What is SDTV?

Dish Network and DirecTV are two brands of U.S.-based satellite television service.
Standard definition is generally a lower standard of image quality than high definition.
HDTVs usually have 1080 active pixels.
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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2015
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With the advent of digital output, television transmission quality is becoming more sophisticated. Standard Definition television (SDTV) and High Definition television (HDTV) are two of the new formats. SDTV is a digital format that provides a high quality picture, very similar to that of digital versatile disk.

The quality of these new digital transmissions will become the standard for the future of broadcasting. SDTV is a lower resolution picture than HDTV. The images on SDTV will be of better quality than those of today's TV screens. They will also still have stereo sound.

The difference between SDTV and HDTV is that the signal on SDTV is more compressed than that of HDTV. As the digital signal is compressed, broadcasters can transmit five SDTV programs, whereas HDTV can only broadcast one. Multiple program broadcasting, called multicasting, was not previously available with analog transmissions. The picture definition of SDTV is also slightly lower than on HDTV.

SDTV will give a greater range of choice in the type of viewing material you will be able to access. Children's programs, documentaries, films, and public affairs -- the choice will be far greater than before. It will be the equivalent of digital satellite services such as the Dish Network or Direct TV.


Most of the normal TV sets used today cannot receive digital transmissions. You will need a DTV receiver in order to accept them. DTV receivers are available at the moment; they work by connecting your television to an output. However, they are of limited performance quality. You will be able to watch SDTV and HDTV programs, but they will not be true, High Definition picture quality.

All broadcasters are now required by the FCC to use the new digital system. In order to fully experience SDTV or HDTV, you will need to buy a new television set. High definition sets first appeared in 1998. These television sets were very expensive, much like when the first compact disk players appeared. The price has dropped significantly since then, as the diversity of televisions available has grown.

Walk into any television retailer, and the wealth of choice is sometimes bewildering. Liquid crystal display, flat and plasma screens -- there seems to be no end to the choice available. You can have floor-standing televisions or sets that are hung on the wall like a painting. The only limit is the amount of money you wish to spend on your viewing pleasure.


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Post 13

If my tv is sdtv do I need a converter box?

Post 12

I'm wondering how come I only receive basic cable, and not satellite, but with my RCA SDTV I can pick up in demand movies, etc? I read the above, but still cannot understand why?

Post 11

OK, i have an SDTV DVD recorder and i wondered what i need to do to record digital signal. Thanks for your reply!!

Post 10

i have an sdtv do i need a converter for it?

Post 9

I have sdtv do i need a converter for my tv?

Moderator's reply: Good question! Check out our article, What is the DTV Transition? for more information.

Post 8

If I have a tv that is sdtv - will i need to

add a converter box to it?

Post 7

I'd also like to know what's required for my SDTV television with this change to digital broadcasting.

Post 5

do I need a converter box if I have a sdtv now???

Post 4

will my sdtv work without a hdtv converter?

Post 3

I just purchased a SDTV before finding out about the HDTV. Will I have to purchase another or will this one work?

Post 2

Is it worthwhile adding a sd set top box to a CRT tv

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