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Sky vs Telewest HD showdown

TV, TV on the wall, who's the highest def of all?

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Tech Digest Yesterday I took delivery of my Sky HD box and naturally spent the rest of the day watching Star Wars Revenge of the Sith (it is better in HD honest) and animals mauling each other on the National Geographic HD channel.

I am also lucky enough to have a Telewest TVDrive (its HD hard disk video recorder) in the home, so here are a few thoughts about the merits of HD via satellite and cable.

Programming

Sky is clearly in the lead here as it has eight full HD channels including three movie stations, three documentary channels, Sky Sports and Sky One. Viewers can also tune into the BBC's HD channel, although at the moment it only has a HD trailer. At the moment Telewest has just a smattering of video on demand footage, namely The Magic Flute and the BBC drama doc Pride.

What could give cable a lead is if NTL Telewest took all Sky's HD channels - it certainly has enough bandwidth to do this. It could then offer the Sky channels, the BBC HD offering and the Channel Four/ITV programming it has signed up like Desperate Housewives and ITV's World Cup footy. It might also be able to grab other footage for its on demand Teleport service.

So Sky is way out in front at the moment, but don't rule out exciting HD news from cable.

Picture quality

Again a bit tricky to judge given the limited amount of HD footage Telewest has screened. I'd say Sky has the edge at the moment. There is less picture noise, better contrast levels and notably less picture judder. The Telewest pics are however more colorful and have a 3D-like quality.

The boxes

There's a direct comparison of the TVDrive and the Sky+ old unit here. Suffice to say though, even with the new Sky box little has changed. Sky now has the edge in terms of storage - offering 300 Gigabytes to the TV Drive's 160 (although only 160 Gig of the Sky box is available to the user at the moment), it is also easier to use than the TVDrive. However, the little extras the TVDrive has - like being able to play a channel while the user browses the menu system - means it might attract a few more TV obsessives.

The packages

This is a fairly simple comparison at the moment. If you want to commit to HD, go for Sky's satellite package. If you prefer to dabble and watch a little HD now and then, the TVDrive is the better bet.

The Sky package costs £299 plus a further £10 a month over an existing Sky subscription. The TVDrive is £10-15 per month on top of an existing Telewest TV subscription. There is no one-off charge for the hardware though.

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