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Paul Giles of Gerald Giles guides you through the latest developments in TV technology

General News

With a post-Christmas VAT jump from 17.5pc to 20pc looming in early January and the prospect of a veritable feast of festive TV viewing just weeks away, now could be the perfect time to buy a new TV – and make a saving. But plasma or LCD, LED or 3D, Sky, Freeview HD or Freesat? And what about the digital switchover? Here, Paul Giles of TV retail specialist Gerald Giles of Norwich guides us through the main choices and what can best suit our viewing habits…

The TV market has always been a rapidly evolving one, now never more so, with new technologies seemingly appearing every week. With the old tube TV long gone, we are now left with three main screen technologies – plasma, LCD and LED LCD.

Plasma TV technology is the most mature in the TV marketplace and creates a picture from a gas (plasma) and used mostly on large screen TVs of 42in upwards, while backlit LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs uses florescent tubes behind the screen to light the image.

If you want a cutting-edge TV that is easier to move and position anywhere in your home, LED Edge-lit LCD TV uses lights around the edge of the display screen, resulting in a thinner, more lightweight TV, which uses less electricity.

As well as new ways of displaying the programs we watch, there has been a revolution in the way it is delivered to our homes.

Until this year, the only way to receive high definition (HD) programmes had been to subscribe to Sky HD, Cable or Freesat. Then came the advent of Freeview HD, upgrading the current Freeview digital service to HD and offering HD channels via your existing TV aerial, all for free. It’s available in a set-top box you need to connect to an HD-ready TV, or if you don’t have an HD-ready TV, TVs with Freeview HD built in are already available.

Channels transmitting in HD on this service are the BBC HD channel, ITV HD and Channel 4 HD, and you can also access more than 50 standard definition (SD) digital channels and radio stations.

The launch of Five HD on Freeview HD is expected soon and with more programmes being filmed in HD, many more channels will transmit in HD in years to come.

The best thing about Freeview HD is that, like standard Freeview, there is no subscription or monthly contract and all HD channels will be free as well!

Freeview HD is only being transmitted in certain parts of the country as part of the digital switchover (turning off the old analogue service, leaving just digital transmissions) and until the Tacolneston transmitter serving our region is switched over on November 9, 2011, Freeview HD remains tantalisingly out of reach.

However, Freeview HD TV receivers are available and will still work now (though not in HD) so it’s better to buy a product with this technology built in now, rather than miss out.

3DTV is the “newest kid on the block” and offers a new dimension to home viewing, bringing the viewer closer to the action.

The best 3D effect is achieved by the viewer wearing special glasses with liquid crystal lenses which, in conjunction with a different type of image on the screen, creates a 3D image and a perception of depth than can make the action appear to “jump from the screen”.

Launched in the summer, 3DTVs are available from most major manufacturers, including Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Sharp, while more 3D movies and other content is becoming available.

This month, Sky launched Europe’s first 3D channel, which will show some of the best sports, movies and entertainment in 3D. They have just shown Ryder Cup Golf live from Celtic manor in 3D and plan to show one Premiership football match per week in 3D too.

3D films in HD are already available on BluRay DVD, and many more will be released over the next 12 months. Many manufacturers are bundling free 3D films with their equipment – including Alice in Wonderland, Bolt, Monsters House and a new 3D version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller as part of the This is It DVD. Exciting films planned for release in 3D on DVD next year include Toy Story 3, Avatar and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Alongside all these developments, the internet and internet streaming are providing the ultimate in on-demand services – giving us instant access to what we want to watch, when we want it.

In the past, services like this have been reserved for PC users, but this year manufacturers have developed easy to use “plug and play’ web portals which stream films, TV programs and web video directly to your TV. This month, the BBC launched its popular iPlayer service on Sony TVs, allowing you to catch up on the last seven days of  BBC programmes, Channel 5 have a similar service and ITV and Channel 4 will follow soon.

Subscription services are also available from Love Film, which means you can watch movies on demand in HD steamed through the internet directly to your TV. Other video and photo services such as YouTube, Picasa and Skype have launched this year, and Google TV plans to provide a service in 2011 which will allow viewers to search for channels, shows and access videos, music, photos, and social networking websites on their TV screen.

Manufacturers are building these interactive features into new televisions now, but don’t worry if you already have a new TV – these services will be available via an add-on set-top box allowing you to share content.

Contact Gerald Giles of Norwich on 01603 621772 or visit www.geraldgiles.co.uk.

For more on Sky 3D visit www.sky.com/shop/tv/3d/how-it-works.