Currently, you can get your high-def programming from cable, satellite or what we call "OTA" or over-the-air. If you plan to receive an HD signal from cable or satellite, you only need an HD monitor, i.e., an "HD Ready" set. This label indicates that the set is capable of displaying a high-definition picture that is provided from some tuning device or set-box that is external to the set itself. Basically, this is high resolution monitor.
As we previously mentioned, you can receive HD via OTA signals as well. You have to provide a digital tuner box and an antenna, but the benefit is that there are no monthly fees. You will likely only receive your local channels but again, the benefit is that the signal is free.
An HDTV set is a "step up" because it includes a built in digital tuner, which is known as an ATSC tuner. There is no additional tuner box necessary as the set is capable of both receiving and displaying your high-def programming. This set will typically cost more to offset the additional digital tuning components. Again, you will need to supply an antenna for free OTA programming, but you don't need to purchase an external tuner.
Similar to an HD Ready set an HDTV set can also receive high-def programming from cable or satellite. All of this really boils down to one key difference: does the set have a built in digital tuner or not? If it does, it's an HDTV; if it doesn't, it's HD Ready.
Within the next few days, we'll take the next step in explaining the basics: input jacks. We'll cover CableCARDs, DVI, HDMI, composite and more. If you're new to HDTV and have a question, please don't hesitate to use our contact form. We guarantee that if you have a question, there are many others that have the same one!