Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Most of the UK missing out on high-definition

HD TVs in a shop
An HD TV is not the only piece of equipment you need

A staggering majority of UK consumers are not getting the best out of their high-definition (HD) televisions, according to a survey.

Although 56% of UK households now have an HD television, 91% still watch standard DVDs and get their television through standard set-top boxes.

HD broadcasting can be viewed from Sky, Virgin and Freesat but will eventually be available on Freeview.

For HD films, discs must be played on a Blu-Ray or (now defunct) HD-DVD player.

Some games consoles already offer HD content. Sony's PlayStation 3 already has a Blu-Ray player built in, and the next versions of Microsoft's XBox 360 and Nintendo's Wii are rumoured to include Blu-Ray as well.

However, the survey of 2000 adults showed 81% admitted to not getting the best from any of the hi-tech gadgets around their homes - from mobiles to laptops.

That means that many consumers who have all the technology in hand to view HD may not be setting up the devices and the cables properly to do so.

There are three different standards even within HD; no one as yet broadcasts at the highest resolution, known as 1080p, even though the majority of televisions bought today can display it.

Any of the HD flavours, however, makes for superior viewing when compared to standard broadcasts or films.

Cable, television

Sometimes it is as simple as not using the correct cable; all that is needed is an HDMI cable, and cheap ones work as well as expensive ones.

While HD boxes from commercial providers like Sky and Virgin come with an installation cost, the implications are that people are stymied by the technical details rather than the economics.

Unsurprisingly, 27% of respondents admitted to not reading the instruction manuals for their gadgets and 29% gave up at the outset, saying modern technology is too complicated.

"Unless you're really into your technology, perhaps you don't realise that just because it says HD on the box, the picture quality isn't necessarily HD," said Stuart Miles, editor of technology website Pocket Lint.

"Once you show people HD they realise how poor the standard picture is, but a lot of people don't get the opportunity to see that."

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