It's unlikely that you’d choose a set just because it had Daily Motion, rather than YouTube, but accessing online content is much more straightforward on some sets than others. While some have gone out of their way to provide a good range of material, others seem to have done the bare minimum. If you have a media streamer already, that may not matter – but at least some of these sets are coming close to replacing one.
On some sets, DLNA even offers the ability to act as a "media renderer", which means it can be controlled by an external device like a PC, or even some mobile phones. For example, I used a Nokia E72 as the controller, selecting content from a Synology network storage box or from the phone, to be displayed on the TV.
Think how well the set you fancy handles standard definition content. With just three HD channels broadcasting now, to be joined by a fourth before the year is out, a lot of what you watch is still going to be SD. With the wrong settings, like too much sharpness, and over-enthusiastic noise filtering, standard definition pictures – especially from lesser channels like More 4 – can look poor. So a good range of adjustments is vital.
With HD pictures, of course, comes better quality audio, in the form of surround sound. And if you’re hoping to get surround from a Freeview HD set, then the bad news is that things are just as murky as they proved to be when it comes to set top boxes.
In many cases, you won’t get surround sound by connecting the TV to your AV setup, as the necessary transcoding technology won’t become mandatory until next year – which might in itself be enough reason for some to consider postponing their purchase for the time being. Anything launched after April 2011 must have have transcoding if it's to sport the Freeview HD logo, and so will be able to produce a 5.1 signal that existing surround sound systems will have no difficulty handling.
Buyer's Guide: Freeview HD TVs
Alternative Freeview HD buyer's guide
1. Do nothing.
2. Ignore all the hype over a range of products that will be half the price and twice as good next year.
3. Buy an HD recorder with the money you save on your next telly.
What I said in the piece was not that it's "tightly specced", but that it is more so than the standard def service. It's still not as tight as, say, Freesat, where the EPG layout and genre screens are controlled, but there are more restrictions than in the past.
The surround issue is something we've been following for a while - see last week's report here, and the stuff I've been publishing on my own blog for the last month. We'll have an update regarding that fairly soon, too, just as soon as some other people get back to us. It certainly far from ideal, to put it mildly.
However, I simply don't recognise the description of the Freeview picture quality as 'overly compressed crap' - have you watched it? And which bits of the H.264 video standard aren't being used properly?
A far more common reason for not being able to play recorded material from a PVR on other equipment is that that other equipment, while supporting the H.264 codec, does not necessarily understand how to get H.264 from an MPEG Transport Stream, which is what has to be broadcast - just as some kit also doesn't understand an MPEG2 video Transport Stream, and needs it turned into a Programme Stream before it can play back. A case, as Morecambe and Wise might say, of having all the right packets, but not necessarily in the right order.
Tightly Specced? wtf
Freeview is hardly tightly specced!
Take the sound format, apparently the broadcasters can use AAC or Dolby Digital+, unfortunatly they didn't specifiy that the output should be transcoded to a more universal format (dolby digital or dts)...so your fancy HD TV will just be feeding stereo to your amp...how 'modern'!
Nor did they specificy a minium bitrate, so you end up with overly compressed crap that only looks good on youtube or your phone.
They don't even correctly apply the H.264 video standard, so your recorded programs can't be played on devices that 'support' h.264.
So all in all its about the same as all the other tech standards, incomplete with masses of room for user confusion and 'new' versions.
Will 5.1 audio and 100% standards compliant kit for the video make the return of Big Fucking Brother to the tv any different? Will it make any difference to your drunken enjoyment of the world cup? Of course not.
Will it make any difference to your life in any way shape or form? No, but it will affect your bored to shit friends when you are trying to explain just why your new Freeview HD is better than their SD stuff, because lets face it...no one (who actually counts) really cares, they just want to watch TV on what ever it is Dixons are selling when their old stuff goes tits up.