Monday, 23 July 2007

Mmm...consumer electronics

So I've just splashed out on a honkin' new LCD TV, and it has completely changed my life. OK, maybe not. I still haven't watched any high definition (HD) content on it, which makes it the home entertainment equivalent of buying an Aston Martin and only using the first and second gears.

But still, the Digital Freeview channels look very good, the on-board image processor does a fine job of upscaling DVD content and the contrast ratio makes colours and blacks look fantastic. It's a Sony Bravia KDL-32D3000, by the way. Before you say it, I didn't base my decision on the adverts (although they are gorgeous), but rather I did heaps of research on places like AV Forums (a good place to start if you're thinking of making a similar purchase).

I've now turned my attention to getting HD content onto the damn thing. The options are not good:
  • Pay Sky £299 for a set-top box, £30 for installation, subscribe to their premium packages and then pay an extra £10 a month on top for eight HD channels
  • Subscribe to Virgin Media and pay an extra £150 for their box, plus £5 a month for HD services, which currently only consists of one channel (BBC HD), plus a few movies on demand
  • Buy an HD DVD or Blu-Ray player (or suitable games console) and start buying Blu Ray or HD DVD discs. Unfortunately, there aren't many great titles out yet, and besides its an expensive option still
  • Download HD content from the web (there aren't many legal options, trailers mostly) and buy a media centre of some description. A Mac Mini is the only option that meets all my needs, and that starts at £399, unless I go down the eBay route
So, those all suck.

I've been keeping a close eye on the HD trial which the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have been running over-the-air. The resulting report has recently come out and makes interesting reading, particularly if you're into the geeky side of broadcasting. Especially the logistics of getting all the World Cup 2006 games broadcast from Germany onto HD screens in London.

Anyway, the net result of all this is that there are no cheap options, very few good ones, and not much on the horizon either. Hopefully the positive results of the HD trial will persuade the powers-that-be to somehow open up more bandwidth to allow HD content onto Freeview. We can do without half the channels that presently exist, if it means we get to watch Planet Earth in glorious HD without paying through the nose.

1 comment:

Simon said...

Phil

After you get the V+ box you don't pay for HD, you pay £5 for the On Demand service. I recently signed up with VM but as their subscribe on the net service was out of date it gave me a better deal than advertised. I ended up getting their 3 for £30 with out forking out extra for the XL tv package, don't have to pay for the On Demand service, which is actually quite good AND get to see Heroes in HD on my HD telly. Jobs a goodun'!