Best Value Ways Of Going Digital
If you're about to switch to digital TV, here are some of the best value ways to do so.
Digital Television has been in the news again, following the revelation that Virgin media customers have lost access to some BSkyB channels (including Sky One) after the two companies failed to come to a deal on Wednesday night.
And if you thought this news wasn't relevant to you, you may change your mind soon. More and more of us are switching to digital, and come 2012, we'll all be watching digital TV, whether we like it or not. And although we saw in Go Digital for Less that there are ways we can do so very cheaply, as always there is more to take into account than simply price.
The first regions to switch off their analogue signal will do so in just a year's time, so it's worth knowing how long you have to get prepared.
Analogue signal switch off schedule:
West, STV North
Central, Yorkshire, Anglia
Meridian, London, Tyne Tees, Ulster
And while switching to digital TV may seem simple to a teenage technophile, older people may find it a stressful, not to mention expensive exercise. It's therefore worth knowing that certain eligible people will be entitled to have equipment provided and installed to convert one TV set to digital, plus help with how to use it.
Help will be provided for:
- Households with one or more people aged 75 or over
- Households with at least one person with a severe disability (who receives disability living allowance, attendance allowance, or equivalent benefits under the war pension or industrial disablement benefit schemes.)
- Households in which one or more people are registered as blind, or partially sighted.
- Eligible households receiving pension credit, income support or jobseekers allowance (other eligible households will pay a subsidised fee of £40).
Getting a Signal
But what about the rest of us who are just as confused? Well, to switch to digital we need to receive a digital signal, and choosing the method that's best for you will depend largely on where you live.
As we've seen previously, there are three ways to get a digital signal, either through an aerial (with digital set top box), satellite dish or cable, and the method you choose depends upon the area where you live. And while all of these methods will give you access to terrestrial TV (BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel4/5) you'll typically be able to receive more channels with the satellite or cable options.
However, things can get much more complicated. For instance, although those living in Freeview areas may think they have it easy, there is more than one type of Freeview box on the market. And to confuse you even more, there are also digital TV/hard disc recorders, which give you the added option of being able to record onto their box, too. What's more, pick a twin tuner model and you'll be able to record one programme while watching another.
So how can you find out which is the best method/model for you? Well, as we always recommend here at The Fool, it's essential to Do Your Own Research. This is the only way you can be sure you're getting the best deal/product possible.
But if you just don't have the time, check out one of the many comparison websites out there. One of the best I've found is the Ricability Digital TV website -- an independent consumer research charity that has been commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry to provide independent consumer test reports on digital TV equipment. The site offers answers to the most commonly asked questions, pros and cons of each method, and importantly, test reports and recommendations for the products currently on the market.
I spoke to the guys at Ricability to ask them what they believe are the best value ways of going digital at the moment. They were keen to stress that cheaper isn't always better, as the equipment may not be that easy to use, so here are their recommendations for the best value products currently on the market:
Best Value Digital Set top box
The set top box they have found easiest to use so far is the Logik LDRV2, £49.99 from Curry's. If you need a better aerial to get a good picture, they recommend you try the amazingly good value set top aerial -- Telecam TCE2000, £9.99 from Argos. This solution should bring you over 40 TV channels and 28 radio stations.
Best Value Digital TV Recorder/PVR
To record from a digital channel while already watching another digital programme, think about getting a twin tuner digital TV recorder -- often called a PVR. This type of set top box will still bring you the 40+ channels plus give you a good recording option. The two that were easiest to use were: Humax PVR-9200T, £230 and Topfield TF5800PVR, £270.
What about those that live outside the Freeview area?
In this case you will need to look into whether your area has access to cable, or satellite. Sky offers FreeSatFromSky -- providing all you need to get up and running for a one-off fee of £150. The Sky set top box is easy to use and will bring you 120+ TV channels and 80+ radio stations. And the cable company Virgin media offers free TV packages (you'll receive around 39 channels, plus digital radio) although you'll need to sign up for its phone line, too.
Alternatively, there's the option of being able to receive digital TV through a phone line. Homechoice offers a very good value package for anyone living in London or Stevenage, giving access to 35 free digital TV channels, 2MB broadband and free evening and weekend calls for £14.99/month. What's more, as Tiscali has now joined forces with Homechoice the service should be extending outside these regions.
And finally, by signing up for BT Total broadband you can also have BT Vision for free. You'll receive a free V-box and remote control, allowing you to access 40 free digital TV channels through your aerial, as well as on demand services. What's more, the V-box is also a digital TV recorder, allowing you to record up to 80 hours of TV. You'll have to pay an installation fee of £60, and a connection charge of £30. BT does warn, however that anyone who cannot receive any Freeview channels will be unable to use the recording functionality, although the on demand entertainment will still be available.
Hopefully you'll have a better idea of how to switch and what to buy -- but if you need any further information, why not check out the Ricability Digital TV website?
Many thanks to Chris Lofthouse and Lyndsey Etchell from Ricability for their help on this article.