as an HDTV storage device, along with a Yagi antenna, and use it to receive signals on both your computer monitor and your HDTV display.

For more information on digital television and related topics, check out the links below.

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