How do non HD cable stations look on HDTV

Pooh BearMarch 31, 2012

I have plain regular non HD cable TV.

I just bought a 40" widescreen LCD TV (HDTV)

Other than the black bars on both sides,

what kind of picture quality can I expect

from the part of the picture I can see.

I haven't yet opened the box the TV is in.

I'm trying to decide if I should return it.


Pooh Bear

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I'm not sure I understand why you'd buy a new tv and then consider returning it without ever trying to use it. If you're not comfortable doing the set up yourself, then ask for help.

If the tv works and is properly set up, I would expect that you would see your ABC-CBS-NBC-FOX-PBS channels available in both analog and HD, with everything else in analog only. The HD channels will look much nicer than the analog ones, but the analog should look ok. You won't always see black bars on the sides but sometimes you will...that is often determined by the station you're watching and the program being shown.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 8:47AM
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The biggest problem with watching standard definition programming on a high definition television is the aspect ratio. If you expand an SD signal to fill an HD screen, the image becomes distorted; generally people look short and fat. As long as you are willing to live with the bars, the image should be about the same as on your old TV.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 7:03PM
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Standard definition on an HD 16x9 display can look very good but is dependent upon the source material and upscaling capabilities of the display.

Most mid to high end televisions do a very good job of interpolating and upscaling an SD signal.

The source, if it's a pure full bandwidth analog signal, will end up looking quite good, however, most SD sources now have some sort of MPEG digital conversion and compression.

Standard definition DVDs authored at a high bit-rate will give an excellent picture while digital sources from satellite/cable providers (who are trying to conserve bandwidth and/or trying to get you to purchase an HD upgrade) will not look as good.

One thing is that increasing the viewing distance may help improve the apparent blockiness that may appear.

The pillarbox formatting really doesn't bother me, even when the editing is switching between SD and HD content within a program. However, some inexpensive televisions may not go totally black in the bars and then it becomes more distracting.

Also, some televisions do use a technique of stretching only the outer areas of the picture to help prevent "short fat people" in the center safe area of the screen that is usually selectable in the setup menu.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 8:32PM
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Pooh Bear

I didn't buy it. My wife did. We need to replace our old
TV and she saw this one on sale. Our old TV is a 32" CRT.

I'm sure getting an education about these new TVs. Thanks.
I'll have to get some help to move the old TV and soon as it
is out of the way I'll set up the new TV. Sony 40" LCD.

I have linked to our cable channel line up below.
We get the $21.95 CATV package. Not the IPTV.

Pooh Bear

Here is a link that might be useful: BTC Cable

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 8:13PM
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Aside from the aspect ratio, I always felt that non-HD content looked better on a CRT (tube) display. I was an early adopter of HD in my hometown (Baton Rouge LA) and the picture was stunning even on a 100" projection screen with over the air as a signal source. DIRECTV HD couldn't match OTA.

If you are getting a direct cable feed (no box), make sure you scan for active channels. You make pick up some HD content this way. If you have broadband internet, try streaming Netflix or Hulu+.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 11:17PM
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Pooh Bear

We have a TiVo box and Netflix. No cable box.
We have a Roku box for Netflix. I thought about trying Hulu+.
My computer guy dropped cable and gets all the local stations
over the air and he uses Netflix and Hulu+. I'd like to see
a working setup before I cut my cable off tho. We live in a
valley and the OTA signals are unpredictable. You have to use
an amplified antenna to pick up some of them. I'd switch over
to Triple Play if they offered a dual tuner box like my TiVo.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Pooh Bear

From looking at the link you included for BTC Cable, it appears that your service is probably a down-converted digital to analog signal, but they really don't say. That means a very good digital, most likely HD, OTA signal has now been stomped-on to fit into their analog channel spaces.

If you have connected the television and things look bad, one of the first things to do is to go into the video setup menu and turn off all the "digital video processing" functions on the television - they work great in they lab but produce awful artifacts in the real world.

After that, you can try to turn some on at minimal settings and note the change - keep it or turn it off.

Also, think long and hard about the "triple play" packages sold all over the country by system operators - once they get you by a year of low prices for a package, they know it's going to be hard for you to change all your email addresses at your various login sites, email address books, and contact lists to a new one.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 8:58PM
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Pooh Bear

We still haven't changed out the TV sets.
I did find in the manual that 4:3 will displayed as 4:3.
It will just have black bars on each side. I can live with that.

I already have the phone and internet part of triple play.
Eventually the co-op plans to phase out the old cable system.
I would upgrade to the new system but it doesn't work with Tivo.

Soon as we can get somebody strong enough to move the old
TV we will switch them out. It's too heavy for us to move.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 12:13AM
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Poo, I waited around for a few days for the serious answers to be posted before I posted my, not altogether, facetious answer.

Each morning I walk to get breakfast at the casino on the corner. They have many fine HD TVs. The programming is all the same old redundant crap that I get at home on my old standard CRT TV. If you like your vial politics and news of middle east bombing to look better then you should get an HD TV.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 4:17PM
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Pooh Bear

We got it setup today. The picture is amazing.
No black bars on the sides. Nice bright colors.
DVDs and Netflix streaming videos look even better.
Now I wish we had went a few inches bigger.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 11:50PM
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I am amazed to see $1100 tv's in the main aisle at Walmart. Yup, pickup some toilet paper and chips and a new flat screen. Cept the darn thing has a crappy pic when I use my coat hanger antenna. Maybe I can tune it with some tinfoil. Where do they sell the CRT tv's? Dang

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 10:12AM
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