Sunday, November 26, 2006

HDTV - Is it rubbish?

I was looking at some HDTV specifications the other day and I can't help thinking there's some shady practices going on here. For the uninitiated, HDTV is new television standard for better quality television pictures. It comes in two forms: 768 lines and 1080 lines. Rather like the number of "megapixels" on your digital camera, the higher the number, the better the quality (to a certain extent).

Why are HDTVs so large?

If you go into a TV shop, you will be faced with a vast array of LCD and Plasma televisions, some of which support only the 768 line standard (they will show 1080 line content but have to scale the picture down, with an intevitable loss of detail). The only 1080 line models that are currently available are 40" or above. Why is this? There doesn't seem to be any good reason why LCDS of smaller dimensions can't be made with enough pixels and electronics to display the full 1080 line HDTV pictures. After all, computer monitors like Apple's 23" cinema display packs 1920x1200 pixels (more that 1080 vertical lines) in a 23" box.

I don't want a 40" television in my front room. About 32" is about right, but I don't see why I should have to put up with the 1366x768 displays that are currently on offer. A £70, 15" computer monitor has a 768 line display, so why are HDTVs so expensive? Surely there is a gap in the market for a 27-32" HDTV that supports 1080p.

Source of HDTV pictures

Another cost is the source of HDTV pictures. We already know that DVDs are rubbish (720x480 in the USA or 720x576 in the UK), so where are the HD pictures to come from? In the UK you have a few options:
  • Sky-HD - a £300 box plus and extra £10 per month gives you HD versions of Sky One, Sky Sports and Sky Movies. You also get a small amount of BBC HD content
  • The X-Box 360 provides an HD output
  • An £800 Blue-Ray player will let you play BlueRay high definition films
  • A £600 HD-DVD player lets you play HD-DVD discs
There are experiments underway to broadcast HD television pictures on Freeview, but that is some way off and when it arrives, you'll need a new set top box.

Is it worth it

Full high definition television is still in its "early-adopter" stage in the UK, with few sources of true high definition pictures, but HDTVs are selling like hot cakes and the pictures you get when putting standard DVD or TV pictures into them are less than ideal. When done properly, HDTV is stunning to look at but you need the content, i.e. BBC 1 and 2, ITV and Channels 4 and 5 all in full HD. This won't arrive for some time.

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Blogger Polarbear said...

Sounds way too expensive to me.

I had an email from a company that makes smaller HD screens for ATC applications the other day . Maybe you should get yourself in the Dragons Den with them.

We are watching some 'rubbish' DVD's of Auf Wiedersehen Pet at the moment. No Extras or nowt!
And we have to watch them on a bog standard TV. I ask ya!

6:43 pm  
Blogger Glynn said...

I don't know how you cope.

You'll be telling me you don't have a subwoofer next.

7:17 pm  
Blogger Polarbear said...

and no tweeters either

11:55 pm  

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