Working with video all the time, I should be an obvious owner of an HDTV set. Alas, I’m not. I’ve many times considered purchasing one but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to pull the trigger yet. Why not? Let me explain why I’m not jumping in yet.
First, no technology seems quite ready yet. Each has a pretty substantial downside. Second, there are still some changes coming that may effect the utility of what we’re buying today.
Let me run through the technologies quickly and explain why I’m not enamored with each one:
- Rear projection – Almost all of the rear projection units on the market today require expensive bulbs that are changed out every few years. I want something that can match my CRT and not require lots of maintenance.
- DLP [Digital Light Projection]- Most DLPs on the market today are of the single-chip variety and use a spinning color wheel to generate the colors you see on the screen. The problem with this is that, when things move quickly, you can sometimes spot a rainbow effect on the edges. Like many video artifacts, once you see this, it’s hard to stop noticing it. DLP also has the bulb issue.
- LCD projection [Liquid Crystal Display] – There is a fairly pronounced screen door effect unless you are back far enough. What I mean by this is that you can pick out the individual pixels. It is like watching TV on the other side of a screen door. LCD projection has the bulb issue.
- LCOS (SXRD/DILA) [Liquid Crystal on Silicon] – My favorite of the projection technologies. It doesn’t have any major shortcomings outside of the bulb issue. It’s still pretty pricey.
- CRT [Cathode Ray Tube] – This is your traditional TV set. Great technology but way too heavy in bigger screen sizes.
- LCD – LCDs have very low contrast ratios and thus the dark areas of the screen all tend to blend together. Trying to watch a night scene can be painful as all of the detail is lost.
- Plasma – Plasma has one big drawback: Burn In. It is, by all reports, not as bad as it once was but it is still an issue. Perhaps it isn’t when watching TV but if you want to connect a computer or a game console, you have to be really careful.
So nothing quite does what I want yet. On top of that, there is talk of redesigning the HDMI connector. HDCP (the encryption protocol for HDMI and DVI) is still unproven in my mind. Each time I read an HDTV magazine, I hear about some cable box that won’t talk to some TV. Until this is rolled out on a bigger scale, I still worry that the connections will fail to work. Finally, 1080p is a potentially interesting format. Some screens (like SXRD) have 1080p native resolutions but they won’t accept a 1080p signal yet. They take a 1080i signal only. I want to wait for them to start accepting the big signals.
For a whole lot of detail on the topic of HDTV, check out the AV Science Forum.