Sky HD – Initial Thoughts

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.

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