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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My cable company is finally offering digital cable. Still, there is very little HD content being offered. So my question is - for non-HD broadcasts, which looks better on an ED plasma (852 x 480) digital cable or analog cable.


Thanks for any opinions you can provide.
 

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I have the 433 which is hd however I opted for analog without the box and my picture is excellent on many channels.I saw a friends digital cable on a regular CRT set and it looked awful compared to what I was getting without a box.
 

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With most cable systems, digital cable is only digital for premium stations (HBO etc) and newer standard stations eg. noggin. So ESPN, TNT etc will be analog regardless of which service you subscribe to.

Most cable companies use a hideous amount of compression on their digital stations (much more than DirecTV for example) and are only at an advantage over analog if your signal strength is very low.
 

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Okay, you asked, so the following rant is your fault. :p


Digital Cable is NOT what you think it is. It does NOT deliver digital quality (like a CD) to your television.


The signal to your television is NOT digital!


Digital cable means the cable company uses digital compression to squeeze more channels into the same bandwidith. The digital signal get decompressed in THEIR settop box (in THEIR tuner), converted to ANALOG (RF) and then sent to your television.


Analog cable gives you ability split the signal to several sets in your house.


With Digital Cable THEY own the tuner. If you want to use multiple televsions you need to $rent$ a settop box from the cable company for each television in your home.


Now if you live way out in the country and have a weak cable signal, digital cable may provide a better picture than analog cable.


But if you get a reasonable signal from you cable, and especially if you have a nice BIG home theatre display, the digital compression artifacts will be noticable. The smaller your display, i.e., most people, the less you will be bothered by the aritfact of the cheap digital compression.


Digital cable makes sense to most people who think more channels is a good thing, and who do NOT care about picture quality. A High Definition quality picture is NOT something most people are willing to pay for. It's much easier for cable companies to sell more channels. It's true!


BTW, this is the same "architecture" used by Satellite TV providers.
 

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sixsevans! Amen!


I actually got "digital" cable for my Akai 42". Luckilly I am getting it for "free" since I opted to move our phone service over to the cable company. We are getting more phone features for less than our local "Baby Bell" was charging, and we get one free tuner and the one tier free each month. The tuner has an S-Video jack, so that saved me from having to by a VCR with S-Video, so actually it is a win win for us. But about the picture quality, channels 99 and below are Analog!!! 100 and up are digital, and it is actually quite nice, but our one free tier is only five channels! Gee, thanks Mr. Cable, enjoy your Franchise Fee!


If you go digital, bite the bullet and spend the extra bucks on at least a couple of tiers so you can have more choices of digital quality for cable broadcasts.
 

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I did quite a bit of web research on this topic a few months ago, and basically determined that it all depends on your cable company, and more accurately, your house. It seems that some people had better PQ with digital, and some with analog. You just won't know your exact situation until you give it a try. If you just keep it one month, then decide you go back to analog, I can't see it costing too much money in fees.


In my case, I tried the HDTV digital cable from Cox here in San Diego during January. I decided not to keep the service, and canceled just before the 30 days ended. I was surprised to find out they had a "Satisfaction Guarantee" that refunded all my money for the installation and service for that month. Not a bad deal! (and I saw the Superbowl in HDTV)
 

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I have digital cable with all the major nets (and PBS) showing some HD material. I get a superb picture when watching a non high def program on these channels allocated for HD programming (an example would be watching Will and Grace, which is not in HD, but watching it on the HD digital channel, which is a different channel than the analog one).


Other channels on my digital cable can look anywhere from decent to aweful. It literally varies from channel to channel. It seems to be a total crapshoot.


Overall, the digital cable is worth the extra $16 per month, for our needs. It gives us 5 HD channels (including a regional sports network, PBS and the 3 majors). This, to me, seems easier than spending up to $400 for an HD OTA box and then another $300 to $500 for a rooftop mounted antenna with rotor (which is what I would need, given our footprint here). ESPN HD should be launched soon, which would not be an option with the OTA antenna.


BTW .. the HD programming is just unbelievable on my plasma. And the Masters golf tournament is being shown in HD on CBS this weekend (commercial free)! I can't wait to see a live outdoor event being shot with HD cameras in 1080i.
 

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i just got digital cable a few days ago, sixsevans is right on the money. i have the ED panny plasma and every channel all the way up to 100 is analog with maybe a slight quality increase. over 100 are the digital channels and the quality IS noticeably better, although none are HD from my cable company.
 

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sixsevans is right on.


I have "digital" cable too, which only applies to those channels over #100.

For the most part it's a bloody scam by the cable companies, for the reasons sixsevans has stated.


"Digital" is cynically used by these companies to imply "better picture quality for the consumer" when that is not their rational at all.


Digital signals *do* eliminate most analog noise, for a cleaner picture. But I find the distortions produced by over compression is more annoying to me than the noise present in some analog stations. On the whole, my analog channels look sharper, and less "artificial." However, there are some digital channels with low compression that look superb.


My friends with smaller CRTs love digital cable/sat, saying the picture is much better. I can see why: on their smaller TVs they get the benefit of reduced analog channel noise, while the digital compression artifacts are

much less noticeable.


Rich H.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Many thanks for the excellent answers here. I am amazed at the depth of knowledge on this forum.


Do I understand that the lower-100 analog stations from a digital cable service are exactly the same as the analog channels from an analog cable service?


Thanks again.
 

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Yes Sixsevans has it exactly right.


Cable cos like digital cable because you spend $15/mo more than you did before.


They like it because you can order PPV movies and porn from your remote control.


They like it because they can squeeze more channels into their system.


Low number channels (1-100) are almost always analog either way, and won't look any better whether you decide to run the cable coax directly into the back of your TV or through the digital cable box.


I would get digital cable ONLY if you watch a lot PPV or porn or you want some specific channel that's only available on a digital tier AND you don't mind spending even more on your cable bill.
 

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I echo that digital looks great in the higher channels- especially the movie channels. I view Time Warner digital on two different plasmas and the quality of premium movie channel programming(I have never viewed porn- really!) is great. Regular channels don't appear noticeably different to me. The HD channels were awesome, but that HD cable box burned out and I just haven't had the stomach to wrestle with TWC to get a replacement- it is the second, first was DOA.
 

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Having revieved my PANNY ED about a month ago I first hooked it up to the exsisting analog calbe and found that the picture was unwatchable...imediatly called and ordered digital cable and was elated to find that the digital cable box had a built in HDTV tuner. This made the decision a no brainer...on top of that, all of the chanels had better PQ. Yes, I only have thre chanels of HDTV (NBC, ABC and PBS) but it is still well worth the extra 15 dollars a month...I really do also enjoy the onscreen menus.....
 

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Of course, the caveat to the digital/analog questions is: How good are your feeds?


I have a nice analog feed that can produce some stunning signals. That might not be the case for others.
 

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Ainar With time warner NYC I requested a HD cable box. they said they were out of stock, OK no problem but when I asked if I could do a self

install when they do get Scientific Atlanta model 3600 (yes not 3200)

rep said no we have to do install. I can't get any answers on this topic

so since you mentioned TW NYC....
 

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my analog cable signal was poor from Comcast- I tried digital cable with a box that put out S Video awhile back and it was no better- I never thought HD over cable would work because of the poor signal


pleasant surprise!!


I got Comcast HD service with the (UGH) SA3100 stb and the few HD channels are excellent- and even the higher non HD channels look darn good: there seems to be less compression on cable than on the small dish: the component video output makes a big difference


cable still has a long way to go: they must update/replace the 3100 box and add more HD content but I am impressed with the turnaround cable has made: that and reliable high speed internet access makes it a strong competitor to the dish; and cable has a lot of bandwidth available to add more HD programming


Mark
 
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