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 18.104.22.168 - Dated 11/10/03
OS version 22.214.171.124 - Dated 11/10/03
PowerKey Library 126.96.36.199 - Dated 11/10/03
HAL Driver - 188.8.131.52 - Dated 11/10/03
ATI Driver - 184.108.40.206 - Dated 10/31/03
PHAL Driver 220.127.116.11 - 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)
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 questionsLink to main SA3250 webpageLink to SA website 3250 Setup PDF