Get HD or get out of the way!

blu-ray_logo.gifThis time last year, we were watching television and movies in standard definition. The set was a 27″ CRT with a built-in VHS cassette player. It’s strange, but somehow we got by with that small, non-HD set. We laughed, we cried, we enjoyed… blissfully ignorant of the HD experience we were missing out on.

After the switch

Now, we watch things in 1080p. And when they’re only 720 or whatever, we notice, and we hate it. When you’re watching a Blu-Ray Movie in uncompressed high definition, you’re seeing five times the movie you’d get on a standard definition set. We watch some shows just because they’re in HD (a great excuse for watching American Idol). We re-watch some movies just because we’ve never seen them in HD. We like us some high-def… you might even say we’ve turned into SD haters.

Getting started

If you don’t have a buttload of money to waste, don’t hire a professional. If you’re reasonably competent with electronics, you should be fine with the installation of an HD TV and Blu-Ray player. Basically, you need four things:

  1. HD TV—Bigger ain’t always better. Choose one that’s the optimal size for the viewing room. You need to get pretty far from a 60″ TV to enjoy it. That’s not possible in our apartment, so measure yours. As far as the LCD, Plasma, CRT, rear projection thing goes, just see them in the showroom and decide for yourself. But make an effort to get a 1080p set. This is the number of lines in the set, and as of the writing of this article, it’s the max definition for Blu-Ray movies. If you skimp and go for the 720p, that’s over a million pixels you’ll never get to enjoy.
  2. Sony Playstation 3—There are lots of machines out there that can play your Blu-Ray movies. But few cost under $400. And only one can play Call of Duty 4. For us, it was a no brainer. You should examine your other options, especially if you don’t want to play video games. We were impressed with how little noise the Playstation 3 made, and that it was able to play CD-Rs with a variety of video formats.
  3. HD Cable Box—Get this from your cable company before you bring your HD TV home. If you plug a regular box into an HD set, you could do permanent damage to your eyes. No one should ever look at an SD signal on an HD set. It can also cause nausea and thoughts of suicide.
  4. HDMI Cables—Don’t be fooled into buying $100 cables. Go online and order from a discount cable company. There’s really not much of a difference. Electronics retailers just sell the overpriced ones to make a profit… especially since they just gave you a smoking deal on a big TV.

Is it worth it?

We know what you’re thinking. “Is it worth it?” Well, we only spent $1,900 on our HD experience. We have a 40″ Sony Bravia with a Sony Playstation 3. The Playstation 3 does a wonderful job with Blu-Ray movies and it outputs 1080p over an HDMI cable. Anyone can figure out how to set this up. And, with movie tickets up around $10, you only need to sit down with your best friend and watch 100 movies before the price evens out.

What to buy

Like we said before… A Sony Playstation 3 some Blu-Ray Movies (now buy two get one free), HDMI cables on the cheap, and a big TV.

Where to buy

We recommend buying the actual TV from a brick-and-mortar store. If you’re in the New York Metro area, we recommend PC Richard. Great service and the ability to haggle (try that in a Circuit City). Circuit City has a nice showroom though, so feel free to browse there.

Don’t stress out

Go ahead and read a few reviews of sets and shop around for a lower price. But, in the end, don’t spend too much time on this. It’s fun to compare the sets in a store, but in reality whichever one you take home will be the best looking one in your living room. You can run around town to try and save $50, but you’ll end up wasting time, money, and possibly gas. Just get the size set you need, spend within your budget, and hop on the HD bandwagon. It’s beautiful.