A widescreen TV has a 16:9 aspect ratio (meaning it's 16 units wide by 9 units tall), vs. the 4:3 aspect ratio of traditional TV sets. Widescreen TVs are great for watching DVDs and HDTV, which have a 16:9 picture. Check with your cable or satellite provider, or check in your local TV Guide, to find out which television shows are being offered in widescreen (or "letterbox") format.

The problem with widescreen TVs is that programs with 4:3 ratios display with vertical grey or black bars on their sides and, over a long period of time, this can cause burn-in problems on TVs that are susceptible. Most of widescreen TVs have ways to stretch, crop, or zoom the regular 4:3 image so that it fills the wider screen. These methods distort the image somewhat, but many widescreen TV owners prefer looking at slightly stretched people rather than black bars. Here's a quick rundown of a few of the different names for selectable aspect-ratio modes found on widescreen sets. Note that these names always vary by manufacture.

Places black or gray bars, 4:3 image

Normal (4:3): Places black or gray bars to either side of the 4:3 image.

tv screen 16:9, stretches the image
Wide or Full: Used for native 16:9 content such as that found on DVDs. With 4:3 content, such as regular TV, it stretches the image horizontally, making people look shorter and fatter.

 widescreen tv, stretched images

Zoom: Eliminating the windowbox bars but cropping the top and bottom of the image. Often, more than one level of zoom is provided.



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