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TG Daily Top-10: Technology disappointments of 2006

#8 HDTV

Are you able to explain "high-definition" in, say, two or three sentences? If you can, then you are one among very few these days.

High-definition (HD) is a complicated topic and I bet nine out of ten people shopping for an HDTV this Christmas have no idea what they are buying. And worse, HDTV is so confusing that you'd be hard pressed to find a sales assistant who knows all the details and can guide you to the right product. The topic of HDTVs is a big mess that just begins to get untangled - for example by BestBuy who "has teamed up" with its "trusted partners at Cnet" to explain customers what HDTVs are about.

And you were told TVs were easy to use, huh?

A never-ending flood of shortcuts that often sound very fancy, but bring some unexpected surprises - such as HDCP and HDMI - coupled with multiple resolutions (720p, 768p, 1080i, 1080p) that are available in different types of TVs (RPTVs, LCD TVs, Plasma TVs) are sure to keep you searching the Internet for days before you will be able to make an educated decision on a TV.

The really bad part of all of this is that the confusion and lack of easily accessible information on HD is being exploited by some companies. You'll find products that are labeled as "HD" with no further information provided; you'll see the "i" being dropped from 1080i; the phrase "full HD" has replaced 1080i here and there and some TVs will make you believe that they can display 1080p, but in fact are limited to 768p. There has never been a time in recent history in which it was so difficult to buy the right consumer electronics product. Your local TV store these days has more traps than the used car lot around the corner. And I am not even talking about Blu-ray and HD DVD.

1080p? 768p? 1080i? 720p? HDMI? HDCP? LCD? Plasma? Bring a dictionary when buying your next TV.

Things can only get better in 2007, with more 1080p TVs becoming available and the lower-end formats being phased out. But then, we still have the HD DVD / Blu-ray shakeout ahead of us and 2007 may bring the first Quad-HDTVs: If you've just bought a $4000 1920x1080 pixel Plasma TV, it's going to be old news next year. There's a real chance that some neighbors could be bragging about 3840x2160 pixel TVs by Christmas 2007.