As TV technology advances, the number of options becomes increasingly bewildering. At the top of the list for most new TVs is HD (high definition) capacity: the ability to display high-definition programming with the sharpness and clarity for which it is intended. A number of TVs are HD ready, but how can you tell which ones they are? Advertising and salesmen can sometimes obscure the issue. Some telltale signs can help clue you in and ensure that you get the HD-ready TV you want.
Understand the difference between HD and digital. A digital TV is simply one set up to receive digital programming--which all U.S. television stations will broadcast by summer 2009. Digital programming can still come in at a lower resolution than HD, however, and while all HDTVs are digital, not all digital TVs are HD. Make sure you know the distinction before you buy.
Check the front of the TV or the owner's manual for a small sign reading "HD Ready." That's the quickest and easiest way to settle the issue.
Check the TV's resolution number. Resolution is displayed in a number, followed by the letter "p" or "i." The number tells you how many horizontal lines your TV screen can hold. The "i" stands for "interlaced," which means your image flickers back and forth between one half of the lines and the other half (the image looks fine, but it results in the "flicker" effect displayed by many TVs). The "p" stands for "progressive," which means that every line on your TV is used to display the image. Standard definition TVs have a resolution of 480i (480 horizontal lines on the screen, delivered in interlaced form.) Higher resolution TVs provide resolution of 480p, 720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. A true HDTV will offer 1080p or 1080i resolution. You can find the resolution listing in the owner's manual under the number of vertical pixels on the screen.
Makes sure that you are receiving an HD signal from your cable or satellite provider and that the receiver you use is HD ready as well. If you don't, the signals you receive won't be high definition. (HDTV owners without cable or satellite can still receive high definition signals from network TV.)
Beware of confusing specifications such as "HD compatible," or the presence of HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) cable outlets in the back (they're thin and rectangular as opposed to round). HD compatible means that the set offers HD jacks, but doesn't mean that the screen itself is HD ready.