It's EPG Week!

  • 5/06/2008 05:15:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones
  • 2 Comments

So, Freesat has launched, which has got us pretty excited. Not because we've now got the option of spending about another £200 to see their EXCLUSIVE carriage of ITV HD - heck no. The only thing that'd be worth watching on HD on ITV would be Champions League football, and there's a grand total of one Champions League match due to be broadcast between now and August anyway. And that'll be shown on Sky Sports HD at the same time anyway. And ITV HD is not even going to be an actual channel, just a red button pop-up option.

No, it's because Freesat has - if the 'leaked' (i.e. mocked up) images we've seen are accurate - quite the prettiest EPG we've seen. Of course, odds are we won't actually get to see a Freesat box in action for quite a while, as pretty much anyone who hasn't got digital telly yet would probably be happy enough with a £15 Freeview box from Aldi. That leaves the people in the parts of the UK not already served by Freeview (and ex-pats living under the satellite footprint) as the main market, but we don't know anyone who ticks those boxes.

So, instead we're going to console ourselves by taking a look at some of the programme guides from around the globe. Is there anything more thrilling than watching an illicitly streamed football match on a Saturday, and spending half-time watching Johnny Uploader flick around his exotic foreign programme menu, trying to hunt down Latvia's equivalent of Jeff Stelling plugging the forthcoming Skonto-Ventspils clash? No, there isn't.

Just to add to the fun for everyone, we're going to try and drag it out for as long as possible, too. Essentially, we're not going to rest until we've driven away the last of our readers. Ah, that sweet self-destructive urge. Come the end of the month, the only IP address troubling our hit counter will be the legal representatives of Idiot Toys, who want a word with us about this being broadly similar to their running joke about foreign batteries.

PART ONE: THE FREESAT EPG

Erm. Quite uselessly, there aren't any pictures of the Freesat EPG on their website. Or on Flickr. And the Humax website only really includes a picture of the HDR 9300FS box in it's press release page. There's not a single hit for 'HDR 9300FS' in Google Image Search, and only three for it in Google itself. Maybe we'll be the fourth. Way to get your message out there, Freesat.

Luckily for us, Digital Spy have recently featured leaked pictures of it:


Ooh.


Aah.

IS THAT REAL?

Well, it's clearly not exactly as it will be seen on the boxes you can buy from Currys. If it were, it would suggest the twin outcomes of BBC One's schedule taking a notablyTeutonic tone for at least four consecutive days, and more distressingly, the screeching hatebags on The Jeremy Kyle Show being broadcast in 1080i Revolt-O-Vision.

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT?

It really is splendidly colourful, with loads of brightly hued little icons denoting things that you'd need to thumb through the encoder's manual to discover the meaning of. Lots of room for detailed programme information on the 'info' screen, with a 70% opacity background allowing you to keep those peepers on your show at the same time.

WHAT'S RUBBISH ABOUT IT?

That text would quite likely cause burst eyes for anyone trying to read it on a standard-definition set. And, in all probability, the real EPG doesn't actually look much like that.

OVERALL: 8/10


PART TWO: THE FORTHCOMING SKY HD EPG

Well, why steal one set of images from Digital Spy when you can just as easily pilfer two? Currently in beta testing for lucky Sky employees, this is due to be rolled out to Sky HD customers (and those with newer models of Sky+ boxes) later in the year. Marking the first genuine revamp of the 1998 original EPG design, this is designed to offer much greater functionality whilst retaining the same look and feel of the familiar system.


Blue.


Different.

IS THAT REAL?

We think so. If it were a fake, it'd be a pretty meticulous one. And as we all know, the sort of people likely to try and pull shit like this are conclusively the very worst kind of cack-handed imbeciles.

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT?

It certainly looks much nicer, being formatted to make the most of a high-definition widescreen display, but still offering a display viable enough for people with less than huge televisions, or people with poor eyesight, or people who like to sit a long, long way away from their telly. The current channel is now displayed in a little box-out on the TV Guide screen, which is a boon. The on-screen channel bar also gives a lot more information - the current programme is alongside the next two shows (as opposed to one), programme information for other channels is available as you you flick through (it's only possible for the current channel at the moment), and it certainly looks nicer than the current EPG.

WHAT'S RUBBISH ABOUT IT?

It's still a bit 'chunky', though. It's not as colourful as the non-subscription counterpart, with the same old garish blue looking dated by Freesat's nicely toned pastels. But then, Sky TV has never really been about toning things down, making you nice and relaxed, it's all about flinging primary colours in your face until you're punch drunk enough to get enticed by Colchester v Blackpool, or nine hours of live poker. And all that useful stuff won't be of much use to us, as we're cancelling our Sky at the end of the football season, as it's really not worth the £50 a month they're asking for.

OVERALL: 7/10


Tomorrow: an experimental feature-rich user interface. Ooh.

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