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.

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.

TV TrickleSaver Review

TV TrickleSaverSometimes I get to review gadgets that annoy me. They annoy me not because of problems or poor performance, but because I thought of them first. Yes, I’m annoyed at my own lazy countenance. My own inability to take an idea from the shower to the drawing board and into production.

The TV TrickleSaver from TrickleStar is one of these annoying gadgets. At its heart it is nothing more than a simple relay. What TrickleStar have done is wrap an adjustable relay up in some sexy packaging and jumped on the green bandwagon.

Despite the simplicity, the TrickleStar is a lovely little gadget. It does exactly what it says on the box. Plug your TV into the “master” plug, and everything else into the “slave”. When the TV is on, the slaves will be on. When the TV goes into standby, everything else will be turned off.

Of course you need to think about what plugs into that slave plug. You won’t be able to plug your MySky or DVR into that plug, but your DVD player, XBox, and amplifier should be prime candidates for slavery.

It’s hard to pin down just how much you’ll save. TrickleStar have a slightly dubious power saving calculator. Some surveys put the amount of standby power overall at 10%, with TVs and entertainment devices making up a good chunk of that. In any case, the TrickleSaver is guaranteed to save you some power, which has to be a good thing surely?

Pricing is not yet fixed, but they tell me it will be something like NZ$149, and it will be distributed into New Zealand by Ambertech.

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?

Continue reading “WIN: HDHomeRun HDTV Tuner”

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster

Damn it feels good to be a gangster*. Pimpin’ in the Westin Presidential Suite, completely decked out with Samsung’s latest and greatest. Two bedrooms, three bathrooms (complete with skin-thrashing high power showers), separate loung and dining, room-service Angus Eye Fillet, cocktails, the works!

After all this, you’ll wonder if I’m biased towards the Samsung equipment – unfortunately not all of it.

The Series 6 and 7 LCD TVs were gorgeous, as you’d expect from a modern, high-end LCD. The DLNA capability of the 7 series is very slick, allowing the TV to show content from a compatible PC without the need for an intemediary set-top box. The inclusion of a Freeview tuner further removes the need for any other warty appendages on your TV cabinet. If you consume primarily digital content, the LN46A750T is the TV for you.

I also loved the way the Anynet+ functionality networks the TV via HDMI with the Blu-ray players, creating a seamless experience with the remote. There’s no need to change remotes to change volume, the system just “knows” what device is in use. As mentioned in Gizmodo, the lack of LCD backlighting (common in competitors’ high-end units) is a bit of a letdown, but to be honest I didn’t notice any issues with contrast or responsiveness.

Watching some nice National Geographic Blu-ray disks on the Samsung setup was awe-inspiring. I can highly recommend the setup of the HDBD2T Blu-ray home theatre system with the 7 series LCD.

There were fridges too, and they … fridged I guess? Stuff was cold.

The Omnia phone though. Where do I start? I’m Picky McPickster when it comes to interface design, but even the most tolerant UI apologist would throw this thing on the ground after using it for 10 minutes. I’d like to blame a broken touch screen or perhaps a crippled CPU for the lack of responsiveness, but unfortunately I’m not alone. The Omnia reveals all the bad things about Windows Mobile 6.1 without offering any tangible benefits.

You can’t just put GPS, a 5MP camera, and a high-res screen in a device and call it a high-end iPhone killer. Interface matters people. Interface.

*If you don’t get the reference, this might help: