Lots of things to catch up on from the several weeks when I wasn’t posting in May, June and July. One of the things I would have blogged about on a daily basis would have been assembling a new AV system for the living room. So much research to do! So much shopping! So much fun!
I’ll do a short review of most of the components I ended up with in separate entries here, but the inspiration for the whole change was the launch of HD TV here in the UK, which the geek in me couldn’t resist, naturally. That meant a new screen, and repositioning everything in the room meant the old sound system wouldn’t fit, and… you get the rest. Naturally I wanted everything in place for the World Cup in June, during which I expected to have a house full of people regularly, but – like many people – I didn’t anticipate the demand for Sky HD boxes. Sky started taking orders in mid-May, with the World Cup four weeks away, but by the time I ordered mine, delivery date was some time in August. Disaster. The good folks at Sevenoaks Sound + Vision would have no trouble delivering the new screen in time, but I assumed, glumly, that I’d be watching in glorious, old-school, lo-def.
I was wrong. The Sevenoaks lads suggested I ordered Sky HD through them, rather than directly from Sky. They only make a fiver from the deal, but they did say there was a chance Sky might get them some kit more quickly than they would Joe Ordinary Subscriber. And they turned out to be right. Whilst I didn’t have the HD box for the opening ceremony, we were taking the pictures for granted by the time England got knocked out. One-nil to a decent, High Street dealer.
So, what’s it like? Is High Definition TV worth all the fuss? In a word, yes. It’s been variable though. The BBC “test channel” is uniformly fantastic. What a picture. Sky’s stuff, especially Sky One, seemed relatively disappointing at first, but I’m sure the picture quality on the general programming has been getting better over the past few weeks. Watching Brainiac last night, it struck me just what an advance HD is. The sport has been pretty good too, and I’m looking forward to the Premiership stuff; I’m under no illusions that the Championship games I love will be in HD! True, if you’re used to watching high-quality downloads on a computer screen (exemplified by the HD versions of the Apple vs PC ads), you won’t be blown away by the quality per se, but I guarantee seeing programmes you’re used to seeing in lo-def suddenly get 100% sharper will impress you.
As for the Sky HD box itself, it works as advertised, and the tremendous Sky remote control hasn’t been ruined at all. The internal drive is much larger than the old Sky boxes (our original one was always filling up, yet this one seldom goes past 50%), but the responsiveness on fast forward and rewind is not brilliant, sometimes irritatingly slow. Sky have referred to this on the web site and have suggested software improvements may be on the way.