Ask LH: Will An External Upscaler Make SD Channels Look Better?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a 60″ Samsung 1080 HDTV and the pictures I’m getting on SD channels are very poor. I have an F5s Skybox hooked up. I’ve seen a box called a HDMI to HDMI Voxlink upscaler, will this device help to improve the picture on my TV or would I just be wasting my money? Thanks, Sick Of SD

Dear SoSD,

Upscaling is built in to a lot of different devices these days, including TVs, DVD players, set top boxes and even video game consoles. In fact, your HDTV will already automatically upscale the content you watch. The only problem is that the inbuilt upscalers in many HDTVs just aren’t that great. The upscalers found in devices like DVD players, set-top boxes and game consoles are usually much better quality, and if you’re able to stream your content through one of these devices then you’ll likely see an increase in quality.

Your problem probably lies with the Skybox. As it’s not an official set top box, it’s unlikely to have the quality upscaling that most others come with. You can, of course, spend some money to get an external HDMI to HDMI upscaler that connects between your box and your TV, like the Voxlink you mentioned, but it’s not guaranteed to improve much on your TV’s natural upscaling. Some of the more widely used and tested upscalers are recommended by the retro gaming community, such as the Framemeister, but these can run upwards of $300.

No matter how much your upscaler costs, it’s good to remember that it’ll never be as good quality as native HD content — the kind of content that your TV is designed to display. I would recommend saving your money and looking for a way to get HD content from the source. Most streaming services will offer HD content on subscriptions of less than $20 a month, and while Foxtel is by far the most expensive option, its HD packages will deliver stunning quality TV through a set top box.


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