I'm sure you know the type: they own one, possibly two HDTVs and have possibly even upgraded sets all the while having never used them to watch anything in High Definition! Well, this is for them...
Philips has used its long running partnership with Pace to roll out its first Freview HD digiboxes today so viewers can ogle HD content on their televisions without any form of monthly contract.
Arriving in mid April will be the 'DTR5520' - a simple yet rather stylish receiver, which allows owners to receive all Freeview standard and High Def content. At present broadcasts are limited to 720p and 1080i (and bandwidth restrictions should mean that is the case for some time to come), but the box will happily upscale to 1080p, automatically setup all channels, provide parental control options and output to Dolby Digital 5.1. Energy efficiency is also excellent consuming less than 6w in use, under 1w in standby and just 0.3w when off - all well under industry guidelines. At just 290 x 37 x 160mm and 2.3Kg it is also no bulkier than your average laptop.
As for the 'HDT8520', this takes all the functionality of the DTR5520 and adds in PVR functionality to play, pause or rewind live TV. Its 500GB HDD will hold up to 250 hours of SD or 125 hours of HD content and dual tuners mean you can record one channel while watching another. Happily from my brief hands-on with the product, I can also report that is it virtually silent in operation - great news given noise is a common problem which affects many PVRs including Sky+HD. At 240 x 65 x 210mm it is understandably chunkier than the DTR5520, but it still looks the part and also matches its little brother's 1w standby power consumption while using 15w in operation which is again well under industry guidelines for a PVR.
Problems? I'd say two. The first is right now HD content on Freeview is extremely limited with just BBC HD and ITV1 HD, but Channel 4 HD will arrive over the next few months and - crucial to the sales pitch - having the first two will mean getting the World Cup in High Definition when it kicks off in June.
The second is price. With Freeview digiboxes available for under £50 the sweet spot for the DTR5520 would obviously be £99, but it comes in at much more hefty £149.99 while the DTR5520 is a frightening £299.99. Yes, both still work out considerably cheaper than signing a Sky HD contract over the course of a year, but then you are also comparing three mainstream High Definition channels in one service to over 40 in the other.
The DTR5520 will launch in April with the DTR5520 to follow in May and with numerous other Freeview HD boxes due on the market before June I'd expect a brutal price war over the coming months. So how is your resolve?