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HDTV: Buying Guide, Part Two

Author: admin

In my first article I wrote how theres never been a better time to buy a high definition (HD) television, and I had just preordered the Samsung HS5087W 50 inch rear projection DP unit. The Samsung was delivered last Thursday and heres a summary of my initial reaction.
First let me give some background on preparing for the new HD television. Im a satellite TV subscriber and needed to upgrade my DirecTV hardware to be HDcompatible. So last month I logged on to http://www.directv.com and ordered the HD upgrade package. For $200 DirecTV came out and replaced my old satellite dish with a new 5NB oval HD dish. The HD package included the lease of DirecTVs new H20 HD receiver, and also included installing a new UHF antenna on my roof to receive othertheair (OTA) HD local broadcasts. The new dish and receiver were required for HD reception since DirecTV is transmitting local HD broadcasts in the new MPEG4 compression format instead of the older MPEG2 standard. Since HD material requires much more bandwidth than standard definition video, satellite and cable providers will be migrating to the new MPEG4 standard over time and DirecTV is leading the way for now.
I was now all set to receive HD programming as soon as Samsung HS5087W arrived with one exception an HDMI cable to output the digital video/audio signal from the H20 to the Samsung. Im a big believer in investing in high quality cables for analog connections between audio/video components. But HDMI is a digital interface that transmits a stream of 0s and 1s. So either it works or it doesnt. I therefore bought a $20 HDMI cable on the Web instead of investing $90 or more for a Monster cable that I thought would yield exactly the same audio and video quality. One great thing about HDMI is that it carries both video and audio signals (in uncompressed, digital form) so you can easily reduce the cable clutter behind your home theater system.
Now everything was all set I just needed the new Samsung to be delivered. I ordered the television from Crutchfield, which has a great reputation for customer service, is an authorized Samsung online retailer, and offered the television with no tax or shipping charges. The delivery guys brought the television into my living room, took it out of the box and placed it on my home theater stand. I connected the power cable, connected the HDMI cable form the H20 to the Samsung, turned on the power, modified the TV display type on the H20 from 4:3 to 16:9 and amazingly the new television just worked, right out of the box!
I was quickly in HD nirvana watching local broadcasts in full 1080i and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as premium services such as HBOHD and the various HD channels that are part of DirecTVs HD package. But how would the 150 DVDs I own (most of which I trade via Peerflix) look on the new HD Samsung? I first had to bring up the menu on my Panasonic DVD recorder/player and activate 480p output over the component cables that I connected to the Samsung. Most DVD players sold in the last three years can output a progressive signal (the "p" in 480p) over component cables instead of the normal interlaced picture transmitted on composite and Svideo connections. 480p is a big visible improvement over 480i and youll want to make sure you are watching all of you DVDs on a HD television using 480p. I chose Shrek as the first DVD to showcase on the Samsung. Dreamworks did an amazing job with the animation quality of Shrek and thought the DVD would be a good test of the picture quality of a standard definition DVD on a HD television. So how did it look? One word sums it up amazing! I dont expect Ill be going out to the movies much any more Ill just wait for the DVD to come out. On Saturday night I watched a broadcast of Steve Winwood in HD and Dolby Digital 5.1 on KQED, the local PBS affiliate. Being a huge Steve Winwood fan, and having seen Winwood on this tour at a local venue in 2005, I was eager to see what kind of audio/video experience the new HD unit could deliver via a local, OTA HD broadcast. Once again, I was just stunned by the picture quality and quickly went to KQEDs web site to see what future Soundstage broadcasts are scheduled. Im now eagerly awaiting Garbages performance premiering next month.
There was one more thing left to do though before I could experience the maximum picture quality from the new Samsung I needed to calibrate the picture for maximum video quality. Virtually all televisions sold today ship from the factory with video settings that are far from optimal. Colors are typically oversaturated, with too warm a tone, and sharpness, brightness and contrast controls that are far from optimal as well. So I dug out my copy of "Video Essentials: Optimizing Your Audio/Video System" DVD and spent a half hour adjusting the color, brightness, contrast and sharpness controls. The HS5087W has numeric display of each of these settings, which is a nice touch for those of us who go through the trouble of tweaking every setting possible for maximum picture quality. It was hard to believe that I could improve upon the quality of the Samsungs picture out of the box, but finetuning the picture settings resulted in a much more "filmlike" appearance of movies from both my DVD player and H20 receiver.
Im looking forward to watching the season premiere of HBOs Entourage series in full HD glory tonight. Its also going to be difficult holding off purchasing a HD DVD source with HDDVD and Bluray players and titles now starting to appear. But Ill talk about that in my next article.


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