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Buying Digital TV? Tune into our Guide

It’s always difficult to predict what lies ahead for technology, but there’s one thing you can be sure of… in a few years we will all be watching digital television.

Indeed the Government has already begun switching off the old analogue signals in various regions via the Digital Switchover, meaning digital TV is the only way forward. A great place to find out everything that’s important about the Digital Switchover is www.digitaluk.co.uk or see the guide on the Comet website.

Digital transmissions take up less space in the airwaves, meaning more channels and better picture quality.

So if you’re thinking of buying a digital TV, then continue reading our guide to find out what you should consider when choosing a new television or set-top box to get you tuning in.

How do I know if my current TV is digital? Will it stop working?

ALL TVs and set-top boxes are now digital and have been for quite a while. One sign is how many channels you are able to tune through the TV. If it is still only five, then you have an analogue TV.

It’s important to remember though that you don’t actually need to buy a new television to experience digital TV. Old analogue sets – even black and white televisions – will work as long as you plug in a digital TV set-top box. These cost as little as £20.

But all new TVs now come with built-in digital transmissions, doing away with the need for a separate box.

What different types of digital TV services are there?

The four main ways people currently watch TV digitally is through Freeview, freesat, Sky or Virgin Media.

All four are available through set-top boxes, and many of the more expensive devices are also able to record, pause and rewind live telly. You can find out more about these in our Digital Video Recorder Buying Guide.

If it’s just the extra channels you’re after, then any new TV will generally have Freeview built-in. Some may have the alternative option of freesat and some even have both.

What is the difference between Freeview and freesat?

Freeview is the most common option, especially on cheaper or smaller TVs. It will give you around 50 television and radio channels and, if you take the Freeview HD option, four in high-definition – two from the BBC and one each from ITV and Channel 4.

Freesat expands your choice to 150 channels, with five of them in HD. The downside to freesat is it requires a satellite dish and one-off installation charge, although the dish can be an old Sky one if you still have one attached to your house.

It is important to note that both of these services are free after the initial purchase of a TV or set-top box. There are no monthly or other subscription charges.

How about Virgin Media and Sky?

You can’t buy a TV with these services built-in, so will need a separate box. You can usually get this and the installation for free as Sky and Virgin require you to sign up to a contract and monthly subscription.

Both are high-definition services and the major benefit is the wide range of channels you then get, including premium ones like Sky Movies and Sky Sports offering films, football and more.

Sky provides well over 200 different stations, with a whopping 50 in HD, and is also the only option that offers a dedicated 3D channel for those with 3D TVs.

What are the benefits of HD?

Although taking the HD option is more expensive, the improvement in picture and sound quality is well worth it.

To experience HD on Freeview you will need a specific Freeview HD digital TV or set-top box. With freesat, the five HD channels are included as standard.

Does screen size matter?

If you want freesat built-in, this option is usually only available on 32” TVs and above. Digital set-top boxes will work with any size of TV.

Find out what the best size TV is for your room with our handy guide.

Is there anything else I should be aware of?

With Sky and freesat requiring satellite dishes, if you have a landlord or live in a communal block, you may need permission to put one up.

Read More TV articles on PluggedIn:

- The Basics of Buying a TV
- A Bluffer’s Guide to 3D
- 10 Key Things About Smart TVs
- LCD, LED or Plasma?


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