HDTV vs HDTV-Ready

There is a difference! To make it EZ to understand, if your HDTV set does not have a digital tuner*, it will probably be labeled "HDTV-Ready."

*A digital (ATSC) tuner receives the digital signal (which includes high-definition), and allows the television to display digital programming.

HDTV-Ready means that your TV set is capable of displaying analog and high-definition (HD) digital pictures, but without a digital tuner, it cannot receive the digital signal.

An HDTV-Ready requires an external high-definition TV receiver (digital tuner) in order to receive HDTV signals. These external receivers can be called an HDTV Tuner, set-top-box, or DTV Converter Box.

If you subscribe to cable or satellite, you can buy or rent digital converter boxes directly from them.

If you get your TV signal over-the-air, and want to receive a digital picture, you will also need a converter box of some type.

If you have an HDTV with a built-in digital (ATSC) tuner (which manufactures must include after March 1, 2007), your set will internally receive and display analog and digital signals without an external receiver. This applies to cable, satellite and over-the air broadcasts.

Does my TV set have a Digital Tuner?

Without a review of your owner’s manual, it may be difficult to know if your TV has a digital tuner.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • If you bought your TV set before 1998, it most likely does not have a digital tuner.
  • If you bought a projection, big-screen TV between 1998 and 2004, it may have a digital tuner, but it probably does not. Only a limited number of projection TV sets (usually 42 inches or bigger) included a digital tuner before 2004.
  • If you bought a TV set since 2004, you have a better chance of it having a digital tuner. Even some of these newer TV sets are purely display monitors that lack a digital tuner to receive digital signals.

    These sets usually say "HD-ready" or "HDTV monitor". That means they can display digital and high-definition signals, but they need a converter or cable box as explained above.

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