February 27, 2009

Telegraph: is HDTV worth it?

Here's a piece from the Telegraph this week that asks the question but doesn't really answer it. To my mind, HD is "worth it" but only if you have a 37in or bigger panel - with 32in or smaller the difference is marginal unless you sit really close to the screen. The article doesn't mention that the rendering of fast moving HD action is often dependent on a suitably fast refresh rate on the panel either. Not the most informative guide for the HD novice but it of course makes blindingly obvious the gulf between Sky HD and Virgin's offering

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with your comments that unless you have a 37" tv or bigger you do nor benefit from HD. I have a 32" and although I only have a V+ box and access to BBC HD, the difference is instantly recognisable - and I am sitting around 9 - 10ft away. I think ultimately, (and I might be stating the obvious here!) HD is only as good as the persons eyesight. My vision is pretty good so I am able to quite easily see the difference between SD and HD. My wife on the over hand wears glasses, and her eyesight (although good for normal use), she really finds it hard to see any difference between SD and HD.

I sometimes wonder if this is the reason why some people say they are unable to see any big difference between SD and HD?

Nick said...

I wear glasses and have poor eyesight. we hav a 32 panasonic 1080p hooked up to a V+ and the picture quality id far superior to our old 32 panasonic crt.

my eyes are quite bad but i can tell the difference.

Nick

demented said...

I think it's a good article for the media. It mentions games consoles, this is very rare the anyone in the media will mention that and secondly it's basically right that it's mainstream and people are talking about it. There are of course inaccuracies and I don't agree about the 37" (although most brands give you 100Hz/trumotion and a few extra goodies in sets above 32") but it nice to see someone not whining about it being a massive conspiracy for a change.

Andy said...

I've got a 32" relatively cheap Sony Bravia downstairs which is crystal clear in HD. My 17" Samsung upstairs is noticable but not out of this world but that's what you'd expect really.

I have a few friends who think HD is hardly any different. That is always going to b a problem in a country that had a decent picture quality to start with. In America, HD was a dream and just what they've been waiting for. Here, it's a slightly more define version of what we already have and just a small added bonus.

One of the best things to benefit from HD for me is gaming. Some of the games for the PS3 and xbox 360 look stunning in High Definition.

Nialli said...

I didn't meant to imply there wasn't any benefit from HD on a 32in screen, but that the difference is less noticeable and that it is more apparent on the larger screens.
As I'm becoming more familiar with HD, I'm realising that there are many factors affecting the HD experience; we all have different TVs of different capabilities, watching different content in different conditions. I personally do not think it as dramatic a change in the viewing experience as from B&W to colour, but for some that may be their perception and they're entitled to their opinion, just as valid as mine.
Oh, and I still think Sky has deliberately worsened the PQ on Sky Movies SD channels so that the difference between the SD and HD versions is more apparent...

demented said...

The SD versions of the movie channels are bad, especially Premiere. I watched St Trinian's recently on it and it was one of the worst picture qualities from a film I've ever seen. Now have it on blu and although it's not the best blu-ray ever in terms of video there isn't any problem with the source, vibrant and sharp (if styled a teeny bit towards 50s making it slightly drabber than other BDs).

Andy said...

Maybe I'm just a bad judge but the few things I've seen on Sky Movies lately have all been decent quality!

Nialli said...

It varies from channel to channel, and depending on what time of day you're watching. The two Premiere and Screen channels are particularly poor much of the time, and I don't think it's coincidence that these were the first channels to be available in HD. The two with the better quality pictures are Indie and Classics, neither of which have an HD partner.
There are the satellite bit-rate tables on sites that bear out these observations - even Sky News and Sky Sports News have higher average bit-rates than the premium-priced movie channels. I know it all isn't down to bit-rate, but it's a major factor.

Sniper in the Trees said...

Well I have signed up to Sky HD and they're coming to install it on Wednesday Morning. I guess this is adios to the VM HD debate for me. I wish you all the best of luck and I hope, for those of you who intend to stay. (There are good reasons to, I'm not being bitter towards VM as a whole here) Then I truly hope that they see the light and improve their HD offering sooner rather than later. Cheers guys!!

Stodge said...

The V+ box does such a great job of upscaling SD I have to look really hard to notice a difference between BBC and BBC HD. I just dumped Sky for Virgin and am very happy with my decision, especially given the cost savings having V+ (VIP) in 2 rooms compared to Sky HD in 2 rooms (approx £400 per year).

Add to this the benefits of catch up TV and far superier broadband, and I will recommend Virgin VIP to anyone.

Anonymous said...

I agree Stodge

The v+ box gives an excellent picture. I was with SKY and moved to Virgin and don't regret it. I had already cancelled Sky MOvies anyway, cheaper to rent DVDs. I miss Sky Sports a bit but it was pricy and I was almost getting too much football to the point that a lot of games were boring. Virgin cheaper for TV, OK not so much HD but with the V+ box not far off excellent anyway.

Keep up the good work Nialle excellent blog

Regards

Al

StephenD said...

I've always used this site to give a good guide to viewing distances based on visual acuity - it seems to be quite accurate (though not perfect):

http://myhometheater.homestead.com/viewingdistancecalculator.html#anchor_13194

For a 37" HDTV, it reckons you lose the benefit beyond 5 feet!

Nialli said...

Interesting. I watch our 32in 720p Toshiba from around 8ft. Some HD stuns - for some reason shots of snow always take my breath away - whereas some is barely distinguishable from the SD broadcast (I have found sport a bit disappointing).
If I had a new 37in 1080i panel I'm sure I'd be even more frustrated with Virgin's lack of a decent HD service.

Anonymous said...

"visual acuity...
For a 37" HDTV, it reckons you lose the benefit beyond 5 feet!"


Well that's not quite what it says... it says someone with 20/20 vision (so-called "normal" vision, but a lot of people can see better than that with or without glasses/contacts) will no longer get the FULL benefit of a 37" 1080i screen after 4.8 feet, and they won't get the full benefit of NTSC/PAL SDTV after 12.9 feet.

So anywhere nearer than 12.9 feet will still look better than SDTV if you have 20/20 vision... in fact I'd say if you're sitting so close you can discern between individual pixels (which this calculator seems to recommend) then you want to take a step back! If you're sitting over 13 feet away then there is no benefit of the 37" 1080i over a 37" SDTV.

Would be interesting to see calculations for 720p as well.

There's always other concerns as well - for example on some VM channels and VOD the bitrate/codec is not good enough for SDTV and I can see problems like blockiness (however good the V+ box is at upscaling). If they go ahead and give us low bitrate MPEG2 HDTV it could end up looking worse than a good SDTV broadcast, even at further than 13 feet... some of the American broadcasts I've seen are terrible.