The TV experience (really about TV this time) 08:59 on Wednesday

While I’m on the TV theme (kind of), this explanation of why we’re not going blu-ray reminded me that I need to blog about the current TV experience.

If it were my choice, I would not have a TV. In fact, for the most part when I was living alone, I didn’t have one. Now that I’m sharing a flat, I do not get to make these decisions, which means I watch quite a bit of TV, even if I don’t want to. I just can’t resist the allure of the moving image……

Well, onwards.

I hope no one minds me using such delicate wording, but I think the current TV experience is fucked up. The digital TV we’re “enjoying” in Finland surely plays a big part in this assessment.

Here’s what I’ve seen happening to the TV experience:

  • At least two remotes is the standard in every home. The TV remote is rarely used for anything but switching the TV power on and off.
  • Switching channels has become slow.
  • Previously problems in the TV signal transmission made the picture slightly fuzzy. Now the picture cuts off completely, or at minimum goes into an artsy mess of pixel vomit.
  • Subtitles are not guaranteed to be displayed.
  • Picture and sound are not guaranteed to be in sync.
  • No matter what TV or digital receiver you have, it is too difficult to find settings for getting the aspect ratio of the picture right. If I could get one euro for every movie geek with a 4000+ € hi-fi home theatre setup and a video image that’s unnaturally stretched and probably also cropped at top and bottom, I would go and buy a soy latte with double espresso. Obviously having full HD resolution and 200Hz refresh rate is more important than seeing people on the screen in their natural proportions.
  • If you really want to see a certain show, it is rather likely, that your digital receiver will start a software update on the moment you turn it on. It is even more likely the software update is made so, that you cannot watch TV while it’s updating, you cannot abort the update, and you don’t get any feedback as to how long the update might take.
  • And when the update doesn’t help, taking your “video” (that’s DVR now, folks) to repairs, will most probably wipe out your whole collection of recorded shows.
  • But hey, you got a slightly sharper image. So slightly though, that it’s nearly impossible to see the difference if you don’t have an old TV tube for comparison.
  • Any improvement in image quality is offset by buying a flat screen TV, which most likely doesn’t really display any dark colors, and basically turns everything else into a pixelized flicker. Yes, the man in the store says that’s not true, and yes, your friends who paid thousands for top notch TVs a couple years back say that’s not true… but there’s a reason the refresh rates in the newest LCD TVs top at around 240 Hz.
  • Having all this new technology added to the TV viewing setup certainly doesn’t make things easier. There’s an increasing number of user interfaces, but unfortunately not an increasing quality in UI design. Quite the contrary. Our particular digital receiver / DVR (Humax) is so bad, that I wonder how many of those boxes the engineers behind that shit-pile have tossed out their own windows, in frustration.

I’m not really as frustrated as it might sound, probably because I don’t really care about watching TV. I’m just amazed at how we’ve come to where we are with TV technology, and how fast the change has happened. Knowing so many great designers, and knowing there must be at least tens of thousands of brilliant designers out there in the world, I’m amazed at how it seems not a single one has been hired to design a TV or a set-top box.

As a side note, I would salute Samsung for the UIs in their digital TV products — unless I wouldn’t have seen how impossible it is to get a Samsung home media box to talk to a Samsung TV.

4 Responses to “The TV experience (really about TV this time)”


  1. Sami Says:

    It’s quite amazing how stupid these digital tv boxes actually are. Using EPGs to record programs is like programming your VCR, no added intelligent.

    I was pretty amazed for a while using TVKaista via my PS3 – no need to program anything, the service recorded 7 channels for me and stored it for two weeks. But after honeymoon period I’m craving for a truly passive tv show recording experience: just giving thumbs up for a show and all future episodes would be recorded and neatly foldered according to seasons. Shouldn’t be too science fictiony.

  2. Zape Says:

    It’s not “watching the telly” anymore, it’s “using the tv signal receiver with a screen connected”.

    But on the other hand, my Humax has worked great. No missed recordings, subtitles or anything.

  3. Trespasser Says:

    Great post!

    I personally have decided not to upgrade my ol’trusty CRT Sony to one of those shitty LCD TV’s and I recommend people to think twice before going into High Defifinition blur.

  4. Niko Says:

    The latest addition to the digital tv feature set is our digibox switching channel numbers every day. So if you set it to record, say, MTV tomorrow, there might be an hour of Eurosport on your hard drive. Not too mildly irritating.