BONE UP BEFORE TUNING IN TO HDTV
Q: If I buy a good TV set today, will I be able to watch HDTV in 1998?
A: You'll be able to view all broadcasts, with the help of a ''down-converter'' box. But the picture won't be high definition.
Q: How good a picture will I get that way?
A: About as good as you get today with a digital-satellite system. That means a clean picture with no ghosts or signal degradation.
Q: How much will the down-converter cost?
A: About $300.
Q: When can we buy HDTV sets?
A: The first products should be out within 12 months.
Q: How much will an HDTV set cost?
A: It depends on the size. Expect to add about $1,500 to the usual price tag. On a large, 50-in. screen--where HDTV really makes a difference--plan to spend $4,000.
Q: Are ''PC/TV'' combinations a good choice?
A: Yes, if your main goal is Web surfing with your family in the living room or playing PC games in a group. But remember, PC/TVs such as Compaq's PC Theatre and Gateway's Destination are essentially ''Wintel'' computers. They require PC skills--and they can crash.
Q: Can PC/TVs display HDTV?
A: Not in their current form. If you buy one today, you'll be able to insert a converter card to display HDTV broadcasts in 1998. But you won't get full HD resolution.
Q: What's so great about HD?
A: It will deliver pictures twice as sharp as today's sets offer. On a small screen, viewed across the room, that won't make much difference. But large HDTV with a wide screen will be a big improvement over today's projection sets. And close up, the picture won't look fuzzy.
Q: Will there be lots of good programming?
A: Not at first. Probably just a few hours of movies each day. But by 2006, most programming may be in high definition.
DATA: BUSINESS WEEK
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