Nik's Technology Blog

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Choosing a Flat-Screen TV: Built-in TV Tuners

Continuing my series of posts about choosing a High Definition TV (HDTV), I read an article today that could potentially make some people put off making an HDTV purchase for the time being.

In the UK there are 4 ways to get TV (excluding via broadband):

  1. Terrestrial
  2. Freeview (Digital Terrestrial)
  3. Sky (Satelite)
  4. Virgin Media (Cable)

Currently only Sky and Virgin Media have HD channels that allow you to enjoy television broadcasts that exploit a High Def TV. Both services require you to have special HD set-top boxes to receive these broadcasts, you also get charged more than the standard definition (SD) package cost for the privilege.

Terrestrial analogue signals are gradually being phased out between (2007-2012) to clear up the spectrum for HD over Freeview. Ofcom published a news release on 21 November 2007 detailing the Freeview upgrade.

Built-in Tuners

Now back to choosing an HDTV. It is becoming more common for HDTVs in the UK to come with built-in Freeview tuners. This means you don't need an external set-top box top get Freeview broadcasts, this is good since analogue terrestrial tuners won't be much use to us for too much longer. The problem is that HD Freeview will require a set-top box upgrade, it also uses a more advanced coding standard which isn't compatible with the current coding standard.

So unless current HDTV built-in tuners can be upgraded via a firmware upgrade at a later date, then you'll be needing to add an HD Freeview set-top box to your set-up when they become available.

Here's the paragraph from the Ofcom new release:

"Viewers who wanted to access the new services on offer would need to buy a new DTT set-top box or integrated television, which was compatible with MPEG4 and DVB-T2."

"However, viewers with existing DTT set-top boxes or integrated televisions would still be able to access Freeview services with their current equipment."

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