The Difference between HDTV and HDTV Ready
"I'm finally making the leap to HDTV and I'm confused by all the options. One that really confuses me is the use of terms like HDTV and HDTV Ready. Are these the same thing? Or can you tell me what's the difference between HDTV and HDTV Ready?"
HDTV and HDTV Ready are definitely not the same thing. And to make things more confusing, they aren't used consistently in marketing speak.
Generally, HDTV Ready means that your screen supports high definition playback at 1080i, 720p, 1080p, or possibly all three. HDTV Ready also means the screen doesn't have a built-in HDTV tuner, so you would need additional hardware to tune in HDTV signals from off the air or via cable and satellite. If your primary source of HDTV content is cable or satellite, this is a minor detail because the HD set top boxes for service are the necessary tuner.
HDTV means the screen contains a built-in ATSC tuner capable of decoding an HDTV signal of 720p, 1080i, or 1080p without the need for any additional hardware other than an antenna. The big variation here is that the screen will likely work with some or all of the three common formats.
The real one to watch out for is EDTV, which stands for Enhanced Definition TV. These screens are neither HDTV nor HDTV Ready. EDTV is limited to 480p, which is the standard resolution of most Hollywood DVD releases. This will certainly look better than what's playing on the standard definition broadcast of your local ABC, NBC, or FOX affiliates, but is not high definition television.