Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sky HD Review

Being a generally all round lucky bar steward I’ve managed to get my hands on one of the new Sky HD boxes before the majority of people.  First of all this wasn’t cheap, £300 for the box and then an extra £10 a month for the “HD” subscription but with the thought of high definition world cup football I couldn’t resist.  It also helps to have a forgiving, wonderfully sexy chick of a wife. 

Having had the word from the installers that everything was ready to go I flew home from work yesterday to give it a go.  The box itself looks modern yet old (black yet curvy) surely everybody must know by now that black is the new silver?  It does its best to look different from every other box stuffed under your TV, there’s no way you’re going to mistake this for a DVD player!  It has enough connections to keep most people happy; mine has a scart cable connected to a wireless sender to broadcast around the house, a component connection to the TV (old school - no 3D TV here) and a HDMI to HDMI connection to my TV.  It was already wired up but I’m sure there is a second scart available as well.  You’ve also got all the usual sound outputs and mine is connected to a Yamaha home cinema system via the optical out.  One final thing to note about the hardware itself is that the remote is much sleeker, it’s flatter and wider than the old Sky+ remote and just looks and feels of a much better quality.  The old remote is fully compatible with the new system though and there are no new buttons/functions to worry about.

The first channel I tried was the BBC HD preview channel which shows a loop of nature program clips and documentary previews etc, all filmed in true HD.  I was stunned by the quality, to be honest the wife less so.  However after a few minutes I flicked back to a non HD channel and then you could see the real difference, S was impressed so that’s a big relief.  Being a techy nerd I then thought I’d try the same channel with various inputs to see if you could really see the difference, trust me on this, the ONLY way to view HD is through a HDMI or similar HD interface.    Colours were more vibrant, the picture so much more lifelike.  The fact that you can see every detail on a face takes a little getting used to.  The best way to describe the high definition picture is that everything looks far more 3D.  You feel like you could pick up something from within the screen, not my words but those of L my 10 year old daughter.  So the BBC’s HD effort is everything that the Sky promo promises, I then tried the Sky channels.  The selection is limited, a lot, 4 movie channels (2 you have to pay extra for), 1 sports channel, 1 general entertainment channel and a couple of documentary/nature programs.  I flicked through all of them, all are far less impressive than the BBC channel to various degrees.  Sky Sports HD was ok, not as crisp as the BBC but still a big step up from standard definition, Sky One was disappointing although I believe a lot of the programs available are actually upscaled normal programs, so over time this should improve.  The programs on the other channels weren’t really my thing so I didn’t mess too much.  Obviously they look better than a normal picture but not so much as to knock you of your feet.

Eventually I put the football on the BBC channel, all I can say is WOW!  It really was like being in the crowd, I can’t emphasise enough just how good this looked, 10 times better than the BBC preview.  Even S was stunned, L didn’t believe that it was a TV program (she thought I was playing a 360 game), the whole thing was just so “solid” in front of your eyes.  I was as happy as a pig in shit.  SD is for girls and gays, HD is where the real men live.  At one point it showed a camera angle from inside the posts as a goal was scored, I hadn’t had anything to drink, honestly, but I swear I wanted to dive and try and save it.  No words can do it justice.  I was worried that S would be disappointed with the whole thing, her eyesight isn’t the best and she just doesn’t get technology, but it is impossible not to be impressed.  I’m sat in work and I can’t wait to get home and watch some HD football.

So you can probably gather that I’m happy with my purchase but there is one big problem with all this.  Is it worth the money?  The box itself?  Without a doubt, the technology is incredible everything you would hope it would be.  As soon as there is more true HD content you will never want to watch a normal picture again.  The problem is the £10 a month, Sky have been bone idle with the programming they supply and it is apparently this that your £10 pays for.  No exclusive content and a quality that just isn’t as good as the BBC channel which is after all paid for through license fees.  It looks like Sky are going to make a lot of money from the fact that the BBC are providing top notch HD coverage and it doesn’t seem fair, least of all to those of us who are already paying a license fee and a Sky subscription.  If Sky dropped the £10 a month extra than this would be the must have item of the year, they say its as big as the difference between B&W and colour, well I’d still watch a B&W film, when there is enough HD content there is no way I’ll be watching any SD programs.  Until then it’s a luxury toy with a high show off factor.

Did I mention I’ve got Sky HD?  Get in there!

1 comment:

Ady Hall said...

Looking forward to coming round on Sunday and enjoying the spectacle!