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What does HD-ready mean?

What does HD-ready mean?

I've just bought a new, HD-ready TV but I can’t tell if the picture is any better. How do I know if I'm watching in high-definition? Angela Moors, via email on 3 October 2011

Our digital TV expert says...

Put simply, HD-ready means that your new TV is capable of up to five times sharper images and digital surround sound than a standard-definition (SD), or regular, TV. What it doesn’t mean is that you'll automatically be able to watch TV in high-definition.

HD TV Services

The first thing you need to do once you've got your HD TV set up is find a suitable digital TV service to deliver programmes in HD.

If HD is your main priority, then Sky ( is by far your best choice.

It currently offers more than 50 HD channels, with favourites including Sky Living HD, Sky Sports HD, National Geographic HD and exclusive channel Sky Atlantic HD.

To watch everything Sky has to offer in HD, you’ll need to add the HD Pack to your existing subscription for an extra £10.25 a month and the HD channels you get will depend on what you already channels get from Sky.

If you're an existing customer upgrading to HD, you'll need to make sure you also have a Sky+ HD box to watch in high-definition.

Next on the HD list is Virgin Media (, weighing in with 37 high-definition channels.

Again, what you can watch will depend on which channels you're signed up to - those who subscribe to the providers XL package can get 24 HD channels for no extra monthly fee, while the V HD box is available free to all new customers without an added monthly cost.

The UK’s other main pay-TV provider, BT Vision (, offers some on-demand content and movies in high-definition, but you cannot watch “live” TV in HD.

Free HD TV

But you don’t have to sign a contract or pay a monthly subscription to enjoy the benefits of HD TV. Freeview HD launched in May 2010 and is now available to more than half the country.

As long as you have a Freeview HD box to go with your HD-ready TV - or if your TV has Freeview HD built-in - then you'll be able to watch BBC HD, BBC One HD, ITV1 HD and 4HD. The service is also set to launch a fifth high-definition channel by 1 April 2012, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Freesat is another fee-free option. It uses satellite technology to deliver your digital TV service, with access to five HD channels - BBC HD, BBC One HD, ITV1 HD, 4HD and Japanese news station NHK World HD.

You also get the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and more than 150 digital TV, radio and interactive channels.

However, as well as your HD-ready TV and a Freesat HD box, you'll also need to have a satellite dish installed so that you can receive the signal - so make sure this is possible before signing up.

Finally, if you have a Blu-ray player, you'll also be able to watch all your favourite movies and box sets in super shiny high-defintion.

TV, broadband and phone packages

CompanyPackage NameChannelsBroadbandHome Phone 
Sky TV + HD + Sky Broadband Unlimited + Talk FreetimeChoose 1 Sky Entertainment 'pack' from a selection of 6YesYes
TV Essential + More Broadband and Calls70 Freeview channelsYesYes
TV: L + Broadband: L + Phone: M100 channels including Virgin 1, Sky1, Comedy Central, Bravo and many moreYesYes

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