Our old television was on its last legs so we decided to splash out on a brand new set. We opted for Sony for its reliable name but didn't have a clue which model to choose. Internet research revealed we would have to go digital. There is confusion after the collapse of ITV's digital subsrciption channels but one thing is for sure - the Government plans to switch off the nation's existing analogue service, probably by 2010. This means you will have to get a digital television or equipment to watch the box. Which isn't so bad. Thirty five per cent of the nation is already wired for digital so it must have some benefits. Digital transmissions are made up of numbers (anyone remember binary from school?) which contain a lot more information than its flabby analogue rival. This gives it sharper picture and sound quality. Best of all, there is space for more channels to be beamed into your home. For instance, the BBC showed several Wimbledon games simulataneously and viewers could choose which one to watch by pressing a red button on their remote control. The question is how to go digital for the least possible cost, always tricky in rip-off Britain. Digital is a new industry and there are several different ways to get hooked up. 1)Buy a digital television and receive free-to-watch digital services through your existing aerial (as long as it is powerful enough to pick up the signal). 2)Sign up for a Sky minidish and receive free and paid-for channels via satellite. You may be able to get Sky to waive its installation costs for the minidish but you will still have to pay a monthly fee. 3)You could receive digital transmissions (and internet and phone services) via cable but only a certain number of UK homes are covered by cable operators (the ntl website will tell you if your home can get cable) and you will have to pay a monthly fee (although combined TV/phone/internet can be very good value.)
4)Buy a "set-top box" which plugs into your television and decodes the digital signal received through your aeriel. A set-top box costs about £100. Taking everything into account, we plumped for a digital television: ITV and its set-top box is a busted flush (for the moment), Sky is too expensive and we can't get cable where we live. The kd28dx40s is Sony's "entry-level" digital television - in less polite language, its cheapest digital model. I used an online price checker (pricerunner.com) to scour the internet for the best bargain and found Electrical Discount UK, which sold the set for £722 plus £9.95 P+P, much cheaper than the highway robbers at Comet, Curries, Dixons, etc. Electrical Discount UK give a three year guarantee on the product. The TV has a 28ins widescreen, important because all BBC digital channels are broadcast in that format. You can switch between widescreen and three other sizes including zoom. The flatscreen menas there is no distortion and you get a near perfect picture. It also has an electronic programme guide (so no more buying the Radio Times) and when you change channels the name of the programme flashes up as well as start and finish times. There is also an amazing remote control which works with other manufacturer's equipment such as video recorders, a (rather poor) text service, Dolby surround sound, a slot for a card which gives access to ITV's free-to-watch digital services, parental lock, and a modern looking silver stand. The set turned up on our doorstep three days after I placed the order. I assembled the stand within an hour and plugged in the TV to our existing aerial (you need to buy something called a scart lead to plug in your video). The TV has both analogue and digital receivers which tune themselves. It was as simple as that. We quickly had a choice of channels. BBC1 BBC2 BBC Choice - a racy channel (for
the Beeb, anyway) aimed at a younger audience BBC Four - a bone dry channel, usually four academics sitting around a table chatting about politics BBC News24 - 24 news and sport BBC Parliament - audio only CBBC - children's TV CBeebies - babies and toddlers' TV, which does away with the need for parents to buy kids' videos ITV ITV2 - mostly repeats ITN - ITV's news channel is only on for three and a half hours during the early morning Channel 4 E4 - We can't access this channel Channel 5 - lowbrow programmes and soft porn films Travel shop - Does what it says on the tin QVC Shopping - Ditto NTL - We can't access this channel Television X - We can't access this channel (but I wish I could!) Apparently you can also get digital radio stations through this TV but I haven't figured out how yet. Thirteen channels may not sound a lot in this day and age but they are all free to watch. They are enough for us. Interestingly the BBC has just won the licence to take over ITV's digital service. It plans to put 24 free-to-watch channels on air, including UK History, Eurosport and Sky News. That means you can forget forking out huge amounts to Mr Murdoch's Sky (unless you want to watch reasonably new movies or the Premiership). The picture quality on the Sony kd28dx40s is crystal clear and the sound from the hidden twin speakers is magnificent. You can really get into films because the widescreen quality is so high. I was hooked on a documentary about sharks because of the terrific detail and gorgeous blues in the picture. The only gripe I have is the set is back-breakingly heavy and an absolute pig to move. But hopefully that's not something I'll be doing for quite a few years. Where's my sofa?