Digital Television for Boats

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The digital television revolution is here and it's not only going to affect your tube at home, your boat is next to go!

Free-to-Air stations are currently available in most areas in both analogue and digital, however the former is being phased out as we speak. Some areas, such as the Mildura region are already analogue free and a staged reduction in analogue transmission to other areas is well underway. So what does this mean for you and your beloved tv-at-sea?

The good news is, it's a relatively easy and inexpensive fix. Firstly, you don't need to replace your old television. While many people are taking the opportunity to upgrade to a light weight and space saving flat screen, it's not totally necessary.

All you really need is a digital set top box and a second antenna cable, which will set you back from $70 for an ordinary one to $250 for a good one with the ability to record and rewind shows (and of course fast forwarding ad breaks!). The set top box is placed in between your antenna and television allowing you to view all the digital stations on your old TV, you don't even need to change your antenna.

In practice though, the Australian marine environment can often prove destructive to antenna cables. Any moisture that has made its way into the connectors or the cabling itself will be detrimental to your reception, so you may need to replace the cable from your antenna to your digital set top box as well.

While viewing analogue television, poor reception is signified by a snowy picture which can, to a degree, be tolerated. On digital television, however, it is represented by a very annoying glitch effect on both the video and audio outputs.

There has been a significant evolution in marine television antennas in recent years that will give you clearer access to your television in a broader area. The best results we have found so far have come from an omni-directional antenna from Warburton which is made on the Gold Coast. You can pick up one of these from www.marinonics.com.au for $179 plus postage.

The best solution (and getting more and more affordable) is to buy a television with a built in digital receiver. This means that you don't need to have a set top box at all. The antenna cable runs directly into the television and all the magic happens inside.

Again, these are compatible with most current antennas, but the best results are achieved with a modern omni-directional antenna and a quality cable run. LCD TV's are available in 12VDC up to 22 inches from various manufacturers. Fusion Electronics have just released a range starting from $539 for a 16' with built in digital receiver and a built in DVD player. See www.marinonics.com.au for further details and other sizes.

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