You need to ask yourself a series of questions if you want to be sure you are taking advantage of the free HDTV channels.
Given that, in the current week, ITV 1HD gets only 2.6% of total viewing, compared to 36.5% to the channel in standard definition, and that BBC HD gets 1.2% of total viewing compares 26% for comparable channel BBC TWO, it seems that many people are not taking advantage of the improved pictures and sound that can easily be enjoyed.
So, you have to ask yourself five questions:
Q1 Do you have a high definition television set?
You need to check that your television is actually high definition. Almost all HDTVs are flat screen, but it does not follow that all flat screen televisions are high definition.
The best two clues to look for are the "HD Ready" or "Full HD Ready" logos, and also that the television set has HDMI connectors.
If you have the manual for your television set, it may describe HD as "720 line" or "1080 line". If these are not mentioned, you don't have HD and you will need a new television set.
If your TV set has the Freeview HD logo, it can receive what are known as "DVB-T2" transmissions, which means you get HD direct from the TV aerial connection. If this is the case, see Q4. If the set is "HD Ready with Freeview" it means you can't.
Some high end sets have FreesatHD built in, where you can watch the free high definitionchannels from satellite. For this to work you will have to use the satellite connection on the set. Remember that set will also have standard definition Freeview, so pictures from the normal TV aerial will not be in high definition.
Q3 If your HDTV doesn't have built-in reception - do you have a Freeview HD or Freesat HD box and the correct cables?
Q5 Is the HD channel actually showing an HD programme?
Only the BBC HD channel has a HD-only schedule. On BBC One HD, ITV 1 HD and Channel 4 HD non-HD programmes are shown "upscaled" to HD resolutions and look better than the pictures on the SD version of the channel.
Check in the EPG (usually the INFO or GUIDE button on the remote) to see if the programme that is being shown has an HD marker in the listings.
Tony Hill: Is your box connected to the amplifier you use for your 5.1 sound with either fibre-optic or single-coaxial SPDIF?
If not, you won't get anything other than 2.0 sound.
I can confirm that I was watching BBC HD last night for several hours and the DD 5.1 light was on my amp and the dialogue came from the central dialogue speaker and there was music and effects behind me...
There has been a number of free-to-air HD feeds on the Eurobird 1 satellite these past few weekends showing Winter sports. Cross Country, Super G, ski jumping, biathalon and a couple of weeks ago speed skating from Moscow for the Netherland broadcaster NOS. To watch them though you needed a 4:2:2 satellite receiver. The quality of a 4:2:2 HD satellite feed is very impressive.
I currently use an August DVB-T USB receiver to watch Freeview on my PC, with a Hanns G 22" LCD widescreen monitor. That gives a superb high-resolution TV picture, as it does showing HDvideo. So I am considering upgrading to an HD DVB-T2 USB receiver. The Hanns G is not labelled as HD, but the model is available with an HDMI input.
Therefore, would you say that to all intents and purposes the monitor would display HD TV as well as an HD television?
Re 5.1 sound. Yes Freesatbox to amp is by digital connection. I didn't mean that I NEVER get 5.1 sound - I do, but the number of programmes broadcasting in 5.1 seems to be limited. The Yamaha amp clearly shows (by icon) when it is receiving 5.1 v 2.0. And, as I said, the BBC HD preview is always in 5.1 - as are some of the "fill-ins" between programmes. The Freesat box and amp are quite new - the amp to replace a higher spec Yamaha amp (replaced because it had no HDMI connections) and I tested using that amp and found the same results - only 5.1 sometimes.