There is good advice on these posts. If you are not going to watch DVDs or HDTV, why spend the bucks for a HDTV set? Get a cheaper set now and buy another when your source material changes to widescreen.
I mostly watch DVDs (www.netflix.com
) except during football season so most of my viewing is widescreen and that is why I bought a widescreen Sony 34xbr800. If my viewing habits remained the same as they were prior to September 2000 (watch a little football in the fall and leave the set off February through July), then I would also have kept my 4:3. Now, I am addicted to the awesome picture quality of movies on DVD.
However, I disagree with KadMan and agree with DonBerg on the blowing up a standard heavily compressed digital NTSC signal. Make it big enough and get close enough and the picture quality looks bad to most of us. Even at 7' on my 34xbr800 the 27.8" diagonal NTSC picture can look bad. The kickoff and wide angle shots during football look really grainy and make me want to scoot back while the line of scrimmage shots look fine. A 4:3 movie looks fine but a letterbox movie that I have to zoom (like Mad Max from Sci-Fi channel) is just too grainy to enjoy. Admittedly, some people don't like grainy pictures and some people seem not to mind grainy picture quality, so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe if I put on my old glasses, I wouldn't see the grainy compression of digital cable but IMO, the poor picture quality of NTSC is anything but a myth. If you can't see a difference, don't waste your money.
In summary, if you watch ALL HDTV and DVDs, get a widescreen but if you watch ALL 4:3 source, get a 4:3. If you watch both and can afford it, get a widescreen AND a 4:3. If, like me, it is your only TV and you watch both widescreen and NTSC 4:3 on the same TV, then some compromise is necessary. In addition, stretch mode = distortion and any zoom lessens picture quality so in spite of my best efforts, my wife and I only watch OAR. Maybe my goal is unrealistic, but I want my TV to look as crisp as my computer monitor.
There are advantages and disadvantages to buying at a brick & mortar store. At the size you want, these sets are really heavy and you might want to make sure someone not only delivers it to your door but sets it in your viewing room. I also wanted the 30 day return policy if it didn't work out the way I anticipated.
Also, many AVS forum members (including me) found it hard to view digital cable in the store (they always show DVDs or HDTV) so you may not have all the information you need for your final decision until you get it home and hooked up to your source (mine is AT&T digital cable which leaves much to be desired). I got a fair deal at a Video Only store a mile or two from my house and have enjoyed my 34xbr800 since last August. But, I bought two DVD players on the 'net (one I sent back and one I kept) so each to his/her own.
Good luck & happy viewing. :)
PS Adjusting the picture with AVIA really helped as did using good cables (I use Bettercables.com).