SA3250 Comprehensive Review Guide - Notes and Setup - AVS Forum
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Old 01-04-2004, 03:39 AM - Thread Starter
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3250HD Review - Las Vegas Cox Cable January 2004
I have been using the 3250HD cable box as an upgrade from the 3100HD for a while now and wanted to post a review of it. Because many of the features are software specific, here are the settings on my box from the diagnostic menu. Different regions and systems will be have various versions for different reasons. I think there is a parallel OS from Pioneer that will operate the box, but it is dependent of your MSO.
Diagnostic menu for SA systems available by pressing the "select" button on the front of the box (2-3 sec) until the mail message indicator lights up, then pressing "info". Page up and down for more screens.

SARA and ROM version are listed as 1.52.3.1 - Dated 11/10/03
OS version 3.6.2.1 - Dated 11/10/03
PowerKey Library 3.5.18.3 - Dated 11/10/03
HAL Driver - 1.2.9.2 - Dated 11/10/03
ATI Driver - 1.2.8.0 - Dated 10/31/03
PHAL Driver 3.4.8.0 - Dated 11/10/03

The 3250HD I received was a fully loaded model. It has the following connections:
2 - 1394 ports
1 - HD DVI port
1 - Coaxial Digital Audio Output connector
1 - Optical Digital Audio Output connector
1 - Set of Component HD outputs
1- Set of complete SD outputs with s-video, composite and stereo analog audio outputs
1 - SD RF output

Main Summary of features applicable to this box that I have seen:
1) Analog to Digital audio converter for analog channels below 99.
2) Simultaneous Down sampling of any HD resolution through SD video and RF outputs.
3) Six Resolution selections on HD outputs - 480i, 480i stretched, 480P, 480P stretched, 720P, 1080i
4) Selectable HD outputs from any input resolution to any output resolution(s)
5) Configurable output to use Fixed output, Pass Through, Upconvert 1 SD to 480P and HD to 1080i, Upconvert 2 SD to 480P and HD to 720P
6) Stretch and Zoom modes available on HD channels
7) HD material scaled and viewable while using on-screen menus, info and settings
8) HD captions with multiple setting for font, color size, etc according to the digital captioning standards
9) Selectable side bar shades of gray intensity
10) This version of software fixes the Menu and IPG that were previously only viewable on component outputs - Now all content is viewable on any output. (added feature)

Untested known features:
1) DVI port - Reported active and in use by other members in local area. Disables Analog Component and requires an HDCP enabled set
2) 1394 (2 ports)- Untested, but SA says a software patch will not be available until April 2004

Instructions for Quick Settings to select output resolutions the TV accepts: Done after the box has gotten it's initial download from your MSO. These should be done using the HD outputs for true displays, but may be "falsely" viewed with SD outputs.
1) With power on, press the select button on the box and wait 2-3 seconds for the message indicator to light
2) Press "VOL-" to enter HD select resolution mode - The display will read HdSr - Times out in 20 seconds
3) Resolutions are set as follows: 480i = CH+, 480P = CH-, 720P = VOL-, 1080i = VOL+ and the display will show each resolution as the output is displayed over the HD outputs. Whichever output you select last will be the primary output when going into the setup wizard

Instructions for the Setup Wizard
1) Turn off power then press both the GUIDE and INFO buttons at the same time
2) Choose Easy or Advanced setup - Easy selects 480i and 1080i outputs only - Advanced allows TV type and user selected outputs
3) Follow instructions on the screen to set your output resolutions - READ carefully in advanced mode- If the screen goes blank, it is showing a resolution your TV does not support and you have to disable that output. It will cycle through all resolutions for 30 seconds each if no user input is given.

Output Mode Explanations:
Fixed - Displays all content at whatever resolution you selected, based on what you selected in the wizard. You force the output to a single output and the box scales to that input. Easily changed in the settings menu of the box.
Pass Through - Passes the input signal through to the output with no change, unless you disable certain resolutions. For example 480i in to 480i out, 480P in to 480P out, 1080i in to 1080i out, 720P in to 720P out. If you disable 720P, 720P in will go to 1080i out.
Auto DVI - If you are using the DVI port, you will see this option instead of the Pass Through option. Resolution is automatically formatted to the scan rate supported by the TV.
UpConvert 1 - All 480i and 480P signals get upconverted to 480P. All 720P and 1080i signals get upconverted to 1080i.
UpConvert 2 - All 480i and 480P signals get upconverted to 480P. All 720P and 1080i signals get converted to 720P.

Zoom and Stretch Modes:
Stretch Mode: In SD, it takes the 4x3 screen and stretches it to widescreen. In HD it does the same thing, but if the signal is already in widescreen, it stretches it even further, losing about 15% of the sides.
Zoom mode: Zooms the picture in both height and width in both SD and HD modes. Perfect for 16x9 in 4x3 window displayed on a 16x9 channel (window in a window or bars all around)

General Notes:
1) This box is faster than the 3100 when changing channels and virtually anything else.
2) The HD output on component jacks appear just slightly cleaner, but difficult to determine. The SD outputs on component are much cleaner than the 3100 IMHO.
3) Found an issue with the modes converting to 480P that bothered me. When doing a conversion to 480P I noticed the black level appeared to be crushed, resulting in dark scenes almost looking like a negative in some areas, or not enough color depth to show shadow detail. Took me a while to trace it back because I was mostly watching through a HTPC and the conversion from 480i to 480P did not register to me using the s-video output through the scaler. Using a Pass Through
mode cleared up my problems.
4) The unit is physically smaller the the 3100HD

More to add if / when something else pops up - Feel free to post and add your own notes or questions

Link to main SA3250 webpage
Link to SA website 3250 Setup PDF

vegggas
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Old 01-04-2004, 07:12 AM
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Great review!

Quote:


Originally posted by vegggas
Zoom and Stretch Modes:
Stretch Mode: In SD, it takes the 4x3 screen and stretches it to widescreen. In HD it does the same thing, but if the signal is already in widescreen, it stretches it even further, losing about 15% of the sides.
Zoom mode: Zooms the picture in both height and width in both SD and HD modes. Perfect for 16x9 in 4x3 window displayed on a 16x9 channel (window in a window or bars all around).

This is new for HD as this is not the case with the earlier version of the software. Still a cludge to compensate for stupid (and temporary) programming decisions, but maybe Feldon will be happy now. Sorry, couldn't resist!

Cheers, Dave
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Old 01-04-2004, 07:20 PM
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Your unit has what I assume is the firmware upgrade that my cable company claims is coming in the next few weeks (my 3250HD has SARA v 1.50.18.a45). Can you tell me if the newer firmware fixes the on screen guide problem? Is the guide available over S-video, or composite instead of just the component connection?
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Old 01-04-2004, 07:33 PM - Thread Starter
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The on screen guide is viewable on all outputs with this version. This includes the component, composite, s-video, RF and assumably the DVI port all at the same time. The setup wizard and any other menus and graphics are also shown on any output.

Edited original post to say the IPG and Menu bug was fixed to show on all outputs.

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Old 01-04-2004, 07:37 PM
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Hooray, an answer at last, thank you!!!!!

Now I'll have to start bugging Cox here to get the darned thing loaded.

Cheers, Dave
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Old 01-04-2004, 08:17 PM
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ditto DoubleDAZ:

Thanks for the info veggas! Good to know the ipg bug is fixed.

Perhaps we could make this thread into a SciAtl 3250 FAQ thread.
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Old 01-04-2004, 08:36 PM
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Quote:


Originally posted by dt_dc
Perhaps we could make this thread into a SciAtl 3250 FAQ thread.

Well, I'll tell you that review sure qualifies as a FAQ (or at least a Sticky Note for a while). It should be cross-posted in the Reviews section on HDTVoice as an addition to my review of the 3250 way back when they were first released.

Cheers, Dave
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Old 01-04-2004, 08:40 PM
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Great post Vegggas! Just received my 3250 last week and have been enjoying HD heaven on my projector ever since! Looking forward to more HD channels provided by Cox and watching my Patriots whip up on the Titans next Saturday in all it's HD glory!!!!

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Old 01-05-2004, 09:37 AM
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I have this unit. Any bets about when the guide will be HD? You have this beautiful HD picture, then bring up the guide and see this low grade guide display - probably the same one used on SD boxes that ensures proper display on cheap TV's.

Samall item, but still irritating.
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Old 01-05-2004, 03:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:


Originally posted by vstone
I have this unit. Any bets about when the guide will be HD? You have this beautiful HD picture, then bring up the guide and see this low grade guide display - probably the same one used on SD boxes that ensures proper display on cheap TV's.

Samall item, but still irritating.

The IPG data is usually generated at either the Headend or local Fiber node equipment and sent to the box as needed in real time - hence the interactive part. To generate HD graphics, which would be seperate from SD graphics for all other TV's would require both a major upgrade in equipment and allocation of extra bandwidth. Currently, the box overlays the SD guide data onto whatever resolution you are currently seeing.

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Old 01-05-2004, 04:27 PM
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The guide data is sent from the headend to the stb ... but the stb is responsible for all the formatting and display.
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Old 01-05-2004, 06:50 PM
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Output Mode Explanations:
Fixed - Displays all content at whatever resolution you selected, based on what you selected in the wizard. You force the output to a single output and the box scales to that input. Easily changed in the settings menu of the box.
Pass Through - Passes the input signal through to the output with no change, unless you disable certain resolutions. For example 480i in to 480i out, 480P in to 480P out, 1080i in to 1080i out, 720P in to 720P out. If you disable 720P, 720P in will go to 1080i out.
Auto DVI - If you are using the DVI port, you will see this option instead of the Pass Through option. Resolution is automatically formatted to the scan rate supported by the TV.
UpConvert 1 - All 480i and 480P signals get upconverted to 480P. All 720P and 1080i signals get upconverted to 1080i.
UpConvert 2 - All 480i and 480P signals get upconverted to 480P. All 720P and 1080i signals get converted to 720P.


How can I access these output modes. I found everything else you talked about. I am very interested in the pass-thru mode, because I have a feeling that my Samsung DLP can uoconvert better than this box can. Not sure until I try though.

Thanks for the help!
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Old 01-05-2004, 07:12 PM
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Quote:


Originally posted by andwhite1
Output Mode Explanations:
Fixed - Displays all content at whatever resolution you selected, based on what you selected in the wizard. You force the output to a single output and the box scales to that input. Easily changed in the settings menu of the box.
Pass Through - Passes the input signal through to the output with no change, unless you disable certain resolutions. For example 480i in to 480i out, 480P in to 480P out, 1080i in to 1080i out, 720P in to 720P out. If you disable 720P, 720P in will go to 1080i out.
Auto DVI - If you are using the DVI port, you will see this option instead of the Pass Through option. Resolution is automatically formatted to the scan rate supported by the TV.
UpConvert 1 - All 480i and 480P signals get upconverted to 480P. All 720P and 1080i signals get upconverted to 1080i.
UpConvert 2 - All 480i and 480P signals get upconverted to 480P. All 720P and 1080i signals get converted to 720P.


How can I access these output modes. I found everything else you talked about. I am very interested in the pass-thru mode, because I have a feeling that my Samsung DLP can uoconvert better than this box can. Not sure until I try though.

Thanks for the help!

Press SETTINGS twice on the remote then scroll down to SET: PICTURE FORMAT.

Petey
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Old 01-05-2004, 07:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:


Originally posted by andwhite1
How can I access these output modes. I found everything else you talked about. I am very interested in the pass-thru mode, because I have a feeling that my Samsung DLP can uoconvert better than this box can. Not sure until I try though.
Thanks for the help!

Press "Settings" twice to go into the more advanced settings. Scroll up about one page and you should see "Picture Type". Choose the type that best fits your needs.
Note that if you choose "pass through", the STB will not do any conversion as long as you enabled ALL the output resolutions in the "Settings Wizard". The default and basic settings are initially set to 480i and 1080i only. That means, unless you previously enabled 720p, ABC and ESPN will get upconverted to 1080i by default.
Another test is to use the fixed mode. In that mode, all available resolutions can be scrolled through in the first "Settings" menu. You can see how the set handles different resolutions from different formats.

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Old 01-05-2004, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:


Originally posted by dt_dc
The guide data is sent from the headend to the stb ... but the stb is responsible for all the formatting and display.

That actually makes more sense in the residential cable plant. In my world of interactive hotel services, we generate, format then push all the signals from the Headend directly to the TV tuner. The STB only tells the tuner where to go. - I'm currently working on my original explanation for private networks, and I do get confused once in a while

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Old 01-05-2004, 08:44 PM
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The only problem with using the Pass Through mode with the Samsung DLPs is that Component 2 and 3 will only take 480p, 720p and 1080i. If you set the box to output a 480i signal, those channels won't come in. You'd have to have the STB connected to Component 1 (which takes 480i and 480p only).

I have the older version of the firmware which only seems to allow you to set the output for all the channels and when I accidentally set it to 480i I had to unhook my cables on the back of my Sammy and switch them over to component 1 in order to set it back to 480p so I could switch back to Component 2 and then set it for 720p. What a pain.

BTW, I really didn't notice a PQ difference no matter if the STB or the TV was doing the converting. If there is one I'd say it is very minor.
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Old 01-05-2004, 09:05 PM
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Quote:


Originally posted by rkwochoski
I have the older version of the firmware which only seems to allow you to set the output for all the channels and when I accidentally set it to 480i I had to unhook my cables on the back of my Sammy and switch them over to component 1 in order to set it back to 480p so I could switch back to Component 2 and then set it for 720p. What a pain.

I have the older version too, but I believe you can set it up so only resolutions that work are shown as options in the Settings menu. I believe the defaults using the Quick Setup option are 480i and 1080i, but you can add any or all of the others that are available. I have mine set for 480i std, 480p std, 480i wide, 480p wide, 720p, and 1080i. I don't use them much, but they are there is I need them.

FWIW. If you remembered the key sequence (Settings, up 4 times, etc.) you probably could have switched settings without unhooking the cables. I believe I was able to do this when I was playing around. Pressing the right keys in the right sequence gets you where you need to be even if you can't see it.

Cheers, Dave
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Old 01-05-2004, 10:09 PM
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If you get into an unsupported video format, you can also quickly use the front panel:

1. Make sure STB is on
2. Press and hold select key on STB untill Mail light comes on
3. Press the Vol- button (stb will show HdSr on the LED)
4. Press CH+, CH-, Vol+, Vol- untill you get a picture

CH+ 480i
CH- 480p
VOL+ 1080i
VOL- 720p

From:
http://www.scientificatlanta.com/exp...%20Rev%20A.pdf
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Old 01-05-2004, 10:14 PM
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dt_dc. I was going to add that, but I was too lazy to put it all together, thanks.

Cheers, Dave
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Old 01-05-2004, 10:30 PM
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Another good thing to know (for just about all SciAtl users):

To get into diagnostics screens:
1. Press and hold the Enter button (the button in the middle of the arrow buttons) on the box (on the box, not the remote)
2. After about 5 seconds the mail light will come on
3. Let go of the Enter button
4. Press the Info button (again, on the box, not the remote)
5. A diagnostic screen will come on
6. Press page down (Page -) and page up (Page +) on the remote to scroll through the pages

The above is for boxes running the SciAtl interface. There's a different method for boxes running Pioneer Passport.

Some of the more usefull info includes signal quality measurements ... signal level, S/N ratio, errors per second, etc.
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Old 01-06-2004, 10:02 AM
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Quote:


Originally posted by rkwochoski
The only problem with using the Pass Through mode with the Samsung DLPs is that Component 2 and 3 will only take 480p, 720p and 1080i. If you set the box to output a 480i signal, those channels won't come in. You'd have to have the STB connected to Component 1 (which takes 480i and 480p only).

Thanks for the advice!

My whole intent is to have as few uneeded uconversions as possible. Since I think the Samsung just converts everything to 720p, I prefer that to happen once only at the TV...

Hmmm...that stinks. Another reason to be that Samsung didn't make the component inputs 480i through 1080i. I would like to know their reasoning behind splitting them up like they did. I know hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems really boneheaded.

I suppose I could watch regular 480i channels through svideo and then use the component input 2 (480p-1080i) for hd channels. Of course if the guide isn't working on svideo yet I can't do this until/if Cox in AZ updates the firmware

Of course if you say it doesn't make much of a pq difference, maybe the upconvert2 option using the component 2 input is the most appropriate for my TV?

"UpConvert 2 - All 480i and 480P signals get upconverted to 480P. All 720P and 1080i signals get converted to 720P."

is it ok to assume that with upconvert2 that the box isn't doing anything to the 720p signal from ABC and ESPN

Thanks again for any help!
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Old 01-06-2004, 01:13 PM
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Greetings,


You guys are lucky !!! My Time Warner Cable affiliate does not even carry the 3250HD yet and has not even heard of it's existence. Of course I went through this when I initially wanted to upgrade from the SA 2000HD to the 3100HD. I eventually got the 3100HD. My TWC DOES have the 3250 Digital box, but not the other. My 3100HD is using the Pioneer Passport software.

My Sony HS10 projector has DVI ( HDCP ) but of course by the time I will be able to take advantage of it SA will be coming out with the next generation box...............arrgghhhhhhh!!!!!!


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Old 01-08-2004, 05:03 AM
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How about audio?
Can anybody confirm that digital out and standard stereo out carry an audio signal for all channels?

This includes digital out for non-hdtv and digital tier channels.
Also, stereo out carrys a stereo signal for the digital tier and hdtv channels.

I just got the DVI-feature patch from TW and now I need to move the stereo audio from 3250 to a/v receiver to the TV. However, I thought there was a reason I made that connection.
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Old 01-10-2004, 12:01 PM
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Quote:


Originally posted by gamecock
How about audio?
Can anybody confirm that digital out and standard stereo out carry an audio signal for all channels?

This includes digital out for non-hdtv and digital tier channels.
Also, stereo out carrys a stereo signal for the digital tier and hdtv channels.

I just got the DVI-feature patch from TW and now I need to move the stereo audio from 3250 to a/v receiver to the TV. However, I thought there was a reason I made that connection.

Yes, all channels have sound with any connection.

The 3100HD had to have stereo cables for the analog tier. The 3250 converts the analog tier to a digital pcm stream.
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Old 01-13-2004, 04:48 PM
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Quote:


Originally posted by vegggas
Zoom and Stretch Modes:
Stretch Mode: In SD, it takes the 4x3 screen and stretches it to widescreen. In HD it does the same thing, but if the signal is already in widescreen, it stretches it even further, losing about 15% of the sides.
Zoom mode: Zooms the picture in both height and width in both SD and HD modes. Perfect for 16x9 in 4x3 window displayed on a 16x9 channel (window in a window or bars all around)

vegggas. Can you tell me if the HD stretch/zoom happens by downconverting to 480i/p? It doesn't seem probable that they could stretch/zoom HD without doing something like that. TIA.

Cheers, Dave
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Old 01-13-2004, 05:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:


Originally posted by DoubleDAZ
vegggas. Can you tell me if the HD stretch/zoom happens by downconverting to 480i/p? It doesn't seem probable that they could stretch/zoom HD without doing something like that. TIA.

My box does indeed do the stretch/zoom modes while keeping the HD resolution intact. The TV still reports 1080i input unless I force the Component to 480i/p. Also note that the downconverted image at 480i is not stretched or zoomed, but remains in the format you chose in the setup wizard.

vegggas
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Old 01-13-2004, 05:52 PM
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vegggas, thanks for the quick reply. I'm turning green with envy over here.

Cheers, Dave
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Old 01-13-2004, 06:00 PM
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what s/w do you have to be on to have the pass-through option? also how do you find the s/w version? i found it once before but i've slept since then
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Old 01-13-2004, 07:25 PM
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Originally posted by kkramer25
what s/w do you have to be on to have the pass-through option? also how do you find the s/w version? i found it once before but i've slept since then

See http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...hreadid=343367
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Old 01-13-2004, 07:32 PM
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Originally posted by kkramer25
i found it once before but i've slept since then

That is one of the funniest quotes I've ever seen, I'll have to make a note of it.

Cheers, Dave
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