Whatever TV you’ve got and whichever way you go digital, you can get subtitles on a lot more channels. The old Teletext and Ceefax based analogue subtitles have been replaced on digital TV with new style subtitles. These have a different typeface, size and positioning, chosen to be clearer and not block out key parts of the picture.
All the products on test could display subtitles when they were broadcast and if they are a recorder - record subtitles. But there are additional features worth looking out for:
- Subtitle button on remote
- Changing channels - do subtitles stay on?
- Subtitle smoothness on rapid live subtitles
- Can I increase the size of digital subtitles?
Ideally remote controls should have a ‘subtitle’ button, otherwise subtitles are switched on and off via an on-screen menu – not so convenient. On each test report we tell you if there is one.
Direct access subtitle button
Once subtitles have been selected, they stay on when you change channels with all the products EXCEPT the following
Digital TV recorders
BT Vision +
Philips 19PFL5522D/05 (only if menu set)
Recent testing has found a problem with the smoothness of subtitles on rapid live subtitles on several set top boxes, Digital TV recorders and iDTVs. It has only been found on rapid live subtitles – such as on live news reports, but would be annoying for regular subtitle users. No problems have been found with pre-recorded subtitles.
As a result we have added this test to our future test programme. To see whether a product has been tested for this, look for ‘Subtitle smoothness on rapid live delivery’ within its Detailed test report. If we have tested the product for this, it will be listed with the other information on subtitles and any problems encountered noted.
The old Teletext and Ceefax based analogue subtitles have been replaced on digital TV with new style subtitles. These have a different typeface, size and positioning, chosen to be clearer and not block out key parts of the picture.
The size of digital subtitles is largely the same whether you get your digital signal via an aerial, cable or satellite and whatever the model of set top box or recorder. However, for technical reasons, the new style subtitles cannot be enlarged in the same way as it could be on some analogue TVs. But this should not be a problem if you are planning to buy a new TV because the key factor that affects the size of digital subtitles is the size of your TV screen and modern flat panel screen can be bought in larger sizes. A bigger screen brings you a bigger picture and bigger subtitles.
If you are having trouble reading digital subtitles consider
- Getting some glasses specifically for TV viewing. Reading glasses and driving glasses focus at the wrong distance for TV viewing. Your optician can advise.
- Buying a larger TV. Try viewing the subtitles on different size screens in a shop before buying. See also our recommended easiest to use iDTVs.
- If your TV has a ‘Zoom’ setting you may be able to enlarge the picture and still see all the lines of subtitles, but you will miss the picture edges. It depends on your TV though, some don’t have zoom, others can’t display subtitles in zoom mode, or adjust it up and down. The ‘Zoom’ setting is usually in ‘picture’ settings.
If you are missing the bottom lines of subtitles
- Check the ‘zoom’ setting - within picture ‘settings’ on your TV. The ‘Zoom’ setting enlarges the picture beyond the size of the screen. It can mean you’ll miss the bottom of the picture and therefore one or more lines of subtitles.
Ofcom sets and monitors targets for broadcasters. The current 10-year target is for 80% of programming hours to be subtitled. The free-to-air channels that are currently carrying the most programming with subtitles are: BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, Cbeebies, CBBC and BBC News 24 - about 100%; ITV1, Channel 4 and Sky News- about 89%; Channel 5 - about 80%. Broadcasters are also required to raise awareness of this service