Back to Basics: How to Set Up Your new HDTV

So you finally went out and bought a high-definition TV. Congratulations - you've joined a growing community of people who've switched to the new digital technology. Considering HDTV's stunningly realistic, widescreen images and Dolby Digital sound, it's easy to see why more and more home-entertainment enthusiasts would rather have an HDTV than an apprenticeship with Donald Trump.

But because HDTV is relatively new, a lot of people still aren't aware even of the basics. For example, many don't know that an "HD-ready" set (a.k.a. an HDTV monitor) needs to be connected to an outboard digital tuner before it can receive any high-definition shows. Or that just because HDTVs "upconvert" standard TV signals for display in the higher-resolution 720p (progressive-scan) or 1080i (interlaced) format doesn't mean the programs are true HDTV. To view honest-to-goodness high-def broadcasts, you need the proper equipment, properly connected, and you need a high-def signal.

Before delving into the various connection options, let's review some basic TV-setup considerations. Whether you go with a direct-view, rear-projection, or flat-panel model - or even a front projector - you'll want to roughly match the screen size to the room so you won't have to sit too close or too far away to see the whole picture in full detail. A general rule of thumb for comfortable viewing distance is about twice the diagonal screen size (1.5 times if you're using a front projector). For example, if your set has a 40-inch screen measured diagonally, you should sit at least 6.5 feet away.

Room lighting is also important. For daytime viewing, place the TV where windows can't shine light onto the screen. And for best nighttime viewing, situate lamps so their reflections don't appear on the screen.

You use the same composite-, component-, or S-video connections found on a regular analog TV to hook up standard video sources like a DVD player or an analog VCR to an HDTV. But hooking up HDTV sources can involve setup and connection options you might not be familiar with, which are covered below.