By Marc Saltzman
Q: We bought a new HDTV for Christmas. I’m
not very smart about these things. How do I
set it up?
A: Don’t worry. You’re not the only person confused
about how to get going! We can help.
As a quick recap, high-definition televisions
(HDTVs) offer double the lines of resolution compared to older standard-definition televisions,
resulting in a much sharper, more lifelike picture. A
more accurate way HDTVs are measured is in the
number of pixels, or little dots, that make up the
image. Just remember: The higher the number of
pixels, the clearer the picture.
I’ve often said going from standard definition to
high definition is like putting on a pair of prescription glasses for the first time! HDTVs also feature a
wider viewing area (16: 9 aspect ratio) that’s more
akin to a movie theatre screen than traditional
square TVs (4: 3 aspect ratio).
OK, back to your question. To enjoy your new
HDTV to its full potential, you need to make sure the
television is set up properly. In other words, you can’t
just plug the TV into the wall and expect a marvelous
picture. Here are the three essential steps.
Get HDTV programming. First, contact your
television service provider to buy or rent a high-definition set-top box to replace your standard-definition
one. This goes for both cable and satellite TV providers. You’ll likely need to pay a few extra dollars per
month for access to the HDTV channels. But don’t
worry about having trouble finding something to
watch, as some providers now have up to 40 dedicated
high-definition channels, with more on the way.
Depending on where you live, and if your television has a built-in ATSC tuner, you might be able to
access free over-the-air HDTV stations. You can also
watch standard-definition shows on an HDTV.
Use the right cables. To watch high-definition
programming on your new HDTV, you will need the
right cables to connect your satellite or cable box to
your television. Instead of the older composite cords
(the red, yellow and white cords) or round-ended S-Video cable, high definition requires one of the following cables (and your TV should offer two or more
of these options): component cables (red, blue and
green), a digital visual interface (DVI) cable or a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cable, the
latter of which is preferred today as it offers the best
picture quality and also handles audio.
One of these cables might be included
with your new TV; otherwise you’ll
need to purchase them separately.
One small caveat: You might need
to change the output option on your
new cable/satellite box to match which
cable you’re using (e.g., HDMI). Press
the Setup or Options button on your set-top box remote and you shouldn’t have
trouble finding this.
Connect the components. If you
already have home theatre components,
such as a DVD player, it’s not too difficult to
connect them to your new high-definition television.
You can do it in one of two ways. Some people connect all components to an audio/video receiver
(which is how you get surround sound), while others
simply connect everything to the television. With the
latter, you must press a button on the TV remote
(such as TV/Video) to cycle through all the inputs.
Keep in mind that your new HDTV isn’t just for
high-definition TV shows. You can also enjoy stunning high-definition movies played on a Blu-ray or
HD DVD player and high-definition video games on
an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Or you can watch
“high-def” home movies from one of the new cam-corders that can record in high definition.
Q: I’m interested in a portable GPS system for
my car. Do I need to subscribe to a service?
A: The short answer is no. Though it’s a common
misconception, stand-alone GPS units—which help
you navigate from point A to point B with turn-by-turn audio and visual instructions—do not require a
The only exception is if it’s part of a service, such
as GM’s OnStar, or if you’re adding optional traffic
alerts to a compatible GPS unit, which is available in
some major cities. C
The Costco Connection
Costco carries a wide variety of HDTVs from leading
manufacturers, as well as HDTV cable kits, stands
and wall mounting brackets, in the warehouses and
on www.costco.ca. Members can also find GPS systems in the warehouse and on www.costco.ca.
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes to more than three
dozen prominent publications,
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of 13 books.
Question for Marc?
Send your technology and
computer questions to:
Q & A with Marc Saltzman
The Costco Connection
415 West Hunt Club Road
Ottawa, ON K2E 1C5
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