Shopper's Guide

Digital television (DTV) signals are transmitted using computer code – ones and zeroes - which means they are less susceptible to interference and provide a higher quality picture and sound than analog signals. DTV means more choices, and more control over your television.

Before your purchase, you will want to consider:

DTV Picture quality

There are several levels of picture quality. The most common are: High Definition Television (HDTV), Enhanced Definition Television (EDTV) and Standard Definition Television (SDTV). HDTV is DTV at its finest. With HDTV, you can enjoy a true home theater experience. EDTV is a step up from basic television. SDTV is the basic display.

Integrated vs. separate components:

DTV (including HDTV) is available over-the-air using a standard antenna or via digital cable or satellite. No matter how you receive your TV signal (cable, satellite or over-the-air), you will need DTV equipment to watch DTV programming.

DTV equipment can be purchased as an integrated set or as separate components.

“Integrated” DTV sets
“Integrated” DTV sets include a digital tuner to receive over-the-air DTV broadcasts and a monitor to display the programming. If you have an Integrated DTV and live in an area served by a DTV broadcast station, you only need an antenna (preferably an outdoor antenna) to receive over-the-air DTV broadcast programming. Integrated TVs can usually receive and display current analog signals. Any television manufactured for the United States after March 1, 2007, willl include a built-in digital tuner.

“Component” solution
A “component” solution includes a DTV monitor (screen) without a DTV tuner (these monitors are sometimes labeled “HD Ready”). A DTV monitor is not capable of receiving DTV broadcast programming without additional equipment; it is simply a display device without the processing capability for DTV reception. A DTV set-top box (decoder or tuner) must be connected between the antenna and the monitor to receive and display over-the-air DTV programming. Monitors must be paired with a cable or satellite set-top box, or stand-alone DTV tuner. Confirm with your retailer that the DTV receiver or set-top decoder is compatible with your DTV monitor. Most monitors have a built in analog receiver and can display analog broadcast programming. They can also display standard resolution video from DVD players and VCRs.

Digital cable ready

“Digital cable ready” (or “plug-and-play”) televisions are also available. These can be used to receive digital cable TV (and often HD over cable) without a separate set-top box. A CableCARD is needed to watch certain cable programming. The CableCARD may not display the cable company's onscreen information guide. These televisions do not work directly with satellite - you still need a set-top box to view satellite programming.

Over-the-air reception

Test your current antenna with your new digital TV set, digital receiver or digital converter box or before buying a new antenna. If your antenna delivers a good TV signal now, it will probably work well in the future. A simple low-tech antenna can often produce the best picture, often better than cable or satellite.
Learn more about antennas at this Web site. The site asks you to enter your home address to get customized advice about the best placement and orientation for your antenna, and offers information on antenna types. We suggest you try your old antenna (or any kind of wire, even a length of coaxial cable) before purchasing a new antenna.

Screen types

You have a choice in DTV screens. Today, the primary options are:
Cathode ray tube (CRT) screens – traditional color television screens updated for digital;
Rear Projection TVs – rear projection TVs can create brilliant, wide angle pictures on ever-larger screens;
LCD screens - are very thin and produce extremely clear pictures, but are currently expensive and limited in size;
Plasma screens - create a bright, clear picture up to enormous sizes while remaining very thin.

Connectors for other electronic equipment

Ask what connectors you need to make sure your new DTV set works with your other electronic equipment (DVD player, digital video recorder (DVR), camcorder, VCR, computer, video games, and other equipment). The electronic equipment you own should work with your new DTV, but you may need new connectors. Make a list of what you have now and ask your retailer what you need to connect the components. Your current TV will not be obsolete at the end of the transition to DTV.

Your current TV will work once the DTV transition is complete but you must have a digital set-top converter box (or set-top box) to receive broadcast signals or be connected to a cable or satellite service. This converter box, much like a cable box, allows you to receive a picture, but it won't be able to show high-definition pictures and may not give you access to other digital services. If you use your analog set with a multichannel pay service like cable or satellite, it will continue to work as it always has.
Subscribers to cable and DBS services should contact their providers regarding converter boxes for those services.

Converter Box Coupon Program

If you receive television with an antenna (such as a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears), and you do not wish to purchase a new digital television, you will need to buy a digital-to-analog converter box (we recommend buying a model that receives both digital and analog signals. These models are labeled as having “RF pass through” or “analog pass-through” capabilities). Beginning in 2008, every US household may be apply for two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of converter boxes. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) administers the coupon program. Additional information can be found at