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I need a new TV right now. Should I buy an HDTV set?

If you've been shopping for a TV lately, you may be wondering whether now is the time to make the jump to an HDTV set. There are several considerations.

HD displays can be very expensive, especially compare to SD units. Add in the fact that the SDTV will provide quite a few years of service before the analog over-the-air transmissions are shut off. Even after that point, those viewers that subscribe to digital cable or satellite will be able to go on as if nothing has happened. The set top box those services use will convert the digital signals to analog as they currently do. Those that use an antenna to view TV will need a digital converter box (under $100) and tune to the station's digital channel.

Another consideration is how much HD programming is out there. If you're a sports fan, there is plenty to watch. In addition, most primetime programming from the major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, etc.) is available in HD. However, most cable channels are still SD and will be for quite a while. There are also only a few Pay-Per-View and On Demand channels available. Most of the movie channels are SD.

On the other side of the coin, the HD that is out there is often very impressive. In addition, you can see more detail in DVDs, even though they are not HD. Widescreen movies fill more of your screen (though very wide aspect ratio movies will still display small bars at the top and bottom) when you have an HDTV. Finally, there are some channels (like HDNet, HDNet Movies, and INHD) that are available as HD channels only. There are no SD versions of those channels.

If you can afford it, you'll still enjoy an HDTV set, even if you don't get HD programming at first. People who watch a lot of DVDs like the wider screen. Also, it's hard to find a big screen TV that isn't HD. Later, when you finally get HD programming service, your TV viewing will be even better. However, if money is tight, you can still get a lot of use out of an SD model.

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