Mo’ TV, Mo’ Problems

We got a shiny, new 32-inch widescreen HD LCD TV on Black Friday. It is in our bedroom. We have AT&T Uverse, but we do not pay the extra monthly fee for HDTV. We also have a second XBox 360 up there, primarily for the purpose of watching Hulu and other web-based content. The XBox 360 puts out images in HD.

The TV has one component input and two HDMI inputs (and a few others, but they’re irrelevant to this). The XBox 360 can output in HDMI or component. The AT&T Uverse can output in HDMI or component. Right now, the XBox 360 is hooked up via component, and the Uverse is hooked up via HDMI. The XBox is working great with the new TV; it’s gorgeous. The Uverse is the problem.

Initially, we hooked up the Uverse using RCA jacks. The result was that we had several picture ratio settings available via the TV and via Uverse, and no combination worked very well. If we set the ratio so that it filled the TV vertically or horizontally (or both), the AT&T menus would get cut off. If we set the ratio to “normal”, the TV picture was distressingly small, with black bars on all sides. After consulting the internet, we decided that what was going on was that Uverse was detecting that we had RCA and attempting to put out a standard RCA-ish type feed, which the TV was then having to modify and stretch. Even though we’d change the setting on the Uverse to 720p, it would then distort the feed in a way that the TV couldn’t show properly.

So, we bought an HDMI cable online for $10 (note that these sell in stores for $60+ for no good reason other than profit). Now, the Uverse menu looks fine on the TV and fills the whole screen. The actual TV image looks fine for normal broadcast. However, if the broadcast is in widescreen, it occupies a tiny portion of the screen. The TV does not give us a “zoom” option (although it did when we had RCA cables plugged in).

What I’m trying to figure out is whether it’s worth it to go online and buy component cables and hook up the Uverse via component and the XBox via HDMI. Will that fix anything? Is that better? I suspect that, since the XBox is spitting out HD, HDMI for it will be the same experience. Does anyone else in the readership have a similar setup and experience to share? The internet is somewhat useless on this, as we seem to be rare in that we do not have HD TV, nor do we want to pay for HD TV. (Neither of us think the benefit is worth the $120+ per year cost, particularly not in the bedroom.)

3 thoughts on “Mo’ TV, Mo’ Problems”

  1. You can use composite video cables to test the component connection before you go buy component cables. You may notice some picture quality issues, but it’ll at least let you figure out what’s going on with your aspect ratio.

    You may already know this, but: the problem is that SD broadcasts are never in 16:9; you’re getting a 16:9 image that’s already been scaled — before transmission — to 4:3.

    I suspect that your television is going “oh, this is HDMI, so it must be HD, which is always 16:9. I don’t need to allow the user to scale it.” But that’s just wild conjecture.

  2. Yeah, as you surmised and as I should have mentioned, I did research the whole aspect ratio problem. So, I know that the bigger issue is that the broadcast ratio does not match my TV. But I don’t get why the option to zoom went away once we used HDMI.

    I suspect the same thing you suspect. I just don’t know if the TV will also think that component is HD and thus that it doesn’t need to give me an option to scale it.

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