may 31, 2009

I have finally entered the HDTV age.  Yesterday, after waiting all day, the Dish Network guys showed up and installed a DuoDVR VIP 722k and two new dishes.  I am getting the TurboHD Bronze package (not to be confused, which it was by the customer service rep, with the BronzeHD add-on) with the Locals and DVR add-on.  The package is an HD only package.

There were two reasons for the move.  First, our SDTV setup was starting to fail.  It was having issues catching signal from the satellites daily.  Second, and this is important, the HD-only package was $6 per month cheaper than our SD-only package.  Yes, we lost a few channels (MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and E! come to mind).  Otherwise, all the channels that we watch are included.  Total cost is $40 a month.  That's not bad.

So, what do I think?  I think it is great.  It doesn't knock my socks off, but that is really because I have gotten used to watching Bluray movies.  Still, it is really impressive when compared with SDTV.  The picture is sharp and vivid; the audio is clearer; and the new DVR is fantastic.  There are still compression artifacts, but I am guessing that is an issue with all HDTV providers.

The DuoDVR VIP 722k is a fantastic DVR.  It is similar enough with our old one that the learning curve is almost nothing.  It is fast, fast and...fast!   Especially considering that it is recording and playing back HD content.  There is new functionality that is interesting.  I can hook up an external USB drive to backup content from the internal drive.  I can have the DVR send all of its settings to one of the remotes in case I have to get the DVR replaced -- then send the settings back to a new DVR.  DishONLINE has a lot of free (and pay) content that can be downloaded via the broadband link (including a lot of HD content).  The only thing I don't like is the bright blue "HDTV" logo on the front of the DVR, it is quite distracting.

One big issue I am seeing is with aspect ratios.  Some channels like Sci-Fi, USA, Discovery and A&E seem to understand aspect ratios.  If the content is 4x3, these channels broadcast it 4x3.  If the content is 16x9, they broadcast it 16x9.  Then there are channels like History and Food that have decided that no matter what, they want the picture to fill up the screen.  So, the apply a zoom, stretch and squish to the picture causing a fun-house mirror type effect to 4x3 content.  This sucks.  I wish they would just broadcast the content in its original aspect ratio and let the end-user decide how they want to view it.

Anyways, I can't wait to start watching my favorite shows in HD.  Burn Notice is starting this week, I am hoping that it is in HD.  Iron Chef starts in a few minutes, I am really hoping the new episodes are in HD -- else, I will have to record the SD version since Food Network will no doubt do the zoom, stretch and squish on it.  I watched a rerun of a recent Mythbusters and it is fantastic in HD -- actually, anything on the Discovery Channel HD seems to be fantastic. 

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