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Posted by on Oct 4, 2010 in Boat Maintenance, Marine Electronics, News and Events, US | 1 comment

HDTV Afloat, on a Budget

How can I put HDTV on my boat without breaking the bank?

This may be old news to readers who are avid TV fans and want to enjoy HDTV on board their boat but hey, I need to share a recent finding as I think it will turn the tide for a lot of readers who may be a bit more casual in their need for a daily TV fix. It also dovetails a bit with my post last week about improving another kind of onboard reception — “Better Cell-Phone Reception on Your Boat“.

A few weeks back, I attended the Tampa Boat show and one of my co-presenters (Best Buy) was showing off their latest marine electronic wares. One of those devices was an omni-directional TV antenna from Glomex. Over-the-air TV is nothing new of course, it’s been around ever since the FCC shut down the analog signals and everything went digital about a year or so ago.

Glomex multi-directional antenna

Glomex omnii-directional TV antenna

I’m not a serious TV fan, but this time of year I do enjoy watching NFL games. We were stuck in the Tampa convention center for the weekend and had Saturday college football happening and the NFL line-up on Sunday. We had set-up two very large flat screen TVs on the sides of the speaker podium to use for our presentations. Best Buy had several of the 14” Glomex antennas in their show booth, and we all had a bit of time on our hands between presentations.

We had all the parts available to possibly make football happen, but the convention center roof and all the steel gridwork holding up the roof looked like a giant roadblock for any possible TV reception inside the convention center. With nothing to lose and a bit of time to kill, we grabbed one of the Glomex units and the coaxial cable installation kit and decided to try a direct connect to one of the flat screens. Bingo! Without any preamplifier or black box, we had over-the-air HDTV, and we were on to the games. At this point, I was quite impressed.

You want quality TV on board for cheap? Try this out; the Glomex antenna sells for approximately $225 from Best Buy and other sources. Walmart sells 32″ flat screen TV’s for as low as $325.

Now, you won’t get hundreds of channels with this simple set-up, but for $550 you can pick up a pretty good selection of over-the-air digital broadcasts if you live or keep your boat in a fairly populated part of the world. The best part is there’s no monthly subscription fee either.

Ed Sherman

1 Comment

  1. Hi Ed.

    There are definitely some excellent options for boaters to get HDTV close to shore as well as on a budget via over the air antennas. For boat owners who want a bit more variety as well as the ability to enjoy the game on a Sunday while father offshore, satellite TV is an increasingly affordable option as well. While it’s still possible to drop $10,000 or $12,000 on a large, high performance antenna, there are new ultra-compact systems that bring the price and the size down dramatically. Systems like the KVH TracVision M1 (last year’s National Marine Electronics Association’s “Industry Award” winner for marine entertainment) bring the hardware cost down to under $3,000 and offer the option of enjoying several hundred channels of DIRECTV or the HDTV programming from DISH Network via a 12.5 inch diameter antenna that weighs roughly 7 lbs. If you’ve got satellite TV at home, you can just add your boat’s receiver right onto the home account, the same way you add on another room at home. Clearly, the expense is a bit higher than with an over-the-air system but the options and added features are definitely worth it for many boaters.

    If your readers here are interested in more information, I encourage them to talk to one of the experienced marine electronics dealers that they’ll find here on http://www.boats.com or take a look at some of the options available at http://www.tracvision.com.

    Safe boating!

    Chris Watson
    KVH Industries, Inc.