Q I am thinking of getting a new TV and have basic analog cable. Is it true that LCD TVs will never look good with basic cable?


A It is true that your old tube TV will probably look better than a new LCD TV if you are feeding it analog signals from basic cable. However, you might be able to receive some high-definition digital programming over your basic cable connection without paying extra fees or changing your subscription. Many new HDTV owners are surprised and delighted to find this out.

Many cable companies transmit local channels' high-definition digital signals over their standard cable connection. The digital channels transmitted are typically the local ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CW affiliates. These digital broadcasts can be tuned with any TV having an ATSC digital tuner, which is pretty much any TV sold these days. What the cable company is sending is a radio signal, so it is easy for the company to receive the signal with antennas and transmit it over the cable line.

My aunt lives in a small town and has Comcast cable. My father gave her a 19-inch 720p LCD HDTV for Christmas, and I set it up for her. I connected the cable to the 75-ohm screw terminal on back of the TV, went into the TV's setup menu and hit channel scan. The TV searched and stored all available channels, locking on to six digital channels and more than 50 analog channels.

As she went up and down the channels with the remote, every so often a digital channel would pop up. Also present were the supplemental weather channels broadcast on the digital band by network affiliates. When you changed from an analog channel and landed on a high-definition channel, the difference in picture quality was stunning. Even at 19 inches, HDTV sure can look good.

Check with your cable provider to see if it sends the digital local channels on its standard cable line. You might be surprised.

Watching in widescreen

Q Why are there top and bottom bars on widescreen movies? I can understand this concept with an older 4:3 aspect ratio TV, but aren't all movies shot in a 16:9 ratio? It seems as if all movies (particular Blu-ray) should fill my entire widescreen TV just as they do in the movie theater.


A Many movies are shot in a 2.35:1 ratio, not 16:9. The 2.35:1 format is thinner than 16:9, hence the thin bars on top and bottom. You will find some Blu-ray movies in 16:9, but most adhere strictly to the format that the film was originally shot in.

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