3D Televisions Soon to be Replaced by 4K

It seems like the rate of progress for television technology has been staggering in the last decade or so. It was not until after the millennium the DVD’s, an optical data storage method, finally overtook VHS tapes, a magnetic tape that holds the movies on spools. This new digital medium required televisions that displayed in “high definition” to get the best image possible. In the last few years 3D televisions became all the rage. Sitting in the living room with a big set of clunky frames on your noggin became “cool”? Well, maybe you missed out on that trend but don’t worry because there is a brand new TV technology rolling out onto electronics showroom floors right now. It is called 4k and has what is considered to be fine the finest picture to date.

This doesn’t mean to that you should start kicking your old TV to the curb just yet. If 3D printing is just getting off the ground surely we can squeeze some hours of entertainment out of these clunky, old dinosaurs. There are still options available for those looking to get a few more years out of their 3D sets. Also, if you happen to really enjoy the 3D experience and have been shopping the field you will be happy to know that content producers and providers have been busy increasing the offerings that are available. In fact, there are a number of channels to select from when you flick on your 3D TV right now so don’t get too bent out of shape regarding the impending 4K transition.

On DirecTV you can pick from a handful of 3D channels with eye popping programming that will transform you living room into the theater like experience you have always wanted. You can find special deals on channel packages using http://www.SaveonTVDirect.com when signing up for DirecTV. Whether you like movies, sports or special events tune in with 3D. ESPN 3D brings the action of all your favorite teams and competitive sporting programs into three dimensional life like no other. It is the next best thing to being there. If you like films and watch uninterrupted 3D visuals then check out DirecTV Cinema on channels 104 and 105. The partnership between Sony, Discovery, and IMAX has resulted in 3net, which programming options for your family. If that were not enough there is also n3D on Channel 103 that brings major studio productions into your home.

Hey, maybe you are an early adopter. You do not want to watch an old 3D TV because you know that 4K is coming down the pipeline fast. Well in that case here are some aspects you have to look forward to in your pursuit of the most cutting edge technology. Expect 8 mega pixels of data instead of the standard the prevailed before which was just 2 mega pixels. According to the specifics 4K televisions will be running at a resolution of 4096 x 2160 which is official Ultra HD. Right now these units are big bucks but as they grow in popularity the price will come down.

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Building a Home Theater PC

Although you can purchase a pre-built home theater PC (HTPC) at retail computer stores, building your own home theater PC is the best bang for the buck.  Not only is building a home theater PC better on your wallet, it can also be a rewarding learning experience.  You will also be able to choose only the best home theater components you need.

This article assumes you have some knowledge of building computers and will not go into direct details of doing so.  I will show you what is the recommend hardware and what is required for an HTPC.  But I will not go into detail on how to connect each part which would be beyond the scope of this article.

The first piece of hardware that you will need when building a home theater PC is the computer case that will hold all the hardware.  For a home theater PC, it is recommended to use a small form factor case that has low noise from its fans.  There are several small form factor cases on the market that are completely designed for the home theater in mind. The downside from this type of case is that it is limited on the number of hardware components that can be installed.  You can also use a normal desktop case as a HTPC.  These cases will normally have more fan noise unless you go water cooled. But they do offer the most expandability.  For example if you would like to add more than one tuner card in your HTPC, you will probably require a desktop case.

Next you will need to purchase a motherboard and CPU.  Make sure when picking a motherboard, it will also fit in the case you have decided on.  Some small form factor HTPC or media center cases will require specially sized motherboards called micro ATX. If you plan to connect your new home theater PC to a wireless network, you should consider a motherboard that has a built in wireless card that is at least 802.11g.  If you will be using a wire network, just about any motherboard should be fine. Also look for a motherboard that has built in 5.1 or higher audio capabilities.  Although you can purchase an audio card sperately, I recommend purchasing a motherboard with one built in especially if you need to use a small form factor HTPC computer case.

I recommend at least a 2.4ghz dual core Intel CPU and if it will fit in your budget, a quad core processor such as the Intel Core 2 Q6850.  If you plan to do any video encoding the faster and more cores the CPU has will decrease the time it takes to encode and decode your video files.  But if you plan to only use the home theater PC to watch video and not encode video, a lower end processor should do just fine.

You will want at least 1GB of ram for your home theater PC if you are going to run Windows XP. But if you will be using VISTA, 2GB is highly recommended.  If you also plan to play games on the home theater PC, I recommend at least 2GB of DDR2 ram regardless of the operating system you choose.  More ram will also be a benefit when encoding video and audio.

The next hardware componet you will need to purchase is a video card.  Unless you also plan to build a home theater PC for gaming as well as video playback, you do not need the highest end graphics card on the market.  The only requirements is at least 128MB of onboard ram and HDTV output. I recommend a video card that has HDMI out that supports HDCP (high-bandwidth digital-content protection).  Be careful, as some video cards that have HDMI do not support HDCP.  These none HDCP card will cause problems when using Blueray DVDs. Most ATI video cards on the market today support HDCP so you may consider an ATI card.

Now you will need to add media devices to your new home theater PC.  The first device would be of course the hard drive.  I recommend a large hard drive of 512GB or more to store all you video files.  A 1TB raid array would be ideal in a home theater PC. High definition video files can be quite large at over 1.5GB or more and you will soon find yourself running out of hard drive space quite quickly if you have a small hard drive.  If you do run out of space and are using a desktop case, adding more internal hard drives later should not be a problem.  Even if you will be using a HTPC case, you can always add external hard drives such as SATA, Fireware or USB drives.

The last media device you will need is a DVD player and/or writer.  I recommend at least a dual layer DVD writer. I also recommend adding a Blueray DVD writer as well.  However a Blueray drive will be expensive. But it will allow you to play and write Blueray movies.  As noted earlier, most Blueray DVDs will require a HDCP compatible video card.

The final componet you will need to finalize a true home theater PC is a TV tuner card.  Some video cards may include built in TV tuners, but I recommed a stand alone card such as the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 MCE 1183WB that can receive HDTV signals.  If you plan to use the TV tuner card as a PVR to record shows for later viewing, you might want to consider a card that has more than one tuner so you can record more than one show at a time. The ideal HTPC would include more than one TV tuner card, each with two or more separate tuners.

Well that is it!  You now should have all the required components you need to build your home theater PC.  Welcome to the wonder world of high definition computing!

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HDMI vs Component - Which is best for HDTV?

I see the question, “Which is best HDMI or component video for HDTV?”, asked many times in forums and other places on the net.  The answer to that question is “well it depends”. Before I state in my opinion which is better, I should give a brief description for each.

An HDMI signal is a pure digital signal similar to DVI with one exception.  HDMI also carries the digital audio signal on the same cable. HDMI and DVI will give you a 100% exact copy of the original video.  This is similar to how your computer sends a file over the internet in a purge digital (or bitstream) format.

Although component video is HDTV quality, it is analog and not digital.  However, this is not necessarily a bad thing as you well see later in this article.  Component video is compossed of three seperate RCA cables that consists of a Luminance (the “Y”, or “green,” channel, representing the total brightness of the image), a Red Minus Luminance (the “Pr,” or “Red,” channel), and a Blue Minus Luminance (the “Pb,” or “Blue,” channel) cable.  Audo is also seperated into two more RCA cables usually colored red and white.

Both HDMI and component video output up to 1080p HDTV. Which means both are extremely well suited for any type of High Definition Device.  And most people will not notice the difference between the two while viewing a pure HDTV video signal.

So which is best?  This really depends on the type of device that will be outputing the video signal and how well the outputing device converts from digital to analog.  It also depends on your TV as well.  Is it a pure digital display such as an LCD or is it an analog type screen such as a CRT.

Lets assume you have an LCD display.  This is a pure digital device so common sense would tell you that HDMI would be the best choice and normally this is definitely correct.  However, if your output device needs to upscale the image it could add digital artifacts that would show up on your pure digital device.  For example, if you have a low end upscaling DVD player you may notice more artifacts such as pixel blur, etc when viewing it via HDMI on your large LCD display.  If that is the case then it might be better if you use component at 480p and allow your higher end LCD TV to do the upscaling.  

HDMI would be best suited when both output and input devices are pure digital.  A good example would be from a computer or a high end video game console.  HDMI will give you a more crips exact image compared to component.  However, again most people probably will not even notice this.

My advice is that if your output device has both connections try them both and look for yourself which looks better to you.  If your new to digital devices you will probably prefer component at first because you may notice artifacts in lower quality signals such as 480i analog broadcasts.  Component tends to hide some of these artifacts depending on how well the analog to digital upscaling technology in the output device is.

Another thing to consider is the length of the cable you will need.  HDMI tends to require short distance where component cables can usually be very long.  Component video is analog so it can pick up interference but, unless the cable is of low quality, this is usually not a problem.

Let us know what you think.  What are your devices and do you prefer HDMI or component with them?

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