Discovery HD

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Its official Im becoming a video snob. If its not in HD, I really dont want to watch it.

Whereas I was once your basic channel-surfing American Male, happy to settle in with any sporting event or Seinfeld rerun on a given night, buying my first HD set in August changed everything. Now, Id rather watch high-definition sunrise footage than an old Simpsons episode.

I know, it sure took the editor of Residential Systems long enough to finally invest in one of the most important technologies in our business, but I had my reasons for waiting so long. For one, I was paralyzed by all of the options, and so distracted by next-generation improvements and plans for the future that I was unable to commit to a purchase.

Like so many consumers before me, I was drawn to the slim profile of the plasma, but scared away by its price and phosphor burn-in rumors. I loved LCD direct view, but was concerned about its size limitations, action sequence refresh rates, and color accuracy. I thought rear-projection DLP was great, but its footprint and limited viewing angle were not a good fit for my small New York City apartment.

So there I sat on the proverbial fence, enjoying my above-average surround-sound system, but watching a completely inadequate 12-year-old, 27-inch CRT TV. I knew that I had to make the leap if I wanted any credibility. Finally, several factors converged and convinced me that the time was right to make my first HDTV purchase.

Prices have dropped enough and retail-financing programs have become ridiculously attractive. While none of this is good news to the custom installation channel, it sure works well for the average consumer

The quality of many consumer-grade HD sets now more closely match the professionally tweaked pictures that Ive been seeing over the past several years at CEDIA and CES

Cable companies have become more competitive with their HD set-top box offerings

HD DVRs are easily available through the cable company

HD programming options are more abundant than before

A flat-panel monitor is just about the only large-screen TV that will fit in my small apartment

The arrival of my first child in January means that Ill be spending even more time than ever at home

My wife fully endorsed the purchase.

So now it is official: I am a video snob and can hardly stand watching TV unless it is in HD. It has been about two months since we bought our Hitachi 42-inch plasma, and we couldnt be happier. Our new TV has been a fun new toy and has provided plenty of moments when were reminded of the technologys value.

My favorite viewing experiences have involved live sporting events, such as Major League Baseball, the NFL, college football, and U.S. Open Tennis in September. Watching newer HD additions, Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with David Letterman in HD is akin to bringing your favorite CD to a high-end speaker demo and hearing things youve never heard before on tracks that youve listened to hundreds of times. Other less frivolous programming has included HDNets documentary footage of devastated New Orleans neighborhoods in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The vividness of HD had a way of removing the gauze from the footage and sending the reality of the situation right into my apartment. I never recognized the power the HD news coverage until that moment.

But you realize that the technology has truly hooked you in when youre willing to watch hours upon hours of nature footage on Discovery HDs Sunrise Earth. Just goes to show that when the pictures are beautiful, some people are willing to watch just about anything. The same cant be said for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, however. Not even HDTV can make that show watchable.