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Making TV Terminology Easy To Understand

List of Terms and Definitions


This happens to me when looking at electronics –the technical information is overwhelming, and it gets in the way of my ability to purchase wisely. Since a smart purchase of a plasma display is a nice thought considering their cost, I am putting together a list of terms to help breakdown the terminology you’ll read when looking at products.

Standard Definition (SDTV): A type of digital television producing a picture consisting of 480 interlaced-scanned lines. Enhanced definition is also referred to as 480i.

Enhanced Definition (EDTV): A type of digital television producing a picture consisting of 480 progressive-scanned lines. Enhanced definition is also referred to as 480p.

High Definition (HDTV): A type of digital television producing 720 or 1080 progressive-scanned lines, or 1080 interlaced-scanned lines. High definition is also referred to as 720p, 1080i, or 1080p.

16:9 or Widescreen: An aspect ratio that is a smaller scale of a movie theater screen. Widescreen is the platform for high definition, and all plasma televisions will be 16:9 or a close variation. Widescreen is also known as letter box.

Buying Advice: Buy a television that can support at least enhanced definition because enhanced definition has the ability to play HD programming at a reduced resolution.

ED-ready or HD-ready: A plasma unit that is able to show enhanced or high definition signals with the aide of an external receiver.

External Receiver: A type of box issued to you by either a cable or satellite company that allows you to watch digital television. Some people own an external receiver. A external receiver is also known as a set-top box.

Built-in Tuner: A receiver installed inside the display unit that eliminates the need for an external receiver or set-top box to receive HD programming from over-the-air stations. A television with a built-in tuner is mostly associated with high definition, and has certain advantages over a television without a built-in receiver.

Buying Advice: The need for a built-in tuner is debatable with cable and satellite companies providing an external receiver. The real advantage of a built-in tuner is receiving HD-signals from your local affiliates without the need of an external HD receiver.

CableCard Ready: A type of television featuring a slot on the side or back that allows the user to completely eliminate the need for an external receiver to receive cable programming. Basically, you replace your cable box with a card a little bigger than a credit card. It goes in the CableCard slot, and acts as your set-top box. CableCard slots had their advantages, but also features several disadvantages over external receivers – one of which is the lack of on-screen menu functions. Satellite companies do not offer a type of CableCard.

Buying Advice: I am not a fan of CableCards, but I can't ignore their potential. While the technology might not be good right now, it is a nice option to have on a television should it ever become good.

Depth: The thickness of the television. The depth of a television does not mean the television will be that distance from the wall if wall-mounting.

Screen Size: A diagonal measurement of the screen from one corner to another.

Wall Mount – A wall mount consists of a bracket that is attached to the wall, and holds the display unit. It eliminates the need for an entertainment center or TV stand.

Table Stand: The alternative to wall-mounting a plasma screen. The screen is attached to a stand, much like a computer monitor, and can sit on top of a table or TV stand.

Buying Advice: I think screen size, depth, and mounting technique is all personal choice. However, consider room size, where the set is going, and what components are connected to the television before deciding whether to wall mount or not.

Progressive Scan: How a television decodes the image on screen. Progressive scan decodes a picture twice as fast as an interlaced scan, thus doubling the image and providing a sharper, crisper picture. Progressive scan is labeled after the lines of resolution in a television description, like 480p for enhanced definition.

Interlaced Scan: Same as progressive, but ½ the speed. It is noted after the lines or resolution, like 480i for standard definition.

Buying Advice: Not much to say here except progressive scan should be included somewhere in the product description. If it is HD or ED compliant, then progressive scan should be understood.

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