Wednesday, August 01, 2007

High Res Lies

Q. When is high resolution not high resolution?
A. When it's called Freeview.

"But the advert says you get high resolution!" I hear you cry. Correct. Except that there's no industry standard defining exactly what constitutes 'high resolution'. Nor High Definition for that matter.

Such is the willful confusion created by the companies retailing the new set-top boxes (specifically Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming, Bond & Bond, 100%, Powerstore and Smith City) that customers are being intentionally misled into thinking that they're getting a big leap in performance, when in fact they're not.

Let me clarify the matter for you. When referring to a TV, be it LCD, plasma panel, or whatever, the resolution is determined by the number of horizontal lines of information displayed on screen. The analogue broadcast standard you're used to is transmitted at 576 lines of resolution.

Having examined the manuals for both Freeview certified decoders, both offer—wait for it—just 576 lines of resolution. So, they are capable of Standard Definition, exactly the same quality as you get now with ordinary terrestrial analogue broadcast.

The only reason you should move to Digital TV now is if you live in an area with poor analogue reception. Currently, you can only do this if you have an unused Sky dish on your roof, or plan to buy one specially. Since the digital system is transmitted by satellite, those in marginal areas get much improved reception, and hence a better picture.

It boils down to this: Any improvement you see is down to better reception, not higher resolution broadcast!

My advice is not to get suckered into shelling out $300 for a set-top box you don't need. Unless you live in a marginal reception area, and wish to see Jason Gunn's ugly mug in better clarity.


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