A Question Regarding Freeview

Freeview LogoThe question machine’s reception is still excellent, so I recieved this broadcast:[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] re: Freeview (terrestrial).
In my ignorance I thought the terrestrial Freeview signal was sent out in one “wave” or signal, to then be decoded, separated and screened. But maybe this isn’t so? In bad weather I’m seeing really bad digital breakup of the Maori channel, so bad it’s totally unwatchable (we ended up watching it on the analogue signal instead last night), therefore I now surmise that the signals are in fact separate, and that the Maori channel must have a very weak signal. TVs 1, 2 and 3 have no similar problem, I recall that Prime may also suffer. Is my updated opinion correct? Does it cost more for a stronger signal, I would have thought all my signals come from the same source? [/pullquote]

Now I will immediately admit ignorance as to Freeview’s exact mode of broadcast. I do know that the channels are split into groups that are broadcast over a similar UHF frequency, so could it be that Maori TV is on a slightly different frequency to TVs 1, 2 and 3? Perhaps the readers could answer?

The only cost you’ll be covering for a “stronger signal” would be a bigger aerial to pick up more of the available signal. Freeview does have a handy coverage checker, but it doesn’t tell me which transmitter I should point my aerial at, nor which way (polarity) I should mount the aerial. However, our friends at Wikipedia have a handy list.

A Question: MySky for My Sky?

skytv_logo The question machine has recorded another question for me to play back:
[quote]We are looking at getting “My Sky”, so I rang sky and now I dont know which way to go.. We already have a DVD recorder but the MAIN reason I want  Mysky is after spending about $300 odd on trying to get our reception better on normal TV (if we are taping a sky channel, we may want to watch TV1 etc), anyway after a new arial and many hours we still have s**t reception if not watching through sky.. So we have decided Mysky will fix our troubles? Sky lady said we have two options..

  • OPTION 1…. Pay $599.00 and then nothing extra for ever.. so that way we would still only be paying  about $85 a month for our sky channel pack which we are paying now…
  • OPTION 2…. Pay $99.00 for instilation and then an extra $15 a month for as long as we have “Mysky”….
  • EXTRA OPTION….. For an extra $10 on top of what ever option we pick we can get HD???  Is it really that important to have HD?

So PLEASE PLEASE can someone help me and tell me which way they would go?  I tend to think  OPTION 2 as I would bet just about anything there will be a new something within at least 18 months but then again I am normally wrong so what to do??
I absolutly hate when I feel like I have had a bad deal or feel I have been ripped off……[/quote]
I absolutely hate feeling ripped off too. It’s like that feeling you get when you’re watching a pay TV channel that you’re forking over $90 per month for, and the program keeps being interrupted by ads. Ads targeted perfectly in the way only a company with thousands of phone-connected decoders could do.

But I digress! You asked a question about MySky. Let me break it down as best I can in order of your question marks: Probably; Correct; Maybe; I shall; Good point.

Probably

Yes, probably a Sky account will fix your reception issues. Unlike a terrestrial TVNZ signal, the Sky signal is beamed down from a satellite, so unless you point your reception dish the wrong way or plant an exceptionally large tree in the wrong place, your signal will be perfect.

Correct

Yes, Sky asks for an additional $10 per month on top of any subscription for their “HD Access Ticket”. You can have all the bells, whistles, and chrome plated grease nipples required to view HD content, but you’re not going to get any Aiych Dees from Sky’s spaceship unless you pay them those ten dollars every month.

I suppose the satellite must have to blow a bit harder to get the extra digital bits down to your satellite dish.

Maybe

Is it really that important to have HD? Maybe. Do you have a big HD television? If you don’t then there’s certainly no point in paying that $10 per month.

If you do have a nice big HD television, then I personally think it’s worth the extra $10 per month. Sometimes you won’t even notice, but most of the time you’ll be pleased with the extra depth and clarity, especially when you swap between HD and standard channels to compare.

Hi-Def nerds will complain that Sky’s particular flavour of HD is no great shakes compared to Freeview. While their position (like most nerdery) is grounded solidly in fact, the reality is that slightly crap HD is better than no HD at all.

I Shall

You ask for someone to tell you which way you should go. As you point out: at $15 per month, it’s going to be three and a bit years before you’re on the wrong side of $599, by which time there might be a new version, or your salary increase might make the $15 irrelevant. I think you’ve answered your own question.

Additionally: if I had paid $599, I’d be a lot more upset than I am at the smelly stool that attempts to pass as a user interface on the MySkyHDi. I could rant for a good hour about just how perplexing it is to use, but I present one exhibit for consideration: It takes at least 3 button presses (and often many more), to set up a show for “series link”. It takes a single, shiny, inviting (to a six year old), yellow button press to delete a recorded show forever. No warning, no undo, do not pass Go, do not watch that episode of The Pacific. Ever. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Pacific is a disappointment anyway.

Good Point

Sorry, I don’t mean “good point: you are normally wrong”. I mean “good point: there is usually a new device every 18-24 months”.

Go with the $15 per month option. Pay the $10 “HD ticket” if you have a half-decent HD TV.

LG SL90 Review: Skinny 42″ Full HD LCD TV

Update: a commenter has pointed out that the 47″ version seems to have a known electrical noise that might bother some people in quiet rooms. I didn’t notice it in the 42″, but it’s something to check carefully before you buy.

LG SL90 FrontI often measure gadgetry in terms of ambivalence. It’s a depressing reminder of how far I have come since the days of buying everything I wanted to review. Every package was carefully researched, and would be shredded within moments of arriving on my doorstep. There were tears of frustration when it didn’t measure up to the promise, followed by Trademe trepidation to see how much the “rental” would cost me. These days I get so many offers of devices to review – and packages that turn up unbidden – that sometimes I can barely muster the interest to open the box.

Based on this psychological framework, understand this: I have physical anxiety at the thought of having to return the 42″ LG SL90 I’m reviewing. It’s gorgeous. At a little less than 30mm deep, it’s easily the thinnest LCD TV I’ve ever used. When powered off, I’m reminded of a Clarke-esque monolith. While not truly “borderless” like the literature claims, the seamless glass front panel hides the bezel, and the huge 3,000,000:1 contrast ratio means you barely see the bezel against a black background. I’d be quite happy to have the 42SL90QD sitting as an inert sculpture in my lounge.

And then I turned it on.

I’m not a colour guru or gamut mentalist: I just call it as I see it. And I saw deep blacks and awesome contrast. My gut-feel test is whether I can see good skin tone on humans while still having good contrast. On my workaday Sony V-series, I either get washed-out backgrounds or too-dark faces. The SL90 was brilliant in this respect: natural skin tones in evening and night scenes without having to de-contrast. Given that the SL90 is edge-lit (apparently not as good as local-dimming back-lit sets), the contrast and deep blacks are excellent.

After dealing with some abominable TV user interfaces, I thought Sony’s TV menu structure was about as good as it got. LG is better. The menu text is large and readable, and iconography helps to guide you to the right location. The set has a built-in Freeview tuner, and the electronic program guide was up to the regular Freeview standard, including in-line viewing of the current program while you browse the guide. I’m still waiting for this feature from SkyTV.

LG SL90 Side ViewThere’s more:

The SL90 has an inviting USB port, just waiting for a stickfull of media. I wasn’t hugely excited about this because I’ve seen some shocking implementations of USB photo and video in some TV sets recently. Thankfully, LG appear to have got it right: I put some photos and a DivX video (home video of course, it’s against the law in New Zealand to convert a DVD to DivX), on a spare 4GB USB stick and stuck it in the slot. After a moment, the TV prompted me to browse pictures or videos. A few clicks on the remote later and I was watching a DivX video. Very nice.

The set also has Bluetooth, but I’m at a loss to understand what it is for. I presume you could use a Bluetooth headset or headphones if you had one available. Having never watched a TV with headphones on, I’m not one to judge this feature. Perhaps it’s fantastic for people who have gigantic TVs in their bedroom and Bluetooth headphones?

Conclusion

It’s not cheap at NZ$4399, but seems like good value for an excellent TV that doubles as an objet d’art. Get one from your local electronics emporium.

WIN: HDHomeRun HDTV Tuner

This competition is now closed. Thanks for your entries. Check back for voting on the winner.

HD Homerun
(use ben.geek.nz coupon code)

The simplicity with which the HDHomeRun works just blew me away when I reviewed it. Now it’s your turn! Yup, you can have the unit that I’ve been reviewing. For free. Just take it! All you have to do is explain why you need HDTV on your PC (or media extender).

Here’s the deal: tell us in one sentence why you think you deserve this piece of kit. I’ll select the top three most interesting, funny, or deserving answers, and post them up (anonymously) for everyone to vote on. You have until Monday night (8th June) to tell us, then we’ll vote for a few days to determine the final winner.

Remember, the HDHomeRun works on PC, Mac, and Linux. It attaches to your network, so no need to have an aerial plug near your PC. You can probably just plug it in to your WiFi router and watch HDTV on your laptop too! In New Zealand, it tunes all Freeview channels (not Sky due to encryption). Unsure what it tunes in Oz and Europe, but you guys have DVB-T over there right?

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Silicondust HD Homerun Tuner

HD Homerun
(use ben.geek.nz coupon code)

I guess you could say I’ve stumbled, rather than climbed, onto the Windows Media Center bandwagon. I’ve heard of people spending months planning and building the perfect media PC, complete with multi-channel tuner cards and high-end hardware decoders. For me, I just happened to notice that the release candidate of Windows 7 comes with Media Center, and my existing XBox 360 works as a Media Center Extender. Pretty soon I was watching videos on my TV through the XBox.

Through some form of geek osmosis, I’ve come to understand that Media Center will also do live and recorded digital TV. However, the level of futzing required was quite frankly well in excess of my care factor. I run the servicable but generally annoying MySky HDi PVR, so don’t really have any need for live TV through Media Center. Also, I was not at all interested in screwing around with tuner cards inside my PC. If you’ve ever hand-built a PC, you’ll understand my reluctance to touch anything inside a stable and reliable box.

When Blair from Digital Pride contacted me about reviewing a HDHomeRun from Silicondust, my initial reaction was the same: please don’t make me. But then I had a look at the specs: no futzing required. The pitch from Silicondust is your standard plug’n’play promise: plug the HDHomeRun into your network and antenna, install some software on your media PC, and you’re done. Colour me sceptical.

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