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What's better? Satellite or Digital Cable?


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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Mike Veroukis

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Posted June 22 2001 - 09:35 AM

Hello folks!

I live in Winnipeg, Canada and I recently bought a Toshiba 50HX70 HD ready TV. I'm really happy with it, however, normal cable is almost unwatchable. I know it's not the TV's fault, it's just that the standard NTSC standard blows. SO, I want to go the digital route (like everyone else). I have a few options, but I'm not sure what's the best quality. There's digital cable provided by Shaw. I'm already hooked up to their normal service, so switching over should be a snap. However, I wonder how great the quality of the picture and sound is. Right now that's my biggest concern, although channel selection is another important issue. As far as I know, Shaw does NOT provide a HD signal and it does NOT provide 5.1 digital audio. Which made me look at Bell ExpressVu. It seems that HD is possible, and so is 5.1 audio. Same goes with Star Choice. So, from a technical point of view, the Shaw's digital cable is not very impressive at all. However, I assume not all programming on the satellite's is HD, and I hear that Shaw's digital cable isn't digital on all the channels, just a few of them. What gives? I thought Digital Cable meant everything was digital!

So I'm just wondering if anyone on HTF has any advice or experiences with any of these carriers. I want a nice clean picture and true 5.1 sound. Any suggestions?

- Mike

every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief! - The Fly, U2

#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin Potts

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Posted June 22 2001 - 07:38 PM

Mike, this thread was started several days ago over in the DBS area and might be of some help.

My vote? Satellite, because cable sucks.
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#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Norm Lalonde

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Posted June 23 2001 - 09:05 AM

Mike,

I've been with Bell ExpressVu for about 3 years now and have never regretted it.

I just recently upgraded to the model 6000 HDTV receiver and am even more thrilled. This receiver will upconvert all channels to 1080i. Don't expect all the channels to look hi-def, but it does improve all the channels considerably.

As for HD, well it just looks awesome. I have the 40" Toshiba TW40X81 widescreen tv, and HD looks great.

DD 5.1 is still limited to the PPV channels, but I recently saw Gladiator in HD and 5.1 on TMN.

The model 6000 is what I suggest you go with. But it is just a suggestion.

Norm
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#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Mike Veroukis

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Posted June 24 2001 - 07:53 AM

Yeah, it sounds like sat is the way to go. Just one question though. How much HD programming is there on ExpressVu? Is it just a small number of channels or the PPV? I'm probably more likely to watch movies and specials on DVD rather then on PPV, so I was hoping that I could see norm TV in HD. Is that asking too much???

- Mike

every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief! - The Fly, U2

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Norm Lalonde

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Posted June 25 2001 - 03:50 AM

Mike,

There's currently four HD channels available with Bell ExpressVu.

2 PPV channels showing the same movie, one in english, the other in french.

1 TMN/Movie Central channel showing movies and the Sopranos in HD. Movies currently being shown are: The Cell, Gladiator, Forces of Nature, Bats, Frequency and I beleive Magnolias.

1 network channel showing mostly CBS and Fox primetime, with a little of ABC thrown in. On weekends they'll also show sports in HD.

Rumors are that there will be more HD programing this fall including possibly CBC.

Norm.

P.S. I've seen Digital Cable from my Brother-in-Law in Sudbury and was not impressed with it at all. Doesn't look any better than regular cable, and certainly doesn't match ExpressVu.
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#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Vishwa Somayaji

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Posted June 25 2001 - 03:59 AM

I would recommend satellite as well. I have helped friends install digital cable boxes(Shaw boxes made by General Instruments). I have satellite. Satellite has much bette picture overall. As for HD, I do have the Bell Expressvu 6000 receiver and there are two channels that have generally the network programming in HD. There is a third one which has pay per view HD movies (right now they are running What Lies Beneath). I hope in the future there will be more programming in HD. It is still cheaper than going with Star choice as you have to have the receiver and the HD decoder. In the model 6000 it is an all in one box.

I am not sure if digital cable yet offers any HD programming. These boxes have just a S-video and a coaxial digital outputs. In that, not all channels output digital sound which is a real disappointment. As a contrast , with either 4700 or 6000 receivers, the optical digital may be used for any channel. It wil automatically send either PCM or DD signals.
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#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted June 25 2001 - 04:58 AM

Our condo building will be getting a Bell ExpressVu dish very soon. The contracts have been signed and we're just waiting for the installer to show up for final inspection.

I did a study last year comparing the offerings from Bell ExpressVu, Vidéotron Digital Cable, Star Choice and Look. Overall, Vidéotron and Look are more expensive than satellite, and offer less programming and no HDTV!

We chose ExpressVu because I had nothing but positive feedback from other subscribers. Also, Star Choice never answered my e-mails. Posted Image

And how good will the HDTV service really be? I don't know yet. The offerings are skimpy for now, limited only to PPV channels, but they should improve with time. True HDTV support will kick in once a few major networks start offering HDTV feeds at no extra cost.

Of course I still need an HDTV receiver and TV to complete the package, but that can wait until there's better choices both in hardware and programming. At least I'll be getting a kick-ass picture with an excessive number of channels to watch for the time being.


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#8 of 12 OFFLINE   SpenceJT

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Posted June 25 2001 - 05:27 AM

WOW! That's a lot of DARN Canadians! Posted Image

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#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Jason Bourcier

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Posted June 25 2001 - 10:09 AM

Hi Mike, Jason here from Selkirk. I was at Krahns on the weekend and saw a 4:3 HDTV monitor by Hitachi on display. I wanted to see how bad Shaw regular and digital cable looked on an HDTV as did you. All the other shops around the city will only show you a satellite HDTV image or one playing a DVD. One of the owners, Carl Krahn, spent some time with me and showed me the different feeds with the same program. We were watching "Licence to Kill". The regular feed was as horrible as people say. The exact show on another channel through the cable digital decoder was markedly improved and quite bearable. He explained that Shaw uses a proprietary digital decoder not supported by the ATSC standard. It looks ok but 1080i its is definitly not nor ever will be. There are only about 6 digital channels From Shaw, the balance are just analogue transmissions being sent down a digital pipe. Ditto on the Star Choice and Express Vu. Most of the programs are analogue feeds being beamed down on a digital transmission.

Footnote: The cable companies knew of the ATSC standard as far back as 1996 yet the cable providers have the arrogance to make a proprietary digital box themselves! Ha! I am going to go satellite in protest, and not with Star Choice as Shaw cable owns them as well. It will either be Express Vu or a grey market DSS system from the States.

#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Hugh_E

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Posted June 26 2001 - 01:17 PM

Satellite is the only way to go if you want HDTV in Canada.
I also tested Shaw's digital cable and was not impressed. I have had the expressvu HD 6000 receiver for a couple of months now. It was worth it just to see NYPD Blue in HD and DD 5.1, something you will never get anytime soon with the cable co's in Canada! The Sopranos have been excellent as well, but they generally are not in DD. That would be my only complaint, the majority of programming currently on the HD channels is in prologic. Expressvu currently offers more HD programming than Starchoice and appears to support it more. Non HD channels, whether analog at the source or not, are all retransmitted as digital signals whereas cable transmits 20-30 out of 200. PQ is substantially better over digital cable.

-Hugh

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#11 of 12 OFFLINE   Mike Veroukis

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Posted June 27 2001 - 09:12 AM

Thanks for all the replies! It seems everyone prefers ExpressVu over everything else. The only other option would be to get DirectTV which is in the grey as far as legality (here in Canada that is).

One of the reasons why I was hoping digital cable would be the prefered choise is because I'd still get all the local channels. I understand that with ExpressVu I will lose some of the local channels, but not all. I suppose that's not a big deal as I can get all the local channels for free over the air waves.

One other thing, although this is kinda trivial but I was wondering about it the other day... Is it possible to have PIP with a satellite feed? I would guess not because it would need two decoders, right?

- Mike

every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief! - The Fly, U2

#12 of 12 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted June 27 2001 - 03:16 PM

Mike, you're right. You need two decoders if you want to take advantage of PIP. HOWEVER, ExpressVu will NOT charge you extra for the second decoder, unlike certain cable companies that charge you extra for having more than one cable outlet in the home.

BTW, you won't lose your local CTV, CBC and Global affiliates. All the Winnipeg channels are available along with on average half a dozen other affiliates PER NETWORK.

As for the American satellite services, don't rush. I keep hearing stories of "underground" owners whose "authorization" cards were zapped often the day before the broadcast of a major event such as the Super Bowl. And even if you use an American address and pay the monthly bills, overall the American rates are MORE EXPENSIVE than the Canadian rates! We have such a crappy dollar that it's helping to keep the subscription rates in check.

And American HDTV? I've seen HDTV movie broadcasts on HBO that were actually 4x3 rebroadcast from their regular channels! How can you trust a speciality service that just repeats what already exists on the regular channels and offers you nothing new?


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The Milnoc
Week of June 24: "The Thing With Two Heads"