I was at my parents’ home with the TV on in the background when I noticed something interesting: their “HD” picture quality was terrible compared to my own TV with a broadcast TV antenna. They had satellite TV from DISH Network.
I have always said on my site that cable and satellite dish providers compress their TV signals, resulting in WORSE picture quality than you can get with free broadcast (Over-The-Air) TV. But I thought this picture quality was ridiculously bad!
I snapped a photo of the local ABC station’s logo, then went home and did the same on my own TV (of similar size and type, and in the same city) using an indoor TV antenna.
Here are the results.
Use the slider to compare the image from satellite (left) and broadcast TV (right):
Notice how jagged the curves and letters are on left. The “abc7.com” text is especially crappy. The signal is coming from the satellite box’s HDMI output to the TV.
Notice the same logo on the right, but using a broadcast TV antenna.
Not only are the edges and curves smoother, but there is also less “halo” effect in the broadcast TV image. The halos are a result of video compression.
It might be hard to see the difference if you’re looking at this on your phone, so let’s zoom in. Check out the “abc” logo:
Noticed the jagged edges of the round logo and letters in the satellite dish image. Notice the blotchy appearance of the round logo highlights on the top and bottom.
Next, let’s take a look at the “abc7.com” text, which is especially egregious on satellite:
Which one would you rather watch? Can you believe the top one costs over $75 per month and the bottom on is free?
The satellite dish image shows lots of artifacts here, all the result of compression:
It looks like the satellite image has worse than half of the resolution of the broadcast TV image. So, if you have a fancy 4K TV, you’re pretty much not getting any additional benefit out of it over a regular HD TV if you’re watching TV from a satellite dish.
Note that all of the images are unretouched; I’ve not altered them in any way other than zooming in.
DISH vs. DirecTV?
Reader Richard points out that DirecTV has better picture quality than DISH, which is supported by this Reddit thread. On the other hand, reader Wolf found this AVS Forum thread that says DISH has better picture quality than DirecTV!
I have not compared DISH vs. DirecTV picture quality myself. My point was to say that broadcast was better than DISH.
In any case, I still find it amusing that the picture quality for a FREE TV service is better than one that you pay thousands for every few years. Granted, satellite TV offers a ton of channels, but, you might be able to get the channels you need for less money by using an antenna along with cheaper services like Sling TV.
Let me know your thoughts below! I hope you found this comparison helpful. – Brian