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DTV, HDTV and HDTV Ready Television: What is the Difference?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/8/2009

If you listen to the news about the impending switch to only digital broadcasting, your head may feel like it is spinning. You don't know if you have DTV, HDTV or even what the difference is between them. Read on, so that you can be ready for digital television broadcasting.

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    What is DTV?

    DTV stands for digital television. The only real difference between digital TV and analog television is the manner in which programs are broadcast. Analog television is broadcast in the same way radio frequencies are sent out. This means that analog TV broadcasts are prone to interference. If you are "mature" enough to recall pre-cable television days, you have certainly experienced this type of interference. It often presented itself as staticky "snow" on the screen in place of the show you were trying to watch, or ghostly figures in the back or foreground of the TV broadcast. Also, with analog television, the audio and video are transmitted separately. This makes analog broadcasts more prone to lose its sound or its picture due to frequency interference.

    Digital television is broadcast in the same way your computer receives data over the Internet. Bits of information are sent from a transmitter to a receiver, which would be your DTV or an analog television with a digital converter. This means that both audio and sound (as well as text, such as subtitles or closed captioning) are all sent to your television together. DTV is more of an all-or-nothing type of broadcasting. Either you have clear video and audio or you have nothing at all. However, because of the manner in which DTV is transmitted you will likely experience fewer outages in conjunction with better clarity and sound.

    Once television stations switch to broadcasting only digital television, analog TVs will no longer be able to receive broadcasts without a special device that acts as a receiver. If you are uncertain whether you have a DTV, some factors that can help you make a determination. If you have an older TV, chances are it is analog. Almost every television manufactured prior to 1998 is analog. Most TVs produced in 2004 and later do have digital tuners, and by law all televisions sold after March 1, 2007 have to be DTVs. Another way to find out if you are ready for DTV is to look for labels on your television. If there are any markings that say the TV has a digital tuner or receiver, or "HDTV," you will glide right through the transition.

    Speaking of HDTV, read on to learn what it is and what the difference between HDTV and DTV really is.

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    What is HDTV?

    While the acronyms are very similar, the definitions of DTV and HDTV are a bit different. While DTV is digital television, HDTV stands for high definition television. HDTV produces a picture that is precise, clear and highly defined. Viewing a program or movie in high definition means more vivid colors, sharper images and even a better view of subtle nuances. Also, while HDTVs are capable of receiving DTV broadcasts, not all televisions that are DTV-ready are high definition sets.

    Certain television programs and even entire stations are now broadcast in high definition. If you have an HDTV, you enjoy the added sharpness and clarity in the picture. If you have DTV but not a high definition television, you will be able to receive the broadcast, but without the added benefits you would enjoy with an HDTV. In other words, it will be TV as usual.

    Unless you have an HDTV-ready television, that is. Yes, as if it were not confusing enough, there is one more type of TV to throw into this mix. An HDTV-ready TV is one that does not have a built-in high definition tuner, but it does have the capability of displaying programs in high definition. If you have an HDTV-ready television and are connected to cable or satellite programming that broadcasts in high definition, you can enjoy the benefits of viewing in high definition. In addition, HDTV-ready television sets are typically DTVs as well.

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    Learn More

    Now that you have a better idea of the differences and similarities between DTV, HDTV and HDTV-ready television, check out Bright Hub's expansive collection of tips and tutorials here. Check back often, as we are always adding new articles to this collection.