My mom decided to get a widescreen television last Christmas. It’s not a giant television but my mom didn’t want a giant television!

There were two issues right off. First, the crappy standard definition cable signal looked like ass. Second, that same standard def signal isn’t widescreen so either you put of with black bars on the sides, stretch the image, or have the top and bottom clipped to fill the screen.

To my surprise, a few months later my mom told me that she’d decided to get HD cable. I didn’t think she’d pay the extra money for HD. Shows what I know!

Yesterday I was futzing with the TV and noticed something curious. The ‘info’ function claimed the HD signal was 720×480. Yea, that’s high def, but only just. The picture is nice and all, but since the television can display 1080×1920, a mere 720 is no great shakes.

As much as I examined the menus, I could find no setting that would limit the resolution. This wasn’t a surprise because I thought the television would just go ahead and display whatever signal you feed it. So I attacked the cable box next. There is indeed a resolution setting, but despite following the directions, I couldn’t find it. I read more closely and discovered that I was doing it incorrectly. I pressed the menu button as directed, but missed the fact that I was supposed to do this when the unit is turned off. Pressing it when the unit is on displays an entirely different menu. Who would’ve thought.

Lo and behold, the cable box was set to display a maximum resolution of 720p. Amazing. People sign up for HD cable because they want the best picture they can get. So Cogeco cable supplies a cable box preset to 720p, the lowest high def resolution. Thanks.

I corrected the problem and it certainly does look better. The only problem now is that the cable signal is compressed to hell. If there’s a lot of motion, or sometimes when plain text is displayed over a monochromatic background, the compression artefacts are plainly visible. An antenna will display a better (less compressed) image, though the channel selection isn’t as great.

On a slightly different note, there was something I was very pleased about. I noted that the HD Showcase station was showing Trailer Park Boys. I tuned in expecting to see a 4:3 standard def source being broadcast in high def. Imagine my surprise to see a proper 16:9 high def presentation. Nice.