How to Get the Most From Your HDTV

Step 1: The Right Connections

(1) RCA connectors, (2) an RF connector and (3) an HDMI connector
(1) RCA connectors, (2) an RF connector and (3) an HDMI connector
Image courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper

Before you can watch your HDTV, you have to connect it to something that will give it a signal to display. This can be a cable or satellite receiver, an antenna, a DVD player, a game console or a combination of devices. It all depends on which electronic devices you own and how many of them you want to use with your TV.

In general, you'll need to use new, high-quality cables to carry signals from these devices to your TV. Extremely cheap or worn-out cables can lower the quality of the picture you see. You don't have to buy the most expensive cables to get the best picture, but it's generally a good idea to upgrade the ones that came with your set and with your other electronic devices.

You'll also need to connect everything using the highest-quality connection type available. Sending a high-quality signal through a low-quality connection can cause your picture to suffer. For example, if you use an analog composite video connection to connect your top-of-the-line DVD player to your HDTV, you'll lose data in the process. Similarly, if you send a high-definition signal through a connection that can't support it, you won't see a high-definition image.

Most HDTV sets have lots of places to connect cords and cables. The chart below will show you what the different connections are and what they should be used for.

Those connections can seem a little overwhelming, so here's what you should keep in mind:

  • Use RF or cable connections to connect cable boxes, satellite dishes and antennas only, and only if those devices do not support a higher-quality connection. For example, if your set-top satellite or cable box will support component video, use that instead. Don't use RF connections for DVD players or other digital devices -- your picture quality will suffer.
  • Use digital connections, like DVI and HDMI connections, for digital devices whenever possible. Keeping the signal in a digital format from beginning to end preserves its quality.
  • If you can't use a digital connection, use a component video connection. Component video is the highest-quality analog connection available. You'll still lose a little signal quality because of digital-to-analog conversion, but you'll lose far less than with S-video or composite connections.

We'll look at how to correctly configure your HDTV next.