/ Help needed in the TV jungle

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Rog Wilko on 07 Nov 2017
Just planning to update out TV with an all-singing & dancing smart TV with HD and 4K, whatever that is. I am completely at sea on a number of issues, and would be grateful for any expert advice:
1. We have a middling to poor freeview signal and invested in a Sky freesat box and dish some years ago. Will I get a HD 4k signal from my box?
2. at present my freesat signal feeds through a DVD player/recorder. Will an HD signal (assuming I get one from the freesat box) emerge from the recorder/player, which must be 7 or 8 years old?
3. Shocked to see the price of the HDMI leads which seem to have replaced SCART (no SCART sockets on most new TVs now, I discover). How many will I need, and will I need specific combinations of male & female plugs? I assume that there isn't much point in buying cheap leads if you want HD 4K quality?

arch - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:
I may be wrong here, but you will need a subscription to a TV provider to view 4K.

Feed the signal straight into the TV via an HDMI. Then feed the DVD into the TV via another HDMI. (But a device called a Blu-ray player supersedes a DVD player)

If you believe the blurb, all HDMI leads are equal, so no need to splash out on an expensive one. Both ends have the same fitting and you'll need two of them.
Post edited at 18:43
syv_k - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

I don’t know about your boxes, but a cheap HDMI cable will almost certainly work just fine. They are digital cables - the 1s and 0s in the signal will either get through completely or not at all - so unless you have a very long cable run, get the cheapest that won’t actually fall apart as you plug it in. Paying more than a couple of quid won’t give you a better quality picture.
captain paranoia - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> 1. We have a middling to poor freeview signal and invested in a Sky freesat box and dish some years ago. Will I get a HD 4k signal from my box?

If it is some years old, probably not; it will not have the appropriate 4k video stream decoder. Is it even HD at the moment? I notice you mention SCART; is it SCART or HDMI? SCART is unlikely to give you HD.

If you want 4k, you will have to get a new box, which probably means a new contract; go look on the websites of media providers.

Just be be clear; FullHD is not 4k. FullHD is 1920x1080. '4k' isn't as standardised:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4K_resolution

> 2. at present my freesat signal feeds through a DVD player/recorder. Will an HD signal (assuming I get one from the freesat box) emerge from the recorder/player, which must be 7 or 8 years old?

Again, is this a SCART connection? If so, not likely to be HD.
SCART is an analogue connection. HDMI is digital, which makes a lot more sense for a modern LCD screen, which is driven with a digital signal up to the individual pixel drives. Analogue inputs have to be digitised, which adds costs, and limits quality.

Unless it's a FreesatHD, it won't be HD.

And, even if it is HD, it won't be 4k...

> 3. Shocked to see the price of the HDMI leads which seem to have replaced SCART (no SCART sockets on most new TVs now, I discover). How many will I need, and will I need specific combinations of male & female plugs? I assume that there isn't much point in buying cheap leads if you want HD 4K quality?

HDMI leads can be bought from pound shops. They may or may not be up to 4k. But if you haven't got a single 4k source, a bit of a moot point...

HDMI cables are unisex on the cable. You'll only need a M/F cable if you want to extend one cable, which I wouldn't recommend; buy the right length cable. You will need one cable per HDMI source, assuming the TV you buy has enough sockets to support all your sources; I can't imagine a 4K TV having less than 4 HDMI ports.

'Smart' TV? Unless it's a truly open system (e.g. a proper version of Android), the smart function is likely to have a limited set of apps available, and they won't be upgraded. You may be better off with a dumb TV (if youy can get such a thing in 4k), and keep the smarts external with an Android TV box; loads of them out there, with H.265 4K as standard. If you want to stream 4k, you will need a pretty hefty broadband downlink rate. Likewise, if you buy a smart TV box, probably wise to look for one with a gigabit ethernet port, and/or WiFi-ac. You'll need matching a GBE/WiFi-ac router, too....
captain paranoia - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to syv_k:

> They are digital cables - the 1s and 0s in the signal will either get through completely or not at all - so unless you have a very long cable run, get the cheapest that won’t actually fall apart as you plug it in

The encoding is digital, but the bits are represented by analogue signals (they're real-world signals), which, on long runs with poorly-made, unshielded cables, are prone to interference.

That's the same reason why you shouldn't use Cat5 cable for GBE; Cat5e or Cat6 is required, otherwise your link is likely to decide it is suffering too many errors, and will drop down to Fast Ethernet (100Mb/s).
Post edited at 18:58
1
Lusk - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to syv_k:

> I don’t know about your boxes, but a cheap HDMI cable will almost certainly work just fine. They are digital cables - the 1s and 0s in the signal will either get through completely or not at all - so unless you have a very long cable run, get the cheapest that won’t actually fall apart as you plug it in. Paying more than a couple of quid won’t give you a better quality picture.

Don't be such a barbarian, you need cables like these for quality ...
http://www.analogueseduction.net/van-den-hul-hdmi-cables/vhdultihdmi[1].html

FactorXXX - on 07 Nov 2017
captain paranoia - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to Lusk:

Don't forget to make sure you buy gold-plated optical SPDIF cables; that gold plating makes all the difference for the red laser...
balmybaldwin - on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

HDMI leads should never be bought with a tv. Go on Amazon Mich cheaper but do make sure they are HDMI 2 compatible should be no more than a couple of quid
Rog Wilko on 07 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

Thanks for all the replies, folks. I've learnt some stuff here, but it's also made me realise how much I still don't understand.
Good news on the HDMI leads, though. That's going to save me a packet.
captain paranoia - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> but it's also made me realise how much I still don't understand.

Essentially, you will have to throw everything away, and replace it:

TV
DVD player
Freesat receiver
Broadband ISP
Router
SCART cables
Ethernet cables

;-)
Martin W on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

OK, a number of observations and thoughts here:

4k (aka Ultra High Definition aka UHD) is only likely to be detectably better than HD to the human eye if you have a significantly bigger screen than your current HD TV, or you are content to watch a similar-sized TV from significantly closer. If, like me, you are a person of a certain age with gradually deteriorating eyesight then the value of 4k is even more debatable.

Assuming that you adopt one of the above options to make 4k actually worth having in the first place, you will also need 4k content. That comes at a premium price - and may not actually be native 4k anyway.

This web site has some useful guidance about 4k screen size vs viewing distance, and some of the other potential gotchas around 4k: https://referencehometheater.com/2013/commentary/4k-calculator/

My feeling is that if you really want 4k content then you may be better off looking at streaming content like Netflix or Amazon Prime, rather than a wireless broadcast medium like satellite. Arguably the market is slowly but surely moving that way anyway - after all, even Sky runs a streaming service now (though AFAIK it doesn't offer 4k yet). I think the likelihood of getting 4k on Freeview is extremely low - there isn't enough bandwidth in the increasingly small number of UHF channels being left for Freeview to accommodate the data rates required for 4k.

Bear in mind that 4k TVs are well on the way to being no longer a premium product - pretty much all of the latest models of sitting room-sized TVs have it, because fewer and fewer companies are making screens in those sizes with smaller than 4k resolution. It's the same as happened with HD: early adopters paid a premium for the kit and struggled to find content, now every TV is HD and all the public service channels are available in HD even on Freeview. (A lot of those early adopters probably didn't even realise that they were watching upscaled SD content rather than native HD. Arguably upscalers have improved since then as well, so upscaling from HD to 4k - which is also "easier" because the pixel ratio is so much simpler - is likely to be even more acceptable.)

My inclination, if I really needed to replace my TV now, would be to buy a 4k TV simply because that's pretty much the norm now, but to hold off on 4k content unless and until it covers my areas of interest (ie not football!) at a price that suits my wallet. I'd also agree with captain paranoia that the "smart" features of TVs tend to become obsolete over time (and are often proprietary anyway), whereas a decent standalone streaming box (Roku/Fire TV stick/Chromecast/AppleTV? I don't really know the market that well) should get firmware updates to keep up with what's available in the general market.

Regarding your Freesat from Sky box: depending on how old it is that box may not even be HD capable. The fact that your satellite feed goes "through" the DVD recorder/player would suggest that there's a strong possibility that you've never had HD into your TV even if the Freesat from Sky box was HD capable. Especially so if the input to your TV is via SCART rather than HDMI. Bear in mind that DVD isn't HD, so even if your DVD player was outputting an HD signal (which it likely wouldn't be if you're using SCART) then it would be upscaled, not native HD.

Bottom line might actually be: do you really need to upgrade your TV? 4k may not give you what you think it will - especially so if you're not actually watching native HD currently. If your current TV is actually HD (how old is it?) then you could replace your Sky box with a Freesat box (not "from Sky" - you can buy Freesat branded HD satellite boxes from Argos, Currys, Amazon etc etc) that would give you HD broadcast content, and maybe a streaming box to access online HD content. If your current TV isn't HD then by all means buy a new TV (though not necessarily a particularly "smart" one) and get 4k at little to no premium, but I'd suggest holding off spending money for 4k content until you've at least tried the interim step of HD.
Rog Wilko on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to Martin W:

Many many thanks for taking the time to compose that very thorough and logical reply. It is much appreciated. I am learning more by the minute. I didn't imagine that I would be able to distinguish 4K from HD, but as you say any half decent TV now has it. We do "need" a new TV. Our present one is definitely not HD (it must be 10 years old) but the screen is too small for comfortable viewing from some positions in the lounge. I guess the Sky box is also similar vintage and probably not HD so your suggestions about replacing it with a non-Sky box appeal to my anti-plutocrat prejudices. I then wonder if the dish is going to be compatible and also the cable coming down from the dish into the house. You see, I know nothing! Thanks again.
John2 - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

When I moved into my current house there was a Sky aerial outside. This worked fine with a Humax satellite receiver (as did the existing cable).
Martin W on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to Rog Wilko:

The dish should be fine. Freesat uses the same signals from the same satellites that "Freesat from Sky" (don't get me started on that) does, so the equipment is completely compatible. The cable will be fine too, if you just want to watch (ie not record) Freesat. You don't even actually need a separate Freesat box, if you make sure that the new TV you buy has a satellite tuner built in - such things are readily available, and IMO are a better feature to go for than "smart"ness.

If you want to record satellite TV as well as watch it then you will need a Freesat PVR box*. What you will find then, though, is that you'll need extra cables from the satellite dish. Satellite tuners can't share a downlead like terrestrial ones (ie Freeview) can. Each satellite tuner needs what's called an LNB mounted up at the dish, with its own cable down to the device in the sitting room. You need two LNBs if you want to be able to watch one channel and record another. Your friendly local satellite dish installer should be able to make this upgrade to your existing installation, assuming it's in OK nick and not suffered too much from the weather. It might be best to specify a quad LNB and cabling, so you should have plenty available for the TV and the Freesat box, and/or some redundancy in case one of the LNBs or its cable develops a fault.

Regarding your Freeview: if your TV is ten years old then it's possible that you last looked at your Freeview signal before the switchover to digital (or, to put it another way, the switch off of analogue) was completed. That exercise significantly improved the Freeview signal in most parts of the country. If you still have your analogue TV aerial and downlead then it might be worth checking whether your Freeview signal is any better now. Even if you use mostly Freesat, having Freeview there could be handy (for example, I believe that there may be some channels on Freeview not available on Freesat - though they will likely be fairly obscure ones).

* Probably - some TVs do even have a PVR built in as well, but that is something that I'd suggest is better kept separate. Many people adhere to the doctrine that the TV should be just a screen, with all the content including satellite & terrestrial tuners provided in separate boxes - and audio coming via a separate amplifier and speakers. The idea being that you don't then need to replace an expensive display screen and quality speakers just because the content distribution technology changes. Other people prefer everything to be as 'tidy' as possible, so prefer all-in-one solutions.
John2 - on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to Martin W:

I just have one cable into my Freesat box, and at the back I've installed a simple loop of cable from the LNB1 out socket to the LNB2 in socket. Most of the time I can watch a program live while recording a programme on a different channel.
Rog Wilko on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to Martin W:

Thanks again for all the clarification - very useful.
Rog Wilko on 08 Nov 2017
In reply to John2:

Sounds useful.
captain paranoia - on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to Martin W:

> Each satellite tuner needs what's called an LNB mounted up at the dish,

Can you not use either a passive splitter or an active buffer?
Martin W on 09 Nov 2017
OK, so it's a fair few years since I have been involved with a satellite TV installation (my Dad's) - about the same period of time as the age of Rog Wilko's current TV, in fact. The way I described it above was the way it was then. It seems that other LNB and cable distribution technology has since become available/practical for single home installations.

I would suggest that Rog Wilko should probably get advice from his friendly local satellite installer to confirm what would be best for his needs. That's assuming that he does want to feed multiple devices. If not then he should be OK with what he's got, so long as his current dish, LNB and cabling are still in good nick - which it seems they probably are, given that they are apparently working at the moment. But the thing with external aerial installations is that they may be getting by electro-magically, but be on the verge of failing mechanically, and you won't know that until it either fails, or someone goes up a ladder to have a shufty. If he's planning to spend a whack of money on a new TV and other stuff then the comparatively modest outlay on professional advice re dish & downfeed might be well spent.

Choosing a reliable friendly local satellite installer is another issue again. Like with most tradesmen, there's nothing like recommendations from friends, relatives or neighbours to give a basis of confidence. Simply picking a nearby one out of the phone book or from Google can be risky (though, equally, you may strike lucky).
Rog Wilko on 09 Nov 2017
In reply to captain paranoia:

> Can you not use either a passive splitter or an active buffer?

Sounds like a grammarian's discussion.
Rog Wilko on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to Martin W:

Thanks again for all your help Martin.

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