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Digital Cable or standard? (1 Viewer)

Mark Larson

Supporting Actor
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Mar 3, 2002
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Hi TV folks! ;)
I'm going to get cable in my apartment - do you think the picture quality of digital cable is much better than standard ? I'll be running it straight (no HTPC, no iscan :frowning:) into a VPH 1030Q1 (FPTV). will there be an appreciable difference in quality on a 65" screen?
Thanks :)
 

Peter D

Stunt Coordinator
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Aug 16, 2000
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232
I think a lot of it probably depends on your cable provider. When I had AT&T Digital Cable, the digital channels often looked worse than the analog - lots of noticeable compression artifacts (and this was back when I had a 27 inch tv).
 

Jack Briggs

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Jun 3, 1999
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Depends on your cable system, Mark. But so-called "digital" cable is little more than analog cable that has been digitized. At one time--for more than a year--I had both an analog and a "digital" cable feed coming into my house via obnoxious AT&T Broadband. I switched the two boxes between my two main displays. Each time, the analog feed looked better (as far as cable goes). What's more, many of the stereo signals on the analog line were in mono on the "digital" line.

The only reason I subscribed to "digital" cable was to make use of the S-video output on the box, not the increased number of channels. Lo and behold, the S-video output was inoperative; no lead; it was just a dummy.

I called AT&T and asked about the S-video outputs and was summarily informed than none of the boxes had working S-video outputs--despite the salesperson's claims that they did.

When AT&T later began its "ditch the dish" advertising campaign, I was pissed. Then, when AT&T migrated the only channels I cared about--TCM, IFC, Sundance--over to "digital" cable only, I had had enough. I cancelled my cable subscription altogether.

The idea was to get DBS. But I've had, lately, little incentive. Enjoying too many DVDs. Most of my viewing pleasure has been with PBS anyway. Well, I get an even better PBS signal OTA!

If you can, give DBS a try. "Digital" cable is a rip off, in my experience.
 

Leo Hinze

Stunt Coordinator
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Jan 15, 1999
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What makes digital cable worth it for me are the digital music channels. Depending on your system, you may be able to get ~30-40 CD quality, commercial free music stations.

As far as quality, most of the digital stations on my system (TWC Houston) are decent. HBO East and West look great, but beyond that, sometimes the good analog channels look better than the digital channels. Long story short, though, for a minor increase in cost, you usually get more channels with the digital, and many channels are only available with digital cable.
 

Ike

Screenwriter
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Jan 14, 2000
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I have Digital Cable, and I'll tell you, it does suck. I'm not picky when it comes to image quality, but it is a noticeable degrade in quality versus an analog signal. Artifacts are everywhere, and the picture has a generally soft and murky look to it. There is a second long pause when I click channels while it pulls up all the information, so channel surfing is out. When I listen to it through headphones, I can hear distortion in all the channels.

My digital cable does have some features I like-the ability to search a database of title listings for a show, reminders, title/information TV guide listings, and a few other things.

But overall, the only reason I keep it is because HBO is Digital only. Otherwise, I'd have ditched it a long time ago.
 

Carl Johnson

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Couldn't have put it better myself. I moved a couple of months ago and didn't get cable TV installed in my new place. Using an OTA antenna all I can pick up is PBS plus a 1/2 fuzz image for three other channels but it's all good. Back when I had cable I spent more time online than I did watching television anyway and now it's just more of the same. I occasionally watch PBS and I still have more DVDs than time so I can't go wrong.
 

derek

Second Unit
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Dec 20, 1998
Messages
494
I've stuck by my analog cable for years now...hesitant to switch to satellite because of compression artifacting. The digital cable systems I've seen are as good as or worse. On a FPTV analog cable line-doubled is the way to go. IMHO a softer analog picture is much more pleasant than distracting compression artifacts on a big screen.
 

Michael St. Clair

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It's a rare thread where I find myself disagreeing with Jack Briggs.

Here are some other thoughts of mine from another thread:

With any digital broadcast technology, whether digital cable, digital OTA, or digital satellite, the quality depends on how much you compress the signal. And how much the signal is compressed is not universal for any given carrier.

The truth be told, digital cable quality varies from provider to provider and city to city. And 'digital' doesn't mean better, it just means digital.

Over The Air (with a good antenna and proper proximity to transmitter) and Big Ugly Dish analog broadcasts are better than ANY digital cable or DBS (small-dish digital) satellite.

GOOD analog cable is also somewhat better than both digital cable and DBS, at least the picture quality is. The problem is that so many cable providers have CRAPPY analog infrastructure. Some folks are lucky enough to have a cable provider with good analog infrastructure.

Many, maybe even most, digital cable companies use 'HITS' (Headend in the Sky) as their source for channels. 'HITS' is already compressed as hell, so any cable company that pipes 'HITS' channels is going to look bad. AT&T does use HITS, as does TCI, Comcast, and many small cable companies.

Time Warner digital cable has very good picture quality, and it seems that virtually everyone who has tried both finds Warner has better picture quality than DBS satellite. Time Warner is not 'HITS' based.

DBS picture quality is improving some with the launch of spot-beam birds, however, if the merger goes through between DISH and DirecTV (which looks likely) and they put up every full-strenght local station for every market in the country, there is no telling how compressed the channels will be. Hopefully, not very, but only time will tell.

Anyhow, the real answer to your question is 'it depends'. There is no single best-quality solution.

I went through this a couple of years ago for one channel. SpeedVision, now 'SPEED Channel'. Virtually no matter where you go, it is only on Digital Cable or DBS.
 

MickeS

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I'll add my opinion on this:
The ONLY reasons you would need digital are, IMO, that there are more channels and S-video output on the box (mine works, too :)). If you have a good comb filter on your TV (or projector, in this case), I doubt you even need the s-video.
The picture quality on the digital channels leave a lot to be desired on my 32" analog TV. Many compression artifacts, especially on the music channels (VH1 Country, which I watch a lot, is particularly bad on some videos with lots of movement and different patterns). HBO is fine though, normally, sometimes it gets a little pixely, but not bad.
I wouldn't get digital for the quality of the picture.
/Mike
 

Patrick Cate

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Sep 18, 1998
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I switched to digital cable a few months ago. I was basically forced too because my cable company moved several channels I regularly watch to their digital cable lineup only. From what I've seen, the quality is either the same on some channels, and improved on others (mainly the premium channels.) If the quality of your analog cable is good now, and all the channels you want are available on the analog service, I probably wouldn't bother switching.
 

Mark Larson

Supporting Actor
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Mar 3, 2002
Messages
537
Hmm... Seeing all these posts about AT&T makes me want to change my mind - the provider i'm talking about is Mediacom (formerly AT&T Broadband).
I would have gotten it in a heartbeat if they actually had broadband in my area. They don't, so its cable only.
Thanks for the replies everyone, looks like i'll be going with analog. :)
 

Michael*K

Screenwriter
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May 24, 2001
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I have analog and am satisfied with the quality, if not the content. My friend that lives in the same subdivision has both digital and analog in his house. The quality of the digital signal on several channels is dreadful and he finds himself watching the analog feed far more often.
AT&T pulled The History Channel from my basic channel lineup a month ago and I've been told the only way I can get it now is by subscribing to digital. Screw that! :angry: The quality sucks and I'm unable to watch one show while recording another when I add the converter box to the mix. Guess I'm up the creek when it comes to one of my favorite channels, at least for the time being.
 

Roberto Carlo

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Apr 14, 2002
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I have Cox digital cable in my condo and, to my eyes, the quality can be quite good, especially on the premium channels. Discovery and TLC are also quite good, as is PBS (WETA). The networks vary, CBS is the best, followed by ABC, FOX and NBC, but I suspect that has more to do with the quality of the signals they are getting.My experience also tells me that it looks better on a non line-doubled set than it does my new Toshiba DTV.

In all of this, remember that your mileage may vary.
 

Joel Fontenot

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I have Cox digital cable too.
Everyone says it depends on your provider, but it looks like most don't think it's better (and can be worse) than analog.
I agree.
The only reason I still have digital cable is because of Showtime for Stargate-SG1, and HBO for Sex and the City. Once SG-1 moves to Sci-Fi and Sex is over with, we are going back to all regular cable.
The way Cox handles the digital cannels (and it may be the same everywhere) is that all the basic cable channels are still converted in the box in analog. Channels 100 on up are all converted from digital and the quality is very different. While the image may look more solid, it also wreaks with compression effects of color banding and tiling - especially in images with gradual color tone changes. Some channels must be compressed more than others too, because some channels look more "pasty" than others.
I have no idea which digital source our Cox uses.
Joel
 

MickeS

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Yep. A still picture of a digital channel would most likely look better than one of an analog channel. The digital picture is very clear, crisp and sharp.

However, the compression artifacts are very noticeable in dimly lit scenes or when scenes fade in and out. Also scenes that contain a lot of fast movement are affected by this. That's why music videos are particularly bad, I guess (although they probably use more compression on those channels too). Look at the HBO promos (the unes with the "faces of sunday night" for example for some examples of horrible artifacts every time the pictures change.
 

LDfan

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I'll second Roberto since I live in the alexandria area (Kingstowne to be exact) and have Cox digital cable. The HBO channels are quite good, damn near DVD quality on some programming recently like Eyes Wide Shut and X-men. The Encore channels are heavily compressed and show a lot of artifacting.

Jeff
 

Roberto Carlo

Second Unit
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Apr 14, 2002
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I'll second Roberto since I live in the alexandria area (Kingstowne to be exact) and have Cox digital cable. The HBO channels are quite good, damn near DVD quality on some programming recently like Eyes Wide Shut and X-men. The Encore channels are heavily compressed and show a lot of artifacting.
I also live in the Kingstowne area, near the intersection of Van Dorn and Franconia.
 

LDfan

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Nov 30, 1998
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Jeffrey
Hi Roberto,

I think I know the spot you live at. Is it near Edison High School? Small world. I live down behind where Wal-Mart is. Fairly close to Hayfield H.S.

Jeff
 

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