Question 65" TV for viewing SD content

8channel

Novice Member
I only watch SD material recorded off Freeview or UK terrestrial. No sports, games, BluRay or broadband TV; very little live TV. Evening viewing only. 18-19ft viewing distance, very low viewing angle - pretty much head on.

I have a 15+ year old 40", "top of the line", Sony Bravia HD Ready; connected via HDMI (1.1 I think) to an 8 channel, ad-cutting, computer/recorder. It was exactly what I wanted BUT:

The screen is too small in our new house - the victim's dying message is illegible and I can't read most in-band (in-video) subtitles* from 18ft away and I can't change the viewing distance. Also, dark scenes (eg: skandi-noir) are a matter of guesswork.
*Out of band subtitles are fine.

I think I want a 65"+ screen, but I hear the upscaling from ~480p on most large 4K screen TVs is poor for watching SD content. I don't want to waste £2k on a Sony if a £700 Hisense would do.

Richer Sounds (great patience and help on the phone!) have invited me to take a USB stick into their showroom and see what I think with various models (which I shall do) but I'm thinking:
a) a showroom isn't my living room
b) maybe I should get the cheapest TV with the largest screen and feed it with a discreet, upscaler (refurbed BluRay say?). Could be an expensive mistake and yet more boxes/cables to hide.
c) Dunno. Too many variables. Not enough time in the day. Someone tell me what to do!

Any thoughts gratefully received!
 

Dodgexander

Moderator
My take on it would be this.

First of all, work from the source material up. If you are still using a lot of standard definition material is this because you are only watching the same recordings that have been made on channels that are only available still in standard definition?

What kind of content do you watch?what channels? Is that kind of content also available in HD instead?

For example, if you are like most Freeview users most of your viewing will be on channels 1-5 which all have HD editions. If you are a Freesat user it is possible even to get more channels in HD compared to Freeview.

If you can watch the highest quality source possible then it will mean you notice the poorer upscaling of a UHD model less.

A few points I'd add which I hope can help you:

1. Upscaling is of course better on higher end models. Higher end models have more powerful image processors that upscale content to a higher standard. However I would not worry so much about the differences as they are generally small. There is not enough difference in upscaling quality to make a high end TV worth it for your usage.

2. Demoing content is a good idea if you can, whilst a showroom is never good conditions to compare picture quality if richer give the remote control and let you sample upscaling on each TV with the kind of content you view, then you may find it useful. Its important if you do this though that you aren't in any kind of shop mode and that you have the TV set to Movie or Cinema preset. Its also important you don't make judgements on much else as things like blacks and contrast/colour will look quite different in home conditions.

3. 3rd party upscalers - these will cost ALOT of money and the ones that you can find cheap on the second hand market will likely be HD only, not really useful for an UHD model at all. Of course if you have no choice but to watch poor quality source material then a designated scaler that scales everything to the native TV resolution will beat even the best TVs but you may have to donate a kidney to the cause.

Looking at the TV Viewing Distance Guide 18-19ft is still quite far from an 65" TV. It puts you within 720p territory. This isn't a bad thing if you are still watching some poorer quality material because its actually very far from the TV. All in all at your kind of distance you may not even notice the poorer upscaling at all, although you will notice a large improvement if you instead change to a HD source. In other words it may be tempting to over-think this, but you will probably be happy with even a low end TV.
 

8channel

Novice Member
Wow! - thank you for such well considered advice @Dodgexander. Sure wish you lived next door!

I'm with you on every point you make.
I hadn't even considered Freesat HD but that was a mistake. (Reception for Freeview SD let alone HD is right on the edge where we live.)

Sadly, I've just re-cabled the house for Freeview terrestrial only but your comments make me think I've missed a trick or two so I shall:
  • regret not asking this question two months ago
  • delay buying any sort of TV
  • see whether our (as yet ignored) satellite dish works
  • do some research into satellite HD channels
  • research satellite//uhf/hdmi distribution via coax
  • think about re-siting the computer/recorder away from the TV and wonder how it's homebrew line-of-sight remote control could be rigged
  • let you know how it all turned out - about 2021 at my rate of work :(

Seriously, I can see many advantages besides improving skandi-noir even if the floorboards have to come up again!

Many thanks again for expanding my mindset!
 

Dodgexander

Moderator
Well, take a look at the HD channel listings first:

All of the free TV channels on Freeview in the UK
All of the free TV channels on Freesat in the UK

Freeview some channels depend where you live, for instance not everyone can pick up BBC 4 HD.

Freesat there are ones missing compared to freeview too, like CH4 HD.

But what I meant is, how much of your viewing can be transfered to HD and how much is only available in SD?

Have you considered a fast internet connection and switching viewing habits more towrads Amazon/Netflix or similar? Most content on those is a lot higher quality than normal TV.

For reception enter your postal code here: Get to see your Freeview predictions map - it will tell you what you are expected to receive and whether, if you use a HD comoatible tuner, if you can get channels in HD.
 

8channel

Novice Member
Many thanks for those links. Very useful.

> how much of your viewing can be transfered to HD and how much is only available in SD?
Theoretically, about 50% could be transferred to HD but in practice, none - as my computer/recorder doesn't currently use HD tuners. That is a key issue for me; the recorder's automatic ad-cutting feature is probably more important than picture quality.

> fast internet connection...
I have thought about that as we do have fibre bb but integration with the recorder would be problematic/impossible. (I speak from bitter experience!)

> ...Amazon/Netflix...
Not for me - I'm too old/poor to want to pay for subscriptions on top of the TV license!

Whilst writing this I have just remembered that the recorder has facilities for offline, software upscaling which I need to revisit. Thank you for talking to me and help clarify my thoughts, much appreciated.
 

Dodgexander

Moderator
Out of interest, what are you using that auto-add skips?

I did use the feature as part of my old Humax HDR-T2 receiver but it involved sideloading sotware on to the recorder and running a web configuration to configure the ad skips.

The recorder would then stay on and process each recording and remove the ads automatically.

I assume you are using the same method, I am unaware of any commercially available recorders that ship with this function out of the box.

But back to the original question, with no way to upgrade the source quality I'd look at these options:

1. Second hand. Try and obtain a 65" TV second hand that is 1080p only such as a last generation Plasma TV. 2013-14 were the last times these TVs were mainstream. This will give you better upscaling with minimal fuss.

2. Pro scaler. - The big bucks option but will give you the best results even if paired with a cheaper UHD TV.

3. An UHD TV with a reputation of good upscaling - Probably overall cheaper than a designated scaler and you may well be satisfied with it.

4. Just buy a good value low or mid range model and live with the poorer quality upscaling.
 

8channel

Novice Member
Great suggestions - thank you. Given that I would not want to buy second hand and certainly don't have big bucks:
> 4. Just buy a good value low or mid range model and live with the poorer quality upscaling.
is starting to look the best idea for me; I'm not sure I would have to put up with poor upscaling either. After some googling it seems that when people talk about upscalers they mean realtime, hardware, DSP/FPGA type upscalers. With my computer/recorder I don't need realtime upscaling so I am currently investigating software upscaling. (It wouldn't matter how long it takes as it would be easy to schedule conversion after the recording has been made; just so long as it keeps all the subtitles in one piece. ) There's some clever stuff out there!

(When I visit Richer, I'm going to take two versions of a recording, standard SD and software-scaled to whatever sizes/resolutions I can produce.) As a sidenote I discovered last night that my recorder's HDMI is only 1080p @ 60Hz max. so a 4k TV would certainly have some work to do unless I invest in new computer hardware as well.

Ad-cutting: I'm sure you're right no commercial company would last very long shipping an advert cutter! My recorder is a dedicated Linux box running Mythtv. It offers several, post-processing ad-cutting algorithms out-of-the-box but it took me (a very time-strapped, retired electronics / IT professional) months to get it set up really well; it was worth it though - I haven't seen any ads for years now.
(I'd recommend Mythtv to any Linux guru but definitely not for the man in the street, the learning curves are vertical and the documentation is all over the place.)
 

8channel

Novice Member
> I thought it was a case that the tuner itself could be upgraded?
You're absolutely right; theoretically, it should be easy but things are not always straightforward. I messed around with a terrestrial HD tuner a year or so back and found that the increase in throughput and storage requirements were a bit too much for my ageing system. Also, the problem with Mythtv / Linux is never being certain that the chipset on the tuner you get is going to be 100% with the your particular system. (I got excited last week when I found a company called TBS which market Linux multi-channel DVB-T2 / S2 tuners - investigation continues.)

Upscaling update: Today I software upscaled a recording from my system from the raw DVB format (544x576 @4:3) to 1080p @ 4:3 with side fills. It only took a few minutes so the proof of concept is basically there but I kinda get the feeling that going to 4k is going to look horrible however the scaling is done even from 18 feet away. Never mind, progress has been made! Knowledge has been gained!
 

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