Finally, after months of research, analysis paralysis and nagging doubt, I have an HDTV.

Words cannot describe the image produced by my new NEC 42XR4A plasma HDTV. I’ll try, but first a sincere thanks to Chris at Cleveland Plasma. He is professional, courteous, and informative. Most importantly, he executes. I placed my order last Saturday, and the only thing Chris didn’t deliver that I asked for was a Patriots win… All week, Chris kept in touch with me via email and provided tracking information on Wednesday (everyone lost a day to the Monday holiday…) and I was called Thursday to schedule delivery… for Friday between 12-3.

Like a ten year old the night before Christmas, I tossed and turned with visions of tiny pixels dancing in my head. After a quick morning in the office, I sped home wondering what time the “big boy” would arrive. As I pulled up, I wondered no more, for there he was, right at my door! It took me about an hour to set up the stand, position the panel on it and connect cables for a Comcast DVR, LG LDA-511 DVD and Yamaha receiver. If possible, I suggest attaching cables with the panel flat on a soft surface. In particular, the HDMI cables were tough to attach as they are underneath the panel. fyi, I ran digital optical audio from the DVD to the receiver and digital coax from the Comcast box. With all systems go, I turned on the DVR, receiver and panel. Wow. Like Dave, the astronaut at the end of “2001 – A Space Odyssey,” I’m sure my face was full of wonder as this amazing image overwhelmed my senses

When I finally came to, I wanted to test every DVD I owned… I did check out “Batman Begins,” “Austin Powers – Goldmember,” and “Jaws” when my son came home. All looked very good, but I think the “upconverting” feature of the DVD is somewhat hype. I couldn’t tell much difference between 480i, 480p, 720p or 1080i… I think I’ll be investing in a higher-end DVD like a Denon. Any suggestions? Anyway, HDTV is what really rocks this panel. The INHD channels on Comcast show stunning images made for HD. I felt like I was there as the cameras raced through the canals of Venice and slowly toured the great museums of Europe. I’ve seen HD on a 42″ LG panel and on a 42″ Samsung DLP set. To my eyes, they simply do not compare to the 42XR4A. Colors are vibrant and lifelike. Black is black. Resolution is crystal clear. The glass reflection is really not noticable. Even SDTV looks great! That surprised me as I’ve seen it look less than stellar on the other sets.

All that aside, I got this thing primarily for sports and movies. Unfortunately, the biggest drawback is the lack of HD content available, even with the premium channel feeds Comcast threw in for a free teaser. I mean, ESPNHD was broadcasting a late game and it wasn’t in HD! What’s up with that? As I headlined, the Celtics game was amazing! It was like I had a seat looking out the window of a luxury box, except there was no window on the box because I could hear every sneaker squeak. I don’t think it was the HD, but the young Celtics beat the Nets, 99-96. It was the first game of the season I really paid attention to. The image is that good. Anyway, I’m hopeful HD content will increase rapidly and I can’t wait for the NFL conference championships tomorrow.

Until then, it will be last season’s “24” on DVD, “Million Dollar Baby” in HD that I recorded last night at midnight, “Son Volt in Concert” that I recorded while watching “Sideways,” and finally, shopping for a Harmony remote. Any suggestions for that?

So, after an exhaustive search, I’m extremely satisfied with my decision. Now I have to go watch TV…