High-definition television is the new must have on boats. While it isn’t as simple as home cable, it’s achievable, practical and beginning to reach price thresholds that make most cruising boat owners wink and install it.
Here’s the lowdown.
The Satellite Antenna
Not all satellite TV antennas are suitable for HD reception. Intellian’s i-Series , most models of KVH’s M-series, and Sea Tel’s ST and Coastal models are some of the more compact antenna domes that can deliver HD television on Dish Network only.
Because Dish Network and DirecTV have located satellite constellations in different positions, choose an antenna system that can receive the HD service you want. Making it more complex, DirecTV uses two different satellites for standard and high-definition reception. Special larger and more costly antennas like the Intellian d-Series are needed to process both. Another consideration is distance of travel from the United States. The farther you go, the larger an antenna is needed to capture the signal you want.
HDTV-compatible satellite TV antenna prices start under $3,000. Non-HD antennas start at $1,995.
Since HDTV channels can be distributed among a number of different satellites, every high-def channel might not be received by a marine-tracking HDTV antenna, so check with your dealer to be sure you will not be missing your favorite programming.
It is possible to receive a brilliant HD picture without the cost of satellitetracking antennas or a monthly bill for programming. Terrestrial or off-air television can deliver HDTV signals to your boat for no more than a couple-hundred- dollar investment. All you need is a digital antenna. All local TV stations broadcast their programming in an HD format but with an added bonus: The same station can transmit additional non-high-definition, but still good quality, subchannels (sometimes up to six or more additional channels). This means there is more programming available to you that you can’t get even with satellite or cable — all free.
OK, so you don’t get ESPN, but you do get the local network affiliates and an ever-growing list of independent stations that broadcast in the expanded-channel digital format. (See boatingmag.com/antennas for our TV antenna test)
Available broadcast TV antennas for marine use include the Glomex GXV9112AB (14 inches, $300) with amplifier and the Shakespeare SeaWatch 2020-G (14 inches, $240), 2025-CP (14 inches, $325) with gain control to adjust for varying signal strengths and 2030-G (21 inches, $280) disk antennas.
The Right TV
We probably don’t need to mention that you need an HD-capable TV to receive HD signals, but there is still confusion about HD resolution. Choose the highest resolution to get the most from HDTV. (Tip: Look for “1080p” or “1080i” in the set’s specifications, which means 1,080 lines of resolution per inch.) A flat screen with a built-in DVD player slot can be a real plus as a space saver. We’d also recommend an LCD model over a plasma type because it is less affected by a pounding and less impacted by burn-in — the effect that reduces clarity over time.
Another inexpensive means of enjoying the pleasures of on-the-water HDTV viewing is to add a Blu-ray high-definition DVD player to an entertainment center. Even brandname sets are available in the $99 range.