Still loving it. World Cup has been brilliant and BBC really are showing the way with their broadcasts. Been impressed with the cricket as well so looking good for Premiership next year. Was getting used to the picture quality and switched the TV on for the Brazil game earlier this week. It looked awful – pixelly, low detail, lack of colour. I was so disappointed and thought the BBC were maybe using different settings for their admittedly test HD service. I then realised I was on BBC1, not the BBC HD channel. Switched over and normal service was resumed – moments like that really hit home the difference in quality.
There are however some firmware issues. Had the video stutter twice now after watching a recording which is easily solved by powering the box off and on. No Sky+ failures yet but the time does drift on these boxes – about a minute a day. I’m sure a future firmware update will resolve this but in the meantime…
- Select Services from remote
- Then press 4, 0, 1 and then Select to enter the Installers Menu
- Select the Planner Rebuild menu option (number 7 and NOT number 8 which will wipe your recordings)
- Housekeeping should then start and once complete power down the box
- Press Sky or the power button to bring the box back on.
For me not a big deal especially when I look at the picture quality I’ve now got. Loving Sky+ also – so easy to use and totally changes how you use broadcast television. Should have bought it years ago.
Just when you though it was safe to throw away scart switchboxes as you move to hi-def you soon realise that most HD TV’s come with only 1 HDMI socket, 1 DVI socket and a component socket (although most new TV’s now come with 2 HDMI’s at least). Not much when you think of the multiple HD sources that you could have. To get round this little issue I plumped for an Octava 5 way HDMI switchbox. This works really well as a pass through device and gives long term expandability for any future HD devices I may add.
It allows for 5 HDMI/DVI sources to be connected and so far with my two sources it’s worked with no issues. Although it auto switches it also supports Infra Red selection of an input which is useful feature to have. If you do want one I can highly recommend The Media Factory who answered all my queries and also delivered promptly. Will definitely use them again. Worth noting that the Octava was pretty cost effective when compared to other HDMI switchboxes on the market at the moment.
Also worth considering is the Octava switchbox that also allows for multiple optical inputs – very handy if your amp is low on capacity. Ultimately the switchbox is more expandable and cost effective than upgrading your amp which looking at today’s market will give you one extra HDMI socket which really isn’t enough.
It finally arrived late yesterday – Sky HD. I’ve only watched a few HD broadcasts so far but I’m very impressed with HD and also the upscaled SD transmissions via the new Sky box. The box itself looks great and is pretty quiet – nothing to trouble you while watching and only a slight noise when recording and the TV is off which is only to be expected.
The BBC HD channel is the most impressive. Clips from Planet Earth are amazing and like others have said the HD adds real depth to whatever you are watching. I’ve not had time to take some photo’s yet but from the others I’ve seen on the web they don’t capture how much of a difference HD can make.
World Cup broadcasts have been superb – no motion blurring and just so much detail compared to the SD channel broadcasting the same game. No Dolby Digital 5.1 which was supposed to be part of the HD broadcasts. I guess it still is a test service for the BBC.
Sky Sports cricket was looking superb in HD also. Sky One HD was a bit iffy – mostly upscaled stuff that wasn’t true HD and it showed. Discovery and National Geographic were also very good.
The box has been reliable so far apart from one instance – I watched a recording and then switched back to normal viewing – the video seemed to stutter every 3 or 4 seconds. Switching the box off and on resolved the problem so it’s probably a firmware fix that’s required to resolve that and other issues that folk have – crashing boxes etc.
Sky+ functionality works like a charm. It’s great to be able to pause, rewind live TV and something I should really have bought in to a long time ago. I also notice a big difference with the upscaled SD channels. Doctor Who looked far superior than it did over Freeview. No macro blocking and a really clean picture which wasn’t something I expected.
If you have an HD television then this is THE broadcast step change you’ve been waiting for. The difference between SD and HD is quite marked and is certainly clearer than DVD. Well done to Sky and Telewest for getting HD out there – I’m still peeved that NTL are stating that it’s 2007 before they will have an HD solution. Poor. My TV is only 32inch and I can see a big difference with HD. Given that larger TV’s highlight the issues with SD material more than a 32 inch box is a no brainer that HD will look great the larger your TV is. Highly recommended although there will be hardware issues (early adopter tax) and a lack of HD material compared to SD. The later will only improve over time (Ryder Cup in HD – woo hoo) and hopefully the former will be resolved with timely firmware updates. Right – back to the World Cup.
A few bit’s and pieces on HD. Firstly, my TV. Had no real issues with it apart from a bug with the 360 (and maybe hi-def content in general) in that the colour red (and oranges) would cause some ghosting of the image on the screen. Nothing major and certainly nothing that could be spotted in game. You could see it especially on the dashboard and in PGR menu’s although changing the dashboard theme removed the issue.
However I picked up TopSpin last week which looked gorgeous until I played my first tournament on clay. Uggggggghhhhhhhhh. Fugly and difficult to watch – felt the whole image was blurry. Luckily for me the next day saw the latest firmware release for the TV which solved the problem. Good stuff Philips – only took 4 months.
I still don’t know whether providing the facility to upgrade your TV’s firmware is a good idea. In one respect it allows Philips to address issues through the life of he TV. However it also allows them to ship a ‘buggy’ product knowing it can be addressed in the long term. How many users though will:
- Know about the firmware release
- Know how to apply it
- Have the confidence to do it
People I know have issues applying a firmware release to a DVD writer worth about Â£60 never mind to a TV worth Â£1800. For me it’s great but I’m a geek. For average users it’s just not good enough.
Other HD news is a rumour – Microsoft will announce their HD-DVD add on at E3 next month and it will be priced at $100. That sounds stupidly cheap. If it’s true then I can see a lot of people picking up the device. Hopefully they’ll add an HDMI socket to the player as well – HDMI is the new scart and I’m still surprised they went with component rather than HDMI on the 360. Time to make amends.
I’m still looking for an HDMI switch box. As I’ve mentioned HDMI has become the standard way of hooking up HD sources yet most screens still only have one socket. If your a switch box manufacturer then the next couple of years is the time to make money. By year end I’ll have the DVD player, Sky HD, PS3 and probably the 360 via the HD-DVD add on all using HDMI. So it’s definitely a five way switch box which looking at those on the market will cost between Â£150 and Â£350. Ouch. Octava is my first choice as there is now a UK distributor and it’s the cheapest. Gefen do a 4 way HDMI and audio switch box but it’s over Â£300. I would rather get a new amp with some HDMI inputs than pay that much. So it looks like Octava unless I turn up a bad review in avforums. I’ll post an update once I have the box and tested it.
Well done BBC – they are broadcasting the World Cup in Hi-Def. Wimbledon too and also Planet Earth plus more. Available to Sky, Telewest & NTL users who have HD. Freeview will miss out although some trialists in London may get it.
I will be subscribing to a digital service to get this (currently Freeview only)…only question is which one?
Update. Sky announced their pricing yesterday….I’ve now pre-ordered Sky HD. Hopefully installed in May in time for the summers sporting events. Just need to work out how to pay for it.