HDTV looks aweful: What I am missing?

Everyone I've spoken too loves their large 42" plasmas HDTVs.   I don't own a TV and only view DVDs on my computer monitor.  I had been contemplating buying some type of box that I could record HD-DVDs onto and play up on an HDTV.  Something that had nothing to do with my computer, except that it might record the HD-DVDs to the computer hard drive and then transfer them over to this little box.  I don't want to stream them across the wireless network since that isn't fast enough.  Plus, the little box's HD will be dedicated to only serving up the HD-DVD content.  What type of setup do I need for that?

Here comes the next question:
I decided to check out some HDTVs at Bestbuy to see what every one is liking so much about them.  Well, of all the large plasma HDTVs they had, I didn't see anything that would make me want one.  They were all very pixelated and grainy.  Especially solid colors and places where it goes from one solid to another (edges of sun or bright light).   My monitor looks better than that.  So, I figured maybe the HD signal wasn't turned on for them or something since there was a sticker saying you need an HD signal.  That's when I got a salesman to point me toward the HDTVs that are just so real and crisp that it looks as though you can reach into them and touch the thing you are looking at.  He then brought me back to these horrible looking TVs.  I'd rather view a regular TV then this.

I told the salesman what I was seeing and how bad this looked.  He said yes, there is some graininess but he completely disagreed with my assessment.  I'm not sure what to make about all of the HDTV hand waving but I have no plans to buy one if that's the best they can do.  

Here's my second question: What exactly is every one else seeing that I'm not?
Who is Participating?
CallandorConnect With a Mentor Commented:
There are HD DVD drives available for PCs right now, but they are very expensive.  You can wait until the price drops, which it inevitably does with electronics until it reaches a point you are comfortable with.  By then, there will be more HD content available, and in the meantime you can still use regular DVDs.  Set top standalone HD players are even more expensive and are not upgradable, though some ordinary DVD set top boxes are capable of upconverting regular DVDs to HD format for a slightly better picture (it's not true HD resolution).  I recommend a video card with DVI outputs; combine that with a DVI-to-HDMI adapter and an HDMI cable to connect to the HDTV.  You will need some way to pipe audio to the HDTV, probably via the PC sound card.
tcicatelliConnect With a Mentor CIOCommented:
First of all, the plasma tvs are generally 720 lines of resolution.  The higher end ones are 1080 lines.  Then there are different quality HD signals.  Directv has some blotchiness due to the fact that they're compressing their signal.  Your best quality signal will be either through Verizon FIOS, HD DVDS, or over-the-air local HD signals.  There definitely is a much clearer picture with HD, and the difference is you can make out faces in the background instead of seeing blurry people.  You can't compare HD to real life, but given that the tvs are widescreen and the HD content is formatted for widescreen, the fact that you don't have a bunch of stretched out short, fat people should be reason enough.
brettrAuthor Commented:
Sorry, I just don't see any of that.  The TVs I was looking were 1080p.
Cloud Class® Course: Python 3 Fundamentals

This course will teach participants about installing and configuring Python, syntax, importing, statements, types, strings, booleans, files, lists, tuples, comprehensions, functions, and classes.

If you can see the pixels, you may have been too close to the screen.  Generally, you don't want to be any closer than 2 screen widths (consider how far you are from your computer monitor).  More importantly, different technologies have different spacing between pixels called fill factor which contributes to screen door effect, ranging from LCOS being the tightest, then DLP, and finally LCD and plasma being the worst.  You have to be farther away from plasma and LCD in order to avoid seeing pixels.  I have a JVC G15 LCOS front projector displaying a 100" screen, and from 12 ft the HD material looks like a window in my wall.

For cost effectiveness, try looking at some 720p rear projection DLP sets.  I recently got a Samsung 50" set for $1100, and at normal viewing distances you would be hard pressed to see the difference between 720p and 1080p, though your wallet would suffer from the hundreds of dollars difference in price.

For a display box, you could use a PC with a lot of storage and a good video card.  If you are using software decompression (which most people do), you will need at least a P4 3.2GHz cpu to handle HD material.  Nice cases can be found in stores like this: https://www.digitalconnection.com/store/Product_List.asp?CID=3&CAT=CASE
teedjrConnect With a Mentor Commented:

When it comes to viewing HD content on HDTVs, you have to consider the content first. Although you were looking at 1080p HDTVs, it simply means that the HDTV is capable of 1080p resolution. Find out from the sales rep what content was being shown. Right now, the only media producing 1080p content is from HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. All other HD content (for TV viewing) is shown in 720p or 1080i resolution. DirecTV, DishNet, all cable providers, and even off-air are showing the lower resolution quality. In fact, DVDs look down right horrible when compared to a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray movie. Unfortunately the HDTV game is one where all "the stars have to align," so to speak.

As for your initial question regarding the setup needed to "rip" HD discs to a set top box, Callandor has the best suggestion with a PC in your living room. No standalone unit I know of exists to handle your specialized need (yet!).


brettrAuthor Commented:
For the setup using a PC, I have the video card but it may not use the best output for this.  What are the items I'll need:

- HD-DVD Player
- cable to TV(?)
- video card (which output is best for HDTV)
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.