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Freeview HD advice is hit and miss, finds Which?

Some TV shops not up to date on Freeview HD

Freeview HD digital TV

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Which? has tested Freeview HD advice in shops and found some retailers are giving sketchy advice on the latest way to watch high definition (HD) TV.

You’d expect electrical retailers to be clued up with the latest TV options available, but Which? has found that this isn’t always the case. 

When asked what options there are to watch high definition (HD) channels, three of the 10 retailers Which? visited didn’t mention Freeview HD – the latest and one of the cheapest ways to watch high definition television – until they were asked directly. 

Which? researchers visited 10 stores in Manchester and London, where the Freeview HD signal is already being broadcast, including high street chains, independents and a department store. Freeview HD equipment has been available to buy since February.

Keep an eye on the Which? review of Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes to find out if the first Freeview HD box to hit the high street – the Humax HD-FOX T2 – makes it as a Which? Best Buy.

Freeview HD mystery shopping: the results

Which? researchers went to two branches each of the following stores – John Lewis, Comet, Currys, Richer Sounds and independent electrical stores – and asked retailers to tell them about the various options for watching HD channels.

Four of the 10 stores impressed by giving information on all options available – subscription services from Sky and Virgin as well as Freeview HD and Freesat. John Lewis gave clear advice on the difference between Freeview and Freesat HD services in both stores. 

The high street electrical chains Comet, Currys and Richer Sounds did not perform so consistently. For example one Comet store only told researchers about Sky’s HD service until they asked for other options. A Currys assistant incorrectly told researchers there were no TVs available with built in Freeview HD. Both independents gave fairly unclear advice and one initially said Freeview HD wouldn’t be broadcasting until 2012.

Nearly all the retailers Which? visited correctly stated that researchers would need an HD ready TV to be able to watch channels in high definition. Most retailers were able to give basic information on the differences between Freeview HD and Freesat. 

Which? TV services expert Catherine West says: ‘Although there is good advice out there we’d like to see all retailers train their staff well so that they’re up to date on the latest TV developments and give shoppers consistently good advice. 

‘If you want to be sure of buying the right HD equipment, it’s worth researching the options before you hit the shops so you know what’s best for you.’

To find out more about the Freeview HD service check out the Which? guide to Freeview HD explained.

Freeview HD

Freeview HD is a subscription free television service that offers HD channels via your existing TV aerial. Initially you’ll be able to watch BBC, ITV and Channel 4 HD channels, along with S4C HD in Wales.

The Freeview HD signal is already being broadcast in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow. According to Freeview by June 2010 around 50% of the country will have a Freeview HD signal, in time for the 2010 World Cup. You can check when Freeview HD is coming to your area on the Freeview HD postcode checker

Other options for watching HD TV programmes are either a subscription service from Sky or Virgin Media or, if you don’t want to pay a monthly charge, Freesat. 

Freesat offers HD channels with a non-subscription service, but as with Sky you will need a satellite dish. 

See how the latest high definition TV models perform in our lab tests in the Which? LCD and plasma TV review.

What you need to watch Freeview HD

If you want to get Freeview HD you’ll need to check you are in an area where it is being broadcast and then purchase Freeview HD equipment. 

To watch Freeview HD you’ll need one of the following:

  • an HD-ready TV and a Freeview HD set-top box 
  • a TV with integrated Freeview HD tuner

The first Freeview HD set-top box the Humax HD-FOX T2 – launched in February. Flat screen TVs with built in Freeview HD hit the shops in March. 

We’ll be testing the latest Freeview HD equipment as it comes onto the market so keep an eye on our Freeview and Freesat set top box and LCD and plasma TV reviews.

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