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A Brief Guide to HD TV

Sky HD Upgrade

You have to have been living on another planet if you have not yet come across HD TV, either seeing a friend’s TV or from the advertising campaigns Sky and Virgin Media have been running. With so many of us going HD mad, others are left not really knowing what HD TV actually provides – if this is the case for you, let us explain:

High Definition or HD provides viewers with a picture in higher resolution than standard TV broadcasts, in actual fact the clarity of the picture is five times that of a normal broadcast.

A colour television consists of groups of tiny blue, green and red dots (otherwise known as sub pixels) and the clarity of a picture relates to the amount of pixels present. A normal television picture consist of 720 x 576 pixels (approximately half a million points of light), by contrast an HD picture consists of 1920 x 1080 pixels (more than 2 million points of light).

If you decide to subscribe to Sky HD, you will find there are a number of key benefits from watching programmes in HD, for instance you’ll find the sound quality superior too and you’ll notice that the picture is much sharper and colours so much more vibrant. Also bear in mind that Sky TV offers the largest range of HD channels (over 50) in the UK – Virgin Media offer a lot less but HD comes as standard on Virgin TV packages so if you only want the main channels like BBC and ITV in HD that can be better value.

If you are thinking about getting an HD TV package there are a number of things that you will need to be aware of.

  • To begin with you will need to have an HD ready TV – if you are not sure if your TV is HD ready, then look out for the logo ‘HD ready’ which will be visible somewhere on the set.
  • You need a digital TV box that is HD compatible like the Sky+HD, Virgin TiVo, BT Vision+ boxes or a Freeview HD box. As an example (as they give you the biggest selection of HD channels)the Sky+HD box is a digital receiver and video recorder, all rolled into one. Once you are connected to your HD TV, you will be able to watch both normal definition programmes as well as HD programmes and the box has the capability of storing around sixty hours of HD television (or around 185 hours of normal television). You can record two programmes at a time with the Sky+HD box (three at a time with Virgin TiVo) and with both you can use your mobile phone or the web to record programmes remotely.
  • If you’re going for Sky HD you need the HD pack, an ‘add on’ available from Sky TV costing £10.25 per month, which provides you with access to the HD channels. These channels include documentaries, sports, movies, drama and the arts, although most sports and movies channels require you to take Sky Sports or Sky Movies as extra add-ons.

You may be aware that HD can come in different formats – 720p, 1080p and 1080i – the best quality format for HD broadcast in the UK is 1080i (Sky HD supports 1080i as well as 720p).

Some people believe that the digital switchover will provide them with HD channels automatically, which is not the case – the switchover will simply switch off the analogue television signal leaving only digital television channels and is in no way linked to automatic HD broadcasting. You can get HD channels free on Freeview HD but you need to invest in the box and of course have an HD ready TV too.

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