High Definition is coming so make sure you've got the right kind of TV to see it at its best. Starting with Sky in early 2006, HDTV should become widely available over the next few years - certainly during the lifespan of a new TV. If you are considering buying a good quality plasma, for example, be prepared to spend more. Beware especially of the cheapest deals - these are usually non-HD screens being cleared. In the early stages HD will be a premium Sky channel package. You'll also need a new receiver, such as a Sky+HD box.
To help you choose from the increasing number of flatscreens and projectors, the industry got together to agree a European HDTV standard and issue an HD-Ready logo. To show the benefits of HD, a screen or projector must be able to display 720 lines in progressive scan or 1,080 interlaced. This is about twice that of standard TV, and much more horizontally, so it needs a product with about 1,280x720 pixels.
For full effect and maximum future-proofing, the higher the resolution the better, preferably 1,920x1,080. High Definition PAL signals also run at 50Hz, ruling out older, cheaper flat TVs that only accept HD pictures (if at all) at NTSC's 60Hz.
Digital connections in the form of HDMI or HDCP-compliant DVI sockets will be widely used. Although initial Sky+HD boxes will offer analogue component ports to also relay HDTV, some programmes could be excluded, so only displays with compatible digital video inputs are certain to work with everything.
Unlike traditional tube-based CRT TVs, plasmas are a natural for HD due to their large size and increasing HD-compatibility. The original flat-panel TVs, they use thousands of electrically charged gas cells. Plasma boasts a wider contrast range than LCD and faster reaction time for minimal blurring with moving images. However you can get a few 'dead subpixels' that are stuck on red, green or blue. Also, if a static picture or non-moving part of an image - such as the interactive red dot or a news channel logo - is left on too long, it can burn permanently into the panel.
Price: £3,000 www.pioneer.co.uk
This fifth generation plasma in Pioneer's range features a stylish tabletop design (it is also wall mountable), a 43in wide panel and excellent image handling designed to recreate an authentically cinematic picture from high quality sources. It's the second generation Pioneer to carry HDMI, too.
LCD - Liquid Crystal Display
LCD TVs evolved from calculators, watches and slim PC monitors to pose a threat to tube TVs because even 32in LCD images are bright and clear (some manufacturers go bigger but image quality has yet to rival plasma at this scale). Advantages include flatness of course, low power consumption and high resolutions by default, though not always with digital video inputs. Prices are dropping but drawbacks include dead pixels (as with plasma, though less noticeable), narrower viewing angles compared to CRT and plasma, and a lower contrast range, so that deep blacks look grey instead. Newer thin-display technologies such as OLED, PLED and SED are set to improve on LCD but not yet.
Price: £1,300 www.toshiba.co.uk
This good value 32-inch LCD flatscreen TV has the all-important HDMI digital input and a high resolution panel to show HDTV's enhanced picture to decent effect. It also has excellent contrast and reaction time for an LCD as well as Toshiba's superb Active Vision technology for handling moving images.
Projectors fall mainly into two popular formats - those using LCD or DLP imaging chips. Both can be used as either standalone 'front' projectors to beam onto a wall or screen, or housed within fixed TV-like cabinets featuring their own screen, commonly called rear-projection TVs.
DLP is gaining ground in rear projection due to its high contrast and detailed images, with colour reproduction improving each year. It's also becoming common in front projection too, with good models being competitively priced against home cinema LCD projectors. LCD in rear-pro is mainly used to make big, cheap TVs that aren't necessarily HD compatible, though Sony has made classy new successors to its Grand Wega (grouped into a '3LCD' range) that are fully HD ready.
DLP is supposedly more durable over time but some viewers are bothered by a multicoloured halo around bright parts of the image, visible when your eyes move. These 'rainbow artefacts' are a side effect of the colour wheel used to help create the image with single-chip DLPs. Only expensive pro-quality projectors carry three DLP chips.
Three-chip LCD models, however, are more affordable and can be very cinema like. If they use techniques to minimise LCD's inherent drawback of relatively low contrast and the mesh pattern caused by gaps between pixels, then LCD front projectors are a good big-screen option.
Price: £1,700 www.panasonic.co.uk
This three-chip LCD front projector was tuned by Hollywood experts for perfect colour performance. With its native 1,280 x 720 resolution, impressive 2,000:1 contrast and improved 'Smooth Screen' system to make LCD images look cleaner, this model offers great quality for the price.
SIM2 Domino 55M
Guide price: £4,500 www.sim2.co.uk
Astonishingly bright, lightweight and relatively slim, this is a luxury DLP rear-projection TV with HDMI. The 55in 1,280x720 resolution picture is breathtakingly clear and holds up under close scrutiny, unlike some plasmas.
Got any questions about HDTV? Why not ask them in our forum?
I have just read the recent article on HDTV Screens and found it really useful as I am looking to purchase a new TV.
Whilst the recommended Toshiba model looks good I just wondered if anyone could recommend some alternative models for me to compare that are equally HDTV ready especially for the Sky transmission that I believe to be different to most?