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OTA HDTV versus Comcast HD Cable

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
My HTPC is HDTV capable, but it is currently only setup for SDM & HDM and online viewing.

I used to have an ATI analog TV wonder hooked up and used to pick up stations off my free basic cable. When I went HD, I took the card out and ordered a Kworld HD TV Tuner. I installed it and was able to pick up a few HD cable signals, but it broke about a week and a half later when I tried to pick up OTA signals with it.

I ordered a replacement, but the superbowl was going to be on so I stopped by the local cable company and picked up an HD tuner box so I could watch the SB in HD. I am pretty slick and only pay $50 for both HD cable and Fios cable internet (I only have limited basic which doesn't even give me espn). I hooked up the HD box and I was able to get alot of channels that I not supposed to like UHD, ESNP HD, alot of block SD channels like history channel and access to the on demand network including the free HD movies.

As most find out, the quality is not as good as HDM. I personally think my HTPC upconverts SD material to better quality than most of their on demand HD material. Sports look fantastic though.

What I was wondering is I am always reading how much cable companies compress the signals. Is OTA any better in HD? I do like the idea of being able to record shows like Heroes HD for later viewing as well. PQ difference is really what I am wondering.

I hate to plug in this one and fry it.... I could sell it on ebay and probably get my money back and then some.

As much as I like my HTPC, the cable box is more convenient for live viewing.... well accept for the recording part.

PS: Comcast Cable based in Pottstown, PA. I pay $19.95 for my 28mbit internet connection (negotiated 2x now for this price), $12 for limited basic cable, $10 for the HD box. $8 in taxes I think. Before I added the box, I could only get the OTA SD channels, whole bunch of spanish channels, weather channel and lost signal past about channel 29. Now I get about 70% of the 300-400 channels although I really only watch NBCHD, ABCHD, CBSHD, FoxHD and UPNHD(Dr Phil in HD rocks). Every now and then I will watch a game on ESPN HD, history channel SD, and the UVHD channel. I was actually surprised how few HD channels are even offered. pretty laughable
post #2 of 14
Thread Starter 
I guess their is no way of copying the component signal. I have never seen a component copier.
post #3 of 14
Hauppauge is creating a device which can record via component. Do a search on the forum for it, I forget its name, just search for Hauppauge.

As a note, most OTA is not compressed per se, but it is sent as mpeg-2 due to legal requirements for size.

At least I just read about that. Look at the front page of avsforum.com.
post #4 of 14
MPEG-2 is a compression standard. OTA HD is encoded in MPEG-2, and is therefore compressed, but much less than HD over cable or satellite (which usually also uses MPEG-2). OTA is sent at ~19 Mbps compared to ~12-13Mbps typically over cable.

The device cybrsage referred to is called the HD PVR. It takes the signal from component cables, which has already been decoded from MPEG-2 by your cable or satellite box, and encodes it as MPEG-4, which is a more space-efficient encoding.
post #5 of 14
How did you get a HD receiver without a digital package from Comcast?
post #6 of 14
Comcast says they pass on the signal for the locals without further compression and the bitrates that I see are in the range of 15+Mbps which would be expected since they run subchannels that take up some of the bandwidth.

The encrypted HD Channels is another story and I think bitrates for those are 12-13 Mbps while others are at the 15+ Mbps level.
post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by video321 View Post

How did you get a HD receiver without a digital package from Comcast?

With my cable provider you can get a PVR unit without ordering any digital package and since the only PVR they offer is one that supports both analog and digital you can get the unencrypted digital channels and since the cable service carries both analog and digital channels.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by video321 View Post

How did you get a HD receiver without a digital package from Comcast?

I had the super cheapy limited basic. I went online and it said it was so much for the box with digital and so much without. I called and was told you needed digital cable. I said that doesn't make sense, it is letting me add it on the website. Further, I asked the guy if the broadcast is already coming and it just needs to be decoded to which he said yes.

He then confessed that yes you can just get the box but you will only get the free channels. He couldn't get it to me by the superbowl so I picked it up at my local comcast branch.

Here is what I get.

all SD OTA channels

SD History, Discovery, MTV and whole bunch I don't
don't get scifi, earth channel, food channel, and a few others (it seems to be random hit or miss)
Do not get the premiums like the starrs channels in the low 100s

HD NBC, ABC, CBS, Universal, Food Channel, ESPN1 ESPN2, Comcast sports net, UPN (or whatever it is now)
do not get cable premium channels like HBO or HD History channel (bit of a bummer there)

On demand
All of the SD free on demand movies (which is usually 100-200)
All of the free HD on demand movies (20-30)
All the previews and specialty things
No premium channels like HBO and such.

All the music channels

Costs me about $24 including tax (9+10+tax) as I said plus the internet for another $20+tax

They tried to bump me after 3 months from $25 to 43 for the internet. I called and threatened to switch to Verizon for $25 and pleaded with them to match. they gave me their current special at $19.95 for 12 months. I will call again in August to renegotiate again. You have to love competition. I have been able to pit four against each other here (cavtel, dish, verizon and comcast). Comcast has the best cable service in my area with a 23-28mbit connnection.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by montyward View Post

Comcast says they pass on the signal for the locals without further compression and the bitrates that I see are in the range of 15+Mbps which would be expected since they run subchannels that take up some of the bandwidth.

The encrypted HD Channels is another story and I think bitrates for those are 12-13 Mbps while others are at the 15+ Mbps level.

Are you sure. Maybe I will just sell it. the problem is I watch most of my programming on disk. HD shows like Law&Order or the office I will watch. If I miss an episode oh well. Show like Lost and 24 I just wait a season and watch on DVD or HDM.

The only one that I am really stuck with is Heroes not that it is out right now anyway.

I really have found it much more enjoyable to watch my serials on physical media. not commercial breaks, progressive image, better quality... usually.
post #10 of 14
I am sure about the bitrates, but that will vary by market. The quality of the HD OTA broadcasts easily surpasses DVD quality, so only if those shows are available on BluRay would you be better off.

Also, all the network shows can be processed with ad-skip programs (like DVRMS Toolbox) to automatically skip commercials. This program works beautifully.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by montyward View Post

I am sure about the bitrates, but that will vary by market. The quality of the HD OTA broadcasts easily surpasses DVD quality, so only if those shows are available on BluRay would you be better off.

Also, all the network shows can be processed with ad-skip programs (like DVRMS Toolbox) to automatically skip commercials. This program works beautifully.

That is not true. I have BD, HD DVD, HD Cable and of course SD. HD cable versus SD DVD. HD wins. HD cable versus SD DVD upconverted with an HTPC with good post filters or an oppo98x/HD-Xa2. SD wins.
post #12 of 14
I might be stating the obvious, but SD-DVD (no matter what you do to it) compared to HD local channels aren't even close.... at least if both have high quality sources using a good display. I have never seen any old fashioned DVD (with even the most advanced post processing techniques) look as good as things like the Jay Leno Show, local HD news, live sports.

To answer the title of the thread, OTA HDTV verses Comcast locals is the same currently. However, I agree that cable premium channels are not significantly better than SD-DVDs (starting just a couple of months ago Comast started overcompressing their premium channels). I wouldnt say DVDs are better quality though either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjmarchini View Post

That is not true. I have BD, HD DVD, HD Cable and of course SD. HD cable versus SD DVD. HD wins. HD cable versus SD DVD upconverted with an HTPC with good post filters or an oppo98x/HD-Xa2. SD wins.
post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by bjmarchini View Post

I guess their is no way of copying the component signal. I have never seen a component copier.

I've been doing this for quite awhile now with a BlackMagic Intensity Pro. Coupled with SageTV it's been working flawlessly for watching live TV from my sat box. It did take some tweaking in the beginning to work well.
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
[quote=mkanet;13839115]I might be stating the obvious, but SD-DVD (no matter what you do to it) compared to HD local channels aren't even close.... at least if both have high quality sources using a good display. I have never seen any old fashioned DVD[quote]

I am not talking about old fashioned DVD. I am talking about newer released DVDs which tend to upscale many times better than the older ones that were poorly transferred.


Quote:
(with even the most advanced post processing techniques) look as good as things like the Jay Leno Show, local HD news, live sports.
.

I agree that live shows tend to look excellent, BUT HD on demand movies and some of the "HD" channels are overly compressed and look terrible. The worste I have seen was the Karate Kid HD on demand comcast.
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