BBC HD Channel is now official and will launch…today! After trialling for over 18 months it looks to be hastily launched and not that much different from the test channel it’s been running as. It will show more content though, around 9 hours a day starting from 15:00. Programmes like Jools Holland and Planet Earth look stunning in HD – it will be good to see Kill Bill and Sin City at Christmas in HD too.
With Channel 4 rumoured to be launching their HD channel on Dec 10th and ITV in March 08 it looks like HD is finally getting more content. If only Sky would drop their Â£10 a month HD charge. A lot of people want the HD box and are willing to pay the one off charge but not the monthly fee. The image quality from the HD channels is excellent on Sky, even to the point that I’ll not watch an SD movie as it’s that inferior but I can understand the cost putting people off. Next year may see a TV upgrade!
It’s been four weeks since Sky HD was installed – here are my thoughts so far.
The World Cup in HD looks amazing. I was really impressed with most of the BBC coverage. A couple of the games earlier in the tournament seemed to be of lower bit rate which made the picture look slightly blurred as it moved. Apart from that I have no complaints with the BBC – just a shame ITV showed their HD games on Telewest only as when you swapped to an ITV game you got a pixelly unfocussed mess that rammed home the benefits of HD. Looking forward to Premiership and Ryder Cup.
Wimbledon has also been great. Centre and No 1 courts were displayed in HD and the difference was massive. I saw no blurring of the ball as reported elsewhere but I think some of these issues are down to poor quality tv’s rather than the broadcast itself. One point to note – the BBC suffered from a dead pixel. Well I found it quite funny – wonder if they’ll get a refund on their equipment or did they buy it from a firm that only offers returns for more than five dead pixels?
HD films + Dolby Digital 5.1 sound = better than upscaled DVD experience. Spiderman 2 and Sin City looked vastly superior to the non upscaled DVD versions and still better even when the DVD was upscaled. The only issue is that some broadcasts are using Dolby Pro Logic II which just isn’t as good as Dolby Digital. Oddly second or third broadcasts of the films (Spiderman for example) did have Dolby Digital unlike their original screenings.
Despite that if you like movies and you’ve got an HD Ready TV then it’s a no brainer – Sky HD really is that good. Will have to wait and see if they are as good as HD-DVD/Blu-Ray although I would have through the new hi-def disks will be better again (less compression I imagine).
Lack of content is the main issue. Sky One are broadcasting HD repeats through the night which shows just how good the programs will look – the only problem is I’ve seen most of them already. BBC HD is a trial service with repeats and Nat Geog and Discovery aren’t showing much new. The main issue is that many of the US import series have ended and so we’re waiting for them to start. Also there are still few programs shot in HD, especially in the UK which is a situation that will only improve.
Be interesting to see what ITV and Channels 4 & 5 do (if anything) over the coming months with regards HD. However for most channels I’m getting a better image than my Freeview box could offer so I’m still pleased – just need a bit more in HD.
Sky HD’s achilles heel is the hardware itself. Firstly 160Gb is small when recording HD content. 140 Gb is being reserved by Sky for a future download service – would be nice to have option to use it depending on whether you sign up for the service. Secondly Sky has problems with reliability and glitches. According to the Sunday Herald around 30% of users have had hardware problems. More worrying are reports that TV’s are being damaged by the Sky hardware, most prone being Pioneer models when the HDMI port is used. I’ve had a couple of box freezes but thankfully no missed recordings…yet. Firmware updates will sort out the latter but failing and damaging hardware is a far bigger issue that would only be fixed by repair/recall. Hopefully it won’t end up that way.
Overall I’m really chuffed with Sky HD. The Sky+ functionality is superb (should have got it ages ago) and the picture from HD channels is amazing. However I wouldn’t recommend getting it without looking at what is being broadcast first to avoid any disappointment. Sport and movie fans though will love it.
- Philips HD TV – Â£1600
- Sky HD Box – Â£300
- Sky Monthly Subscription – Â£52
- Watching England get knocked out of the World Cup again on penalties, Terry and Beckham shedding tears and Andy Murray winning magestically all in high definition – priceless
What an amazing day of sport. First Andy Murray. Great performance especially as Roddick was serving so well. Still think it’s too early to be thinking of semi’s or final’s but that performance today was one of the best sport moments of the year so far. As for England they didn’t play well when they had eleven men, they had the better of the game after Rooney was sent off, the substitutions were frankly bizarre (take off wide man and put on Crouch, aka gigantaur, with no one left to cross it?) and to be honest the England team performance throughout the world cup did not merit a semi final place. Bye.
Looking forward to Murray in the 4th round now. Just how far can he go? I hoped that the comments on his website would be a bit more positive after the nasty stuff left over the last week but the one copied below shows that despite a really good post match interview some people just never let up.
If you werenâ€™t such an unbelievably lucky hitter and hoper, so incredibly dull and such a nasty piece of work, it would be easy to look past the fact that youâ€™re so dam ugly.
I thought Mr Burns was a cartoon character. I didnâ€™t realise he was real and had offspring.
Blue Planet – BBCHD – 8:00pm 10th July
Deep Blue – BBCHD – 9:00pm 10th July
Planet Earth – BBCHD – 8:00pm 11th,12th,13th,14th July
That will almost fill up the Sky HD box.
A new firmware update is being pushed out for Sky HD boxes. Details of the fixes can be seen here but include the time loss issue I mentioned and increased stability. Good to see official Sky reps keeping users informed in forums like Digital Spy. Sometimes they do listen.