Review: FreeSat HD bliss

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Having contemplated leaving Sky for FreeSat (think FreeView for satellite dishes), I finally went for it yesterday. Thought about going for the Humax Foxsat-HDR (high definition recorder), but it was more than twice the price of the play-only Humax Foxsat-HD. Plus, I would have to get an engineer out to upgrade the satellite wiring. Another option was to upgrade to Sky+, but the increased monthly subscription would bring the annual bill to £360 alone.

After a long chat with an intelligent clerk at Currys, Belfast, I picked up the Humax Foxsat-HD for £130. Nice that it includes an HDMI cable in the box.

Back home, it took me about 60 seconds to connect the requisite cables: satellite feed in the Humax box, and HDMI cable from the television to the Human box. Turned everything on. No picture on the tv screen; took me two minutes of staring at this to realise that I had to tell the tv where the source was. A quick button press on the tv remote and all was well. After a minute-long scan and finding 140 available Free-To-Air satellite channels, all was well.

Am well impressed, of course with the stunning sharpness of BBC HD, finally releasing the investment we made in our HD tv, now three years old! But also with the quality of the satellite signal for the rest of the standard definition channels; somehow better than that received via the Sky box.

But that wasn’t the end of my mission.

I thought to myself, if the video and sound signal is being processed by the Humax Foxsat-HD box, why not feed it into my laptop? So I also went to the Apple Store at Victoria Square Mall and got a Belkin HDMI to DVI-D cable and an Apple Mini-DVI to DVI Adapter.

I connected the cables up, but no difference on my laptop screen. Then it I realised that perhaps it’s that fact my laptop doesn’t have a tv tuner would prevent it from displaying a tv signal. I went online and found nifty gadgets, like the Elgato EyeTV 310 FireWire Digital Video Recorder, which is very clever but also £230.

Went to bed thinking I’ll have to return the video cable to Apple. But woke up with the thought, while I may not be able to have my laptop display a satellite video signal, how about the other way around: what about connecting my laptop to the 40″ Samsung 1366×768 LCD tv?

Connected the mini-DVI to DVI Adapter to HDMI into the tv. Awesome. Dove into my iPhoto library and watched some slideshows. The brightness and colour saturation of the digital photos so impressive. Beats connecting slideshows exported to my iPod to the tv; now, I’ll just go direct and connect the MacBook to the tv.

So, I won’t be returning the cables to Apple. If you have a DVI port in your laptop, I recommend making this good use of it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be ringing Sky next week to forever cancel our subscription.

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