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Digital TV: An Easygoing (R)evolution

High Definition TV - HDTV

Digital TV is already widely used all over Europe. It offers a large number of digital free or pay TV channels and some free channels even offer digital AC3 5.1 surround sound. HDTV is a different story, however. Although there are a couple of demo channels available sending HDTV content and the market offers a couple of expensive HDTV-capable set-top boxes, HDTV is still in its infancy in Europe. Many broadcasters disagree about whether they should go with the existing DVB HD implementation based on MPEG2, or if they should use a new compression based on MPEG4, allowing a higher compression rate and better image quality. This fundamental disagreement makes it very precarious for consumers to invest in today's HDTV capable receivers.

Samsung 42" Widescreen HD-Ready Flat-Panel Plasma TV

Mitsubishi 65" Widescreen HD-Ready Rear-Projection TV

In America, HDTV is already a common and widely used technology, in part because of the decisions made by the FCC to force major TV stations into HDTV. Another reason for the success of HDTV is the relatively moderate prices for HD capable TV's. In Europe, TV's are much more expensive - customers have to pay twice as much for a comparable device even without HDTV capabilities! However, this will change a bit due to new multi-format plasma and LCD displays entering the market.

HDTV is available in different resolutions:

ResolutionAspectRatioPicture Rate*
1920x108016:960I30P24PHDHDHD
1280x72016:960I30P24PHDHDHD
704x48016:960P60I30P24P
704x4804:360P60I30P24P
640x48016:960P60I30P24P
640x4804:360P60I30P24P
* I = Interlaced, P = Progressive