The 1982 Asian Games saw color television enter India for the first time. Now, decades later, a similar shift is already beginning. This year's Commonwealth Games will be beamed out in high-definition, prompting Indian DTH operators to rush their HD services to market.

With heavy advertising all around us, CHIP decided to dive in and evaluate each service provider's offerings. In this comparison, we've compared four of the five HD DTH services available across India. We’ve also help explain just how good HD really is and how much of a difference it will make for day-to-day viewing. But in this section let’s get down to understanding the basics first –

What does HD DTH offer?
DTH stands for “direct to home”. Apart from better sound and picture quality, it offers numerous other features like movies on demand, games, interactive learning, etc. It is supposed to give more power to the consumers allowing them to choose what they want to view and pay accordingly, which will soon be implemented. DTH has now gone a step further and is all set to offer its consumers a high-definition experience. Leading the pack was Sun Direct that introduced its DTH HD services way back in April 2009. The rest of the players introduced HD services only this year, at the time of the FIFA World Cup. Cashing in on the popularity of the world cup, many operators launched their DTH HD advertising campaigns, with each one tripping over the other with exciting offers to lure the subscribers.

HD is more of an experience; both visual and audio. With the promised 1920 x 1080 resolution, it is far more realistic than ever before. Pictures look crystal clear in comparison to traditional TV, and digital sound (with possible surround sound as well) takes the experience to another level altogether. Since HDTVs and Blu-ray disc players have been available for a while, DTH now brings this level of quality to broadcast television. This means you catch details that were not easily viewed before, be it the texture of a cricket ball soaring through the air, the fine detailing in the costumes and jewelry in a live performance, or the richness of animal fur and scenic beauty on the nature channels.

What kind of TV do you need to enjoy HD?
The best way to enjoy HD at its best is on a Full HDTV (plasma, LCD or LED) that supports 1920 x 1080i resolution. If your LCD panel’s resolution is lower than this (many 32-inch or smaller sets come with 1366 x 768 pixel screens) then you can still enjoy HD, but at the slightly lower rating of 720p. At this resolution, video will be slightly scaled down and you won’t be able to enjoy the true potential. Older CRT TVs do not support HD at all. They will however support your set-top box and you can view the regular DTH. Ensure the set-top box and TV are connected using an HDMI cable.

HD services in India
Now that that’s out of the way, you should know what kind of services are available in the country.

High definition DTH services are now available everywhere. But is it advisable to hop onto the HD TV broadcast bandwagon just yet? It's difficult to say “yes” without a few reservations. After setting up and analyzing each of the four HD DTH service providers in the market this month, we concluded that HD DTH services in India are a little premature at resent.

If you would like to watch HD nature shows right now, or if you are in the market for a new DTH connection anyway, we would advise you to get the HD box now, to avoid future upgrade costs. This makes sense more if you have an HD-ready LCD television (or are definitely planning to buy one soon), else you won’t be able to enjoy the true HD TV experience. If you have an old-style CRT television set, you will notice little improvement in sharpness and clarity, which might not be worth the extra subscription charges. If you are investing in an HD DTH service, it would be best to ask for demos of each product before you actually buy. Check each set-top box’s connection options, user interface, ease of menu navigation, remote control quality and ergonomics, and finally, the video output quality (on a screen similar to your own). Also pay attention to each service provider’s terms and conditions, package prices and offers before choosing one.

Think about whether you are actually going to watch the HD channels which are currently offered. National Geographic Channel HD and Discovery HD World aren't everyone's first choices, and the content they show is different to what you see on the regular NGC and Discovery channels. So your favorite shows may not be available in HD and you might be better off waiting till there's content that suits you better. Also, increasing competition between DTH service providers will definitely benefit the customer in a little while.

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