Digital TV Guides

High-definition TV explained

High-definition TV

By Becca Talbot -

Updated: Friday 8 April, 2011

As more high-definition channels become available from the UK’s digital TV providers, should you make the switch to HD TV? We reveal everything you need to know about high-definition…

High-definition TV, or HD TV as it is also known, is a new development in digital TV. It offers you a better viewing experience, with clearer sound and pictures. If you’re considering getting a HD TV, or already have one, we’ll help you get the most from it.

Our guide explains exactly what high-definition (HD) is, what’s available to watch in HD and which digital TV providers offer high-definition services, as well as looking at all the costs involved.

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What is high-definition television?

There are several advantages to getting a high-definition television. Most noticeably, HD programmes and films have:

  • Better picture quality - Images are brighter and clearer. HD programmes have up to five times more detail than ordinary standard definition TV.
  • Better sound quality - Programmes made with surround-sound are better in HD as sound is clearer and sharper.

HD broadcasts are particularly suited to flat TV screens (LCD and plasma).

Video: Quick guide to HD TV

What can I watch in high-definition?

If you’ve got a HD ready TV, or are thinking of getting one, there are plenty of high-definition shows to choose from on the dedicated HD channels.

A wide variety of programmes, from soaps and documentaries to films and dramas, are shown in HD, as well as some sporting events. What you’ll be able to watch in high-definition though will depend on the digital TV service you have.

Several of the larger digital TV providers offer HD channels for customers, but these come at a cost. Freesat, the free-to-view satellite TV service, and Freeview also offer content in HD, which doesn’t require a monthly subscription.

Below is more information on what is available from the various digital TV services:

  • Virgin Media - If you subscribe to a cable TV package from Virgin Media, you’ll be able to watch over 30 different HD channels, including FX HD, MTV HD, National Geographic HD, and Sky Living HD. Virgin Media also offers on-demand TV programmes in high-definition. To get HD channels from Virgin Media you need a V+HD or V HD set-top box. Visit for more information.

  • Freesat - Freesat, the subscription-free satellite TV service, currently offers BBC HD and ITV HD to its users. To get these channels you must make a one-off payment for the Freesat HD set-top box and installation. Visit for more information.

  • Freeview - Anyone who lives in an area that can receive Freeview HD should consider purchasing a Freeview HD set-top box. You’ll have access to BBC1 HD, BBC HD, ITV1 HD and Channel 4 HD, and won’t have to pay any monthly subscriptions.

    Digital TV providers are adding new HD channels and content all the time, and costs do vary, so it’s important you find a high-definition package that will suit you.

    What do I need to receive HD TV?

    Before you can watch high-definition programmes, there are four things you must do:

    1. Get a HD ready TV - If you want to watch programmes in high-definition, you’ll need to make sure your TV is HD ready - look for the HD ready logo. If you’re considering buying a new set, visit for more information.
    2. Get a HD receiver - You will need to get some form of HD receiver. These can be integrated within TVs or can be a separate set-top box. Speak to your digital TV provider to see what it offers.
    3. Get a HDMI cable - If your HD receiver is not integrated in your HD TV, you’ll need a HDMI cable to connect between the two.
    4. Get a digital TV provider - You will need a digital TV service to provide you with HD content.

      Should I get high-definition TV?

      If you’re considering getting a HD TV and digital TV service, you need to think about the kinds of programmes you want to watch in high-definition. HD viewers have commented that, most noticeably, nature documentaries and sporting events are better in HD.

      Sign-up to the RSS news feed for all the latest HD TV news and developments.

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