Freeview HD quality 'lags behind Freesat'Which? reveals first tests of Freeview HD picture

29 March 2010

Freeview HD digital TV

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Which? has tested the new high-definition Freeview HD signal and has found that its high-definition image quality lags behind the HD-quality of Freesat.

Which? experts took a first look at the high-definition quality of Freeview HD programmes broadcast from the Crystal Palace transmitter in London, with initial findings favouring Freesat. Which? says that high-definition programming watched on Freesat is marginally superior to the new Freeview HD terrestrial service.

Freeview HD is a free-to-view high-definition platform that allows viewers to watch high-definition channels through a standard TV aerial. Freesat uses a satellite dish to pick up the high-definition signal - and both services are available without subscription, unlike high-definition TV services from Sky and Virgin.

Freeview HD versus Freesat

Which? used two viewing experts to access the high-definition programmes broadcast on Freeview HD, directly comparing them to HD TV broadcast on rival satellite service Freesat. Which? uses panels of experts to pass judgment on all the HDTV and AV products, such as Blu-ray and DVD players, that pass through test lab. 

For news and first look reviews of the latest Freeview HD and Freesat televisions visit our television review page.

Freeview HD: the verdict

Which? found that high-definition programmes on Freeview HD were in high-definition, and the viewing experts judged it a significant improvement over standard definition TV. The images watched on BBC HD were robust and 'what one would expect from a HD signal,' according to one Which? expert.

Which? did spot some differences between the Freeview HD and Freesat. According to one expert: 'The main difference was that the Freesat had a marginally better level of sharpness, which gave it better depth and sparkle over the Freeview HD signal.'

According to one Which? tester, 'If Freesat were rated 10, the Freeview HD would be 8 or 8.5.'

Both Which? experts noted instances of subtle colour banding, known as solarisation. Though this wasn't deemed to be too serious it's the kind of subtle picture quality difference that may show up in more controlled viewing conditions. 

Which? will be repeating the high-definition viewing tests in controlled lab conditions with its full panel of viewing experts.

Freeview HD roll-out

Freeview HD transmissions began in December 2009 in London and are planned to be rolled out to Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle by the end of March 2010. Almost half of the UK population will be able to get Freeview HD in time for the 2010 World Cup.

The rest of the country will start to receive the service in line with their digital switchover dates. Freeview claims 98.5% of the UK will be able to get Freeview HD by the end of digital switchover in 2012.

For more information on Freeview HD read our Freeview HD advice guide.

How to watch Freeview HD

To watch Freeview HD, you'll need an HD-ready TV and one of the following:

  • a Freeview HD set-top box
  • a Freeview HD personal video recorder (PVR), which will let you record TV shows in high definition
  • a TV with an integrated Freeview HD tuner

Existing Freeview boxes or PVRs will not be able to receive HD broadcasts. An HDMI cable is needed rather than a standard Scart lead – HDMI cables may come included with the HD set-top boxes.

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