Is THIS the year you step up to the new technology of the US TV standard, High Definition? Manufacturers are making it easier, with more, less expensive choices, and, in my view, Toshiba has some pretty compelling sets to help you make the switch to HD.

First, a little helpful info on HDTV –

What’s the big deal?  Several things.  HDTV, at its best, provides a picture so clear, sharp and lifelike, it’s like looking out a window on the scene depicted on the TV screen.  It’s a new size TV screen that is more like a widescreen movie dimension, one that is in the ratio of 16:9 as opposed to the nearly square old sets that are 4:3. These are the basics – great new picture quality and new size.  Beyond that, it’s the programming that feeds these new digital sets that makes them worthwhile. Network primetime shows are, for the most part already in HDTV, with the exception of news programming.  More is on the way.  The government has mandated that, probably at the end of next year, maybe a little later, the system in use today will be switched off.  That means, without a converter box, your old sets will cease to operate.  Who will pay for the box and how much is yet to be determined.  However, it is a safe bet that these boxes must be no to low cost in order to be acceptable to the millions of users who just cannot afford to buy all new TVs.

In the realm of HDTV, there are different levels of the standard, from basic to stupendous.  The numbers look like this:  1080p is the ultimate, with 1080i a close second.  The step down is 720i and 720p, though I would challenge most of you to tell the difference between something seen in 1080 versus 720.  The truth is, they all look VERY good.  Sets with the highest numbers cost the most.

Then, there is the technology.  Traditional CRT (like your regular old sets with picture tube)?  Plasma?  LCD?  DLP? Digital-ILA?  Something else? And what about sets with all that is needed to just plug in and play?

So, what to buy?

Well, I’m glad you asked.  I’ve seen some great sets, with more on the way, and I am of the opinion that, if you can’t see the difference, why pay for it.  And, even if you CAN see a difference, are you willing to pay double or more for the top if the difference is not so pronounced?

As for the technology behind the image delivery, it’s cost versus quality of image.  The value today in big screens in the under 60-inch size is with DLP (Digital Light Processor) technology.  It is, I think, an excellent value.  And, the NEW generation of DLP sets offers vast improvements in key areas that make them recommended whereas the last generation of this technology was NOT the best for the dollar.

That’s my stand, and that’s why I like the new Toshiba set I am going to tell you about and recommend.

Toshiba’s model 52H94 is a new-generation 52-inch DLP set with integrated HD and analog TV tuners and the all-important Digital Cable Ready CableCARD slot, so your cable company can provide you with a simple credit-card size card to just insert and not have to get one of their cable boxes.  It also has the tuner to receive over-the-air broadcasts in the event you can receive these FREE signals of local channels in your area with the use of an outside antenna, which is the best way to get network HDTV programming, even if you may have cable or satellite service, because, at its best, the picture from an antenna will be the best of all.

This new set has on-screen TV Guide Interactive Program Guide, and it’s free!  It’s got all the fancy and standard connectors needed – HDMI for external HDTV DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or external HDTV tuner, two 1394 ports that can be used for external (future) storage drives and other devices, as well as connecting digital video camcorders, and also Dolby Digital Output to pipe through your home theater audio system.  Plus, there are many more.

The proprietary Toshiba TALEN (Toshiba Advanced Light Engine) DLP Engine takes the core DLP technology from TI (Texas Instruments), as do all DLP sets, and tweaks it to make theirs just a bit better and different.

It’s a full 720p image quality that looks just great, as I have seen.

Here’s where it really shines, however. Its suggested selling price is $2800, however, I found it online DELIVERD to your door, for less than $2140 through www.nextag.com.  Now, that’s a great deal on this set!  It’s a relatively inexpensive way to get into the new HDTV technology for a great picture you will enjoy for many, many years to come.

And I can’t forget to tell you that it weighs only 85 pounds!  And it’s only 15 ¼ inches deep!  Yes, and the screen size really is a generous 52 inches.  The optional matching stand sells online for as low as $315 delivered.  Now, as it is so small, light and not very deep, it will also fit on a variety of tables, so you don’t have to get the matching stand if you don’t want it.

Pair this set with the excellent $500 retail price Toshiba Symbio High Definition Hard Drive Recorder, and you can record both standard TV and HDTV content with one touch. No, it’s not a TiVo, but it IS designed to operate with this set, and it does a fine job.  Symbio is a very small external 160GB hard drive that uses TV  Guide On Screen programming in the TV for easy programming, and it connects with just one wire. The TV has controls for pausing and rewinding, so it’s totally convenient and easy to use.  Shop online and find it, as I just did, for as low as $418.

More information, including dealer locator, is at www.tacp.toshiba.com or call 1-800-350-4105.

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