Are you really getting HDTV? How to check
To be sure you're getting the picture on your TV that you paid for, check your TV's calibration settings or invest in a smart HDMI cable.
Tue, Jul 03, 2012 at 01:02 PM
NEW YORK — You may have an HD cable or satellite box and an HDTV, but that's no guarantee you're getting an HD signal, says Joel Silver, founder of the Imaging Science Foundation.
The company provides a number of services to the TV industry, including certifying the quality of products and training technicians, known as calibrators, who make high-end adjustments to TVs and projectors for clients who have the money to pay for them.
It's from these calibrators that Silver learned how widespread the signal problem is. Instead of providing high-definition signals, many set-top boxes as well as game consoles default to DVD-quality standard definition, known as SD or 480p (for the number of lines that make up the video), according to Silver.
"Every calibrator sees it on a regular basis. They go into a home, there's an HDTV, there's an HD box, and the configuration is SD,: Silver said. "It's a normal, everyday occurrence. Every single calibrator tells me that." [What Are Smart TVs?]
Why does that happen? "It's a safety feature [for the TV provider]. You're going to get a picture, you're not going to get a service call," Silver said.
Ideally, the technology in TVs and video sources should prevent this problem. The sets have identifyers, called EDIDs, that tell a cable box, Blu-ray player or other device what the TV is capable of displaying. "The EDID from the TV to the set-top box should be saying gimme gimme gimme 1080p [high resolution]," Silver said. But many devices don't read the EDID information properly, despite the technology being around for years. [For Internet Video, Connected TVs Trump PCs]
Consumers can see if the signal is wrong and change it in the TV or cable box settings, but it isn't easy. TV remotes often have an info button that will display on the screen the signal it is getting. But Silver doubts that most people bother to do this. And often the menus to change the settings are difficult to get to.
To alert people to the problem, Silver developed HDMI cables with LED lights that show the resolution of the signal it is carrying. "It's a rare PlayStation that's set correctly. It's three or four menus down," Silver said.
Sold by Monster Cable, these Smart HDMI cables, as they are called, go on sale in mid September and start at $60 for a 6-foot model. A basic HDMI cable of the same length, however, sells for as little as $1.62 on Amazon. For more than $50, it may be worth spending some time poking around the TV or game console menus.
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