Carol S has been a regular both here and on the cable forums for some time. Frustrated with Virgin Media's lack of high definition channels she's recently made the switch to Sky. I asked her to write something on this blog about her first impressions and I'm delighted to say she's been quick to respond. With so many considering turning to the 'dark' side over HD, I hope you find it informative. Over to you, Carol...
I left Virgin a couple of days ago and Nialli asked me to post a guest message on his blog about how I felt about the change.
First of all, I managed to get one of the Sky offers, so I got the Sky HD box for £75 and the installation was £30. The installer rang me around 9 am to say that he would be there around 11:30 to noon - and he arrived at noon. A very pleasant guy who had the whole thing installed in around 1½ hours and then spent the next 30 mins updating the software and showing me all the ropes.
The quality and choice of the Sky HD is absolutely top rate - especially for their two premium mixes (Sports and Movies). Just by chance one of my favourite movies was on one of the HD movie channels last night (The River - starring Meryl Streep) and it just brought the whole thing to life with the vividness, sharpness and 5.1 surround sound. Absolutely stunning scenery in HD. The same with the sport - watching some football in HD was simply awesome - and it appears better than the footie on BBC HD (and I thought that was good).
One of the downsides is that I don't think that the Sky EPG is quite as good as Virgin's - but this is due to be updated September/October time. One of the things I don't like is that if you bring up Sky menu, you lose the program you are watching until you switch back to the program (but apparently this is one of the things being fixed in the forthcoming update).
Another downside is that ITV is not as sharp as with Virgin's rendition of it - so I will miss that with Corrie and The Bill. Other channels (eg Channel 5) appear sharper. However, many of programs that I would have watched in SD on Virgin (Discovery, National Geographic, History) are now available in HD plus there is Sky 1 HD. Come October, most of the rest of the movie channels will be switching to HD too (Action, SciFi etc) so I guess I'll just become an HD junkie.
The final downside is the size of the hard drive inside the Sky+HD box, which is only 160MB - and part of this is reserved for Sky Anytime. As it is my box, I might go down the route of installing one of Samsung's SpinPoint 1TB drives - but there are also rumours of Sky opening up the e-SATA port on their box - which would make attaching an external e-SATA caddy + drive a piece of cake.
By switching my TV to Sky (I decided in the end to stick with Virgin for telephone and BB), it also had the effect of reducing what I was paying for my VIP package (£86 per month). I am now paying £42 per month for the Variety Mix (gives me all the entertainment channels such as Bravo, Living, Virgin 1, etc), Knowledge (for all the SD documentaries) and the 2 Premium mixes (Full Sports Mix and the Premium Movie mixes). Of course I have to add in the £10 per month for the HD mix (all 17 channels at the moment, increasing to around 27 or 28 channels in October) making a total payment of £54 per month (increasing to £56 per month in September).
I reduced my Virgin package to 10meg BB and phone (free weekend calls) and with e-billing this comes down to £22.50 per month making a total outlay of £78.50 (from September) and thus saving me £7.50 per month.
In conclusion, the switch has worked out well for me as I am not only saving money, I am getting a massive increase in the amount of HD programming that I will be able to watch. I guess it depends on the type of programming that you watch if you would benefit from a switch to Sky - if you mainly watch the ITV channels, the BBC channels and are happy with the movies on these channels, then you might not benefit so much - but anybody who is into films, documetaries and sport would be in 7th Heaven by switching.