Set top box that works as well as my 20 yr old TV?

bhowden

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Dec 10, 2006
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Brian
Our local cable company supports the Motorola 6200 and 641x set top boxes. We currently have a 20 year old SD CRT TV connected to a VCR which is connected to the cable. We also have a 6416 connected to a HD projector. While the 20 year old TV only gets the analog stations, it is easy to use. There is one remote and pressing channel up instantly switches to the next channel with no info screens covering up 1/3 of the picture and no delay. The aspect ratio is always correct. With the 6416, pressing the channel up button results in a bunch of clicking, an info box telling me what channel I want to go to that covers up most of what I want to watch and a second or two delay before the channel changes. If I click 3 times in rapid succession, it gets quite confused and takes a while to settle down on some random channel 1, 2, or 3 channels higher than I was. Once it has settled on a station I often have to use the projector screen button to select an aspect ratio that fills the available screen properly. I can't be the only person in north America that sits on the couch surfing up and down as fast as I can click the remote but a google search does not show anybody else with my complaint.

We want to buy a new TV but not unless we can get something that works better than the current set top box mess we are in right now. As near as I can tell, there is no way to get a digital TV that plugs into the cable and allows PIP, fast channel surfing, and not having to continuously fiddle with the zoom button to get the proper picture size.

Do any set top boxes work as described above? Is the Motorola 6200 any better than the 6416? Do any of the sets with cable card work any better than this mess? (If it fixes it I can hold out until the cable company supports cable card) Am I somehow missing the big idiot switch somewhere in the setup? Sorry for the rant but I can't believe the industry has made such a mess out of something that was working fairly well. 20 years of progress do not seem to have improved things in the useability department.

Brian
 

jimLi

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Apr 27, 2006
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10
The delay you experience while changing channels is part of the nature of digital. With an analogue signal the TV or radio can jump into the signal at any point and instantly bring up programming. A digital stream is a huge amount of bits (1s & 0s) being jammed into your equipment. In order to bring up audio or video the processor has to find the start of a frame to start at. You just can't jump into the signal at any point because the numbers will be wrong. So there is always a slight delay while the processor finds the appropriate spot in the data stream to start using. I have heard many people complain about this lag compared to analogue but I personally like all the extra services digital provides over analogue. On screen TV guide is great. Analogue is to be killed off very soon.

You may find that there is a setting for how long on screen display stay on screen.
 

bhowden

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Dec 10, 2006
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Brian
Thanks, I did suspect that might be a factor but I had no idea how much data needed to be accumulated to successfully start decoding it. In other words, is the delay I am seeing a "laws of physics" issue or is it 10% "laws of physics" and 90% early implementation? If I can expect better implementations or faster processors to significantly improve things, I can wait. If not, I suspect my wife will be subjecting me to life without TV!

If the delay is due to moving the data through the digital domain, it would imply that video consols connected to a device that wants to do all the switching in the digital domain (for example the new upconverting 7.1 receivers that upconvert all signals to HDMI) will introduce a delay that would eliminate action games.

Again, I am still a little surprised I am not seeing way more howls of protest that "the new $2000 + TV I just bought sucks!"

Brian
 

jimLi

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Apr 27, 2006
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First off I'm not an expert so I hope that any experts will correct me if the information is bad.

It isn't so much accumulating data to process but rather throwing data away until a starting point is found. The data would be garbage if you start at the wrong point. I'm not sure faster processors would help but they might.


There may be a slight delay when the signal first starts getting processed but once it is synched then there won't be.

I'll try an analogy. Regular SD video has 30 frames per second. If TVs could only synchronise to the numer one frame each second and you switched channels just after that frame it would take almost a second before the next number one frame showed up to synch to.

I don't know why it seems slow sometimes. Mostly I find it fast enough to be a non-issue but I have heard many people, with their first digital box, complain about the time between channel changes. Often people think something is wrong. Once they realise that it is normal the problem lessens.
 

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