Intellian D4 HD TV system, first impressions


One way to know that you’re really getting high definition TV is to stumble onto a closeup of Muammar Gadhafi’s face. Holy crap, what has this guy been doing to himself?  But aside from that jolt, setting up and using Intellian’s D4 HD sat tv system went smooth and easy.  I mounted the dome on Gizmo’s boat deck, ran one coax cable to the ACU (the small box left) and one to the DirecTV receiver; ran a USB cable from ACU to receiver, and an HDMI cable from receiver to HD TV; and finally powered the former with 12v DC and the latter two with 120v AC.  After a few minutes of automatic antenna searching, holy crap I had access to some 587 channels!  (Or so the receiver claims; a lot are pay-to-view, and who’s going to count anyway?)  The amazing thing is that when I switch channels — especially between Standard and High Def — the D4 often has to switch satellites and frequencies, but it’s hardly noticeable.  The pause is about 3-5 seconds in my experience, and that’s quite a technological achievement…

DirecTV really “challenged” the relatively tiny marine stabilized antenna niche when it started moving all its HD broadcasts to new satellites using the Ka band instead of Ku. Once it figured out how to retrofit its land customers with antennas that could target multiple satellites simultaneously, and bring in the harder to catch Ka signals, it left KVH, Sea Tel, King, etc. to figure out how to make the hundreds of channels now possible work on a moving platform. It also left some boaters who had been getting HD on existing systems quite unhappy!
    A year ago Intellian arrived on the scene with the first available solution, but it entailed two domes and was costly. Since then Sea Tel has introduced the DTV04 HD, but it’s a 50″ dome with DirecTV’s own house-style triple LNB antenna perched on a three axis stabilization system inside. By contrast, Intellian’s D4 is only 20″ in diameter and is built from the ground up for use on a boat. In fact it contains many of the innovations Intellian introduced in earlier domes plus a first-ever frequency switching LNB.  Navagear has some good detail on the engineering.
    I further challenged the D4 by placing it on Gizmo’s extended cabin top instead of higher up with a clearer sky view.  All three of the satellites it’s using in my area are at elevations around 30 degrees, so obviously there are some headings where the mast or other gear are in the way (these are small targets).  But it works fine with the boat headed North at her float, and did fine when I cruised north in some fairly rough seas last weekend.  It did get blocked when we picked up a mooring and lay to a southerly breeze, but I just shifted the plywood platform it’s sitting on to starboard and we watched HD movies for hours. I’m going to test it more in the coming weeks, but right now am at the NMEA Conference in Florida.  News from there soon.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

5 Responses

  1. AaronH says:

    Please let us know how the HD Ka channels hold-up against rain and other inclement weather.

  2. Jim Dodez says:

    Hi Ben,
    I know your readers like to be the first to know about exciting new technology. I would like to invite them all to sign up!
    Of course they can also just read Panbo for your scoop on new technlogy introduced at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show.
    Best regards,
    Jim Dodez
    VP Marketing & Strategic Planning
    KVH Industries, Inc.

  3. Bill Lentz says:

    Ben; I love my electronics in the boat but I have drawn the line and am sticking with my KVH M-3 until or if Direct turns off the 101 bird. I have seen the differences via over the air HD but with my semi poor eyesight I am quite content with my all 12 volt TV system. I like to use as few devices that need 110VAC as possible. Inverters are not efficient and therefore draw excessive current. I also use Jensen 23″(discontinued) and 19″ HD ready TV’s that both run off my 12 volt buss. Again I think entertainment equipment on a boat is best served running on DC. But what do I know? I have followed the running debate with HD and boating. Well there are those guys and gals that think TV has no place in a boat. Me I like all the comforts of home.
    Regards Bill Lentz
    40 Mainship Sedan Bridge
    Little Egg, NJ

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Will do, Aaron. If nothing else I do have a freshwater hose in the cockpit.
    Checking out the KVH link above, I’d guess there may be another HD TV marine solution soon!

  5. Thanks for trying the d4, Ben.
    I would like to point out to Bill Lentz that HD programming is not just a more detailed picture, but there is more content. If you like sports, there are more programs, plus NASCAR POV mixes for example. There are more data sidebars on HD CNBC and other news stations if you’re not into sports or movies. Ka satellites were launched because more channels fit on a Ka satellite than with Ku satellites.
    You mentioned that our first Ka product was the expensive dual dome Ka/Ku antennas. That is for larger new-builds where many viewers on board may require seeing two satellites at once.
    The d-series that is reviewed above is our second solution for small, medium and tuna-tower-sportfish boats where a single dome makes sense.
    While other manufacturers are still proposing their first future Ka solution, we just announced our third solution for a third situation. If you have a medium-sized cruising boat with a Ku antenna on one side (any brand) and an empty dome on the other side (or space for a second dome) then you can add our Ka-only antenna for a street price of $5000 or less. Our controller will combine and manage all signals and leave the existing antenna on Ku, while our Ka antenna brings in the HD channels. Megayacht sophistication to this system, small cost.
    Countdown continues to our introduction at Lauderdale Show of small VSAT, 2 large VSATs, add-on wireless products for our 11 new Inmarsat units, and another size to add to our 3-axis TV antenna for more precise tracking on larger vessels.
    John Minetola
    VP Sales

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