How to Tell If a TV Is Digital

by Robert Vaux

As the digital revolution picks up speed, consumers may be confused by what constitutes digital TV. A digital TV is one capable of receiving a digital signal--as opposed to an analog signal, which television stations broadcast for several decades. By the middle of 2009, all U.S. television stations will be broadcast in digital, which means you'll need a digital TV to continue receiving your favorite programs. There are several methods by which you can spot one.

1

Look at the owner's manual for wording that confirms the existence of a digital tuner. This can be tricky sometimes. Some TVs use very confusing terms to hide the fact that they're not digitally compatible. Digital TVs will use one of the following phrases in their owner's manuals: Digital Receiver, Digital Tuner, Integrated Digital Tuner, HDTV, DTV or ATSC. If you don't have your owner's manual, you can find an online copy at sites like Retrevo (see Resources).

2

Look at the surface of the TV frame--likely the lower front right or left-hand corner--for a label that reads "Integrated Digital Tuner," "Digital Receiver," "Digital Tuner," "Digital Tuner Built-In," "DTV," "ATSC" or "HDTV." Some TVs include such labels to further clarify their features.

3

Ascertain exactly when you bought your TV (or when the original owner bought it if you've purchased a used TV). Any TV shipped to any part of the United States after March 1, 2007 needs to have a digital tuner inside of it. If your TV is a bulkier cathode ray tube model or was made before 1998, it almost certainly doesn't have a digital tuner. Those purchased between 1998 and 2004 may have a digital tuner, but probably only on the higher end models (big screen TVs and the like). If you bought your TV between 2004 and 2007, there's an excellent chance it has a digital tuner. To find out for certain, write down your TV's model number and go to the manufacturer's website. They include specifications for all their TV models, and can tell you whether or not your model has a digital tuner.

Tip

  • check Keep in mind that digital TV is not the same as high definition TV. You may have a TV capable of receiving digital signals, but unless it is also an HD TV, the images will just be in standard definition.

Warning

  • close If you don't have a digital TV, buy a digital converter box at any electronics store that shifts the digital signal into analog so that your TV can display it. Converter boxes plug into the back of your set like a cable box, and most are extremely easy to use. Most models retail for about $50.