I want to upgrade my old TV, which is now more than 15-years-old, but when I started looking I just didn’t know what all the terms meant. Can you explain the jargon to me?
Tony Spencer, via email on 19 September 2011
The way we all watch telly has changed massively in recent years, with the mass-market launch of high-definition (HD), the online catch-up boom fuelled by the BBC iPlayer and now 3D and even internet-enabled TV right in your front room.
But what does it all mean and, more importantly, do you need to fork out that extra cash on a top-of-the-range set?
Many of the terms bandied around to attract you to the latest TVs are acronyms that might sound shiny and expensive but mean little to many consumers. We’re here to help you work out exactly what you need from your new telly.
Analogue is the old television signal used to deliver the channels you're used to watching; BBC1 and 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. This is now being switched off across the country as we switch to digital.
Digital TV - By the end of 2012, all the old analogue signals will have been replaced with Freeview, the free-to-air digital TV service. You’ll still be able to watch all your old favourites, but because the digital signal uses less broadcast space, you'll also get loads more TV and radio channels.
EPG - This is the electronic programme guide that lets you ditch the Radio Times and plan everything you want to watch straight from the screen.
HD TV means you'll get the best quality sound and images. High-definition is up to five times clearer and you'll get surround sound. You might see some numbers and a letter following the HD tag on your new TV - this dictates just how sharp your image will be. 1080p is the highest quality though also the most expensive option.
To watch HD TV you'll need an HD-ready television as well as a HD set-top box and access to HD channels. Both Sky and Virgin Media offer HD channels, but Freeview HD is now also available to more than half the country.
HDMI - If you’ve bought a HD TV and have access to HD channels, you'll need to make sure you connect your set-top box using an HDMI cable to actually watch in high-definition - an old scart lead simply won’t do the job.
Set-top box - Unless you're watching using a TV withFreeview or Freesat built-in, you'll need a set-top box. These cost from as little as £15 or you can get one from your digital TV supplier if you choose a subscription package.
+ - The plus sign on your set-top box tells you that you'll be able to pause, rewind and record “live” TV on your set-top box.
Retune - It is a good idea to occasionally retune your Freeview box to make sure you're getting all the channels available in your area. Even if you're already watching digital TV, you may need to retune after your area has switched over.
High-definition in 1080p isn’t the only way you can keep on top of the new technologies taking over the TV world.
3D TV - A fifth of all TVs sold by Currys and PC World are now 3D-enabled, according to the retailers. The latest generation of tellies let you watch 3D TV from the comfort of your living room. You’ll need 3D glasses and access to 3D content through Sky’s 3D channel, on-demand from Virgin Media or BT Vision or Blu-ray.
Internet TV - The latest technology also lets you plug your TV into the web so you can watch YouTube, add apps or rent movies from LOVEFiLM without even moving from the sofa.
Even once you've picked your new TV set, you’ll still need to decide whether or not you want a free digital TV service, or if you want to really make the most of what’s on offer with a monthly subscription.
Freeview is the most common free-to-air digital TV service, which you'll use to watch TV after the switchover unless you want to sign-up to Sky (www.sky.com), Virgin Media (www.virginmedia.com) or BT Vision (www.btvision.bt.com).
Some new TVs come with Freeview built-in which means you'll automatically be able to watch Freeview channels as long as the signal is live in your area. If you don’t have Freeview built-in you can simply buy a set-top box, from as little as £15, to receive the signal. As with analogue TV, you'll need an aerial to watch Freeview.
Freesat is also a free-to-air digital TV service, but because it is a satellite TV service and requires a satellite dish and installation, set-up costs are higher. It offers more channels than Freeview but you will need to double check whether or not you can sign-up; some listed or shared buildings do not allow the installation of a satellite dish.
If you decide that you want access to more than 50 HD channels, Sky Sports and even 3D TV, you'll need to sign-up to a subscription TV service. This can often be bundled with your home phone and broadband package to save on costs though.
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