Does Mari Need HD?

Mari Silbey —  October 24, 2006

I’ve had a DVR for five years now, but I still haven’t picked up an HDTV. Honestly, I have trouble believing I need it and trouble believing it will make that much of a difference in my TV-watching career. Which is why Dave Winer’s recent commentary got my attention: He didn’t offer any great new analysis, but he proclaimed HD is “a life-changer.”

After a short time with my DVR, I started viewing the world through DVR functionality. I’d half hear something on the radio and for a split second think I could rewind it. Or I’d be listening in on a technical briefing and wish I could pause the conversation for a little thought-processing time.

I just don’t see HD having the same effect.

On the other hand, according to analyst Mike Paxton (who, by the way, I happen to respect greatly) 8.5 million households are watching HDTV on a nightly basis, and the number of households with HD sets is approaching 25 million. Can that many people be wrong? That’s a small percentage of Americans overall, but it’s still a decently high number. Nothing to sneeze at.

So I am reconsidering my personal position on HDTV. College basketball season is coming up, and HD games could make me a believer. I never thought I needed a big-screen TV either (sacrilege, I know), but now that I have one I could never go back. Tiny basketball players just don’t compare to their big-screen counterparts. Maybe sharper, clearer, HD-quality players will prove just as important.

Certainly I would have gotten a better photo with an HDTV last year when Bradley played (and beat) Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament. As it was, my photo of “Brad Pitt” ended up pretty low-res.

brad-pitt.jpg
Brad Pitt

13 responses to Does Mari Need HD?

  1. The question isn’t will you get HDTV, the question is when will you join in? The longer you wait, the cheaper it gets and the more HD channels and programs you’ll have access to.

    HD has certainly increased our enjoyment of sports, “event television” (like Lost), and movies. It’s not just the enhanced resolution, it’s the extra content that comes with a 16×9 broadcast — which you can really appreciate with sporting events (at least those that are broadcast in HD).

    It’s pretty easy for me to spend your money for you, but I say go HD now. Prices are reasonable and all of prime time TV and most of the sporting events you’ll want to watch are already in high-def. Don’t you want to see my Terps spank your Dukies in HD? ;)

  2. HD is lifechanging as you won’t watch regular TV anymore. No more 100+ niche channels.

  3. Having recently bought an HD TV, and as someone who watches way too much TV… I can safely say that HD TV completely changes your life in terms of TV vieweing. The picture is remarkable. I find myself watching things I’d never bother watching, just to see it in HD (ie football!).

    As a self proclaimed TV addict, I can’t recommend it enough.

  4. HDTV is not the revolution that the DVR is.

    My first HDTV was bought 2.5yrs ago to watch anamorphic DVDs. The quality is a significant improvement on a good set. Back then actual HDTV content was limited and a costly cable upgrade for me. The cost of the TV now is much more reasonable than then, and I get “free” HD channels from one of my Cable Cos.

    An S3 TiVo is an impressive quality upgrade over the S2s on SD recording. Its scaler is very good. If you value those sorts of things highly, the S3 may be worthwhile to you with or without an HDTV.

  5. I don’t think that HD will change your TV viewing as much as DVR, but it will be a vast improvement. You get spoiled watching that crystal clear picture. Once you pair the HDTV with a HD DVR, you’re in complete TV viewing heaven.

  6. I’m spoiled now. I only watch whats on HDTV these days. Admittedly that’s because all of my favorite shows (except The Daily Show and Colbert Report) are in HDTV like Lost, Jericho, Heroes, Discovery Atlas. It’s so hard to go back to SDTV after seeing HDTV, it’s like watching bad internet video. Sports is actually watchable in HD…well, baseball still isn’t, but the other ones are :)

  7. I’m so addicted to HD content that I now only watch the local CBS affiliate’s evening news broadcast, as it’s the only one that’s offered in HD. Sign up, already!

  8. I think Phil has hit on the most important point. Most content today is being created specifically for HD, so if you are watching an SD image you are likely to miss parts of the show.

    Here is a great example. Last year in one of the episodes of Lost there was a scene with a shark swimming through it. On my HD set I could clearly see that on the bottom of the shark there was the image of the Darhma (sp) project. I was talking with several friends that also watch the show and they did not notice it on their SD sets. For those that watch Lost they would immediately realize that this little difference has major implications!

    And of course the additional resolution on the screen does make sporting events much more compelling giving you the feeling that you are really there.

  9. Point taken… But I have HD and didn’t see the DHARMA shark logo until I came across some screen grabs online. Maybe I need to re-calibrate with AVIA or pick up one of those Sypder thingies. ;) Though I did see the people carrying torches surrounding the Lostaways last season, whereas my SD counterparts thought it was mechanical.

  10. I often watch HD programming downrezzed on a 17″ widescreen 480i TV. So it’s not just the higher quality (but if you do have a giant TV, you really need it!) but the widescreen format.

    I think you’ll enjoy the widescreen format on a smaller screen/computer monitor as well as the higher quality on a bigger screen.

    But if you can figure a way to ‘try’ the format out before shelling out for a big TV, I’d suggest it. Usually you can connect a cable box or HD DVR to a widescreen computer monitor via DVI/HDMI (which I mention since widescreen non-HD tvs are basically impossible to find).

    Yeah, you can try it letterboxed and stuff, but you get the best feel for it when it fills the whole screen in a widescreen format.