Cablevision & My Plasma Install

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This week should be renamed "Plasma Week" because I have been writing (nay, drooling?) about my new Panasonic TH-42PX60U purchase.

I was worried about installing the TV and hoped to write a small article about what I had to do to upgrade to HDTV in Hoboken.

Step 1 was to walk to the Cablevision store at 360 1st Street (entrance is on Grand Street) with my old cable box and remote control. They are open Monday-Friday 8am to 6:30pm or Saturday 8am to 4:30pm. I went there last Saturday at 8:15am and it was simple. I turned in my cable box, they gave me the new HDTV cable box, a new remote and component video cables to connect the plasma to the cable box.

Sadly, I already bought a $125 Monster HDMI cable, which was unnecessary. I decided to keep the cable if I ever decided to get satellite TV.

040706b.JPG

Step 2, the install, was extremely easy, because Cablevision provides documentation on how to properly install the plasma to the cable box. Basically you connect the the coaxial cable from your wall to the connector "Cable In" on the HDTV cable box. The new box needs to download new information, and this takes about 15 minutes. The instruction manual details the rest.

Step 3 is to connect the plasma to the cable box.

This took about 3 seconds. 040706a.jpg The component video cables are color coded, so you just have to connect the red, green and blue cable to the red connector on either end to the cable box (video out) and the plasma (video in).

They also provide component audio cables to connect from the cable box to your plasma. There are only two cables, one for the left speaker (white) and one for the right speaker (red). Again, very simple to connect.

Once that is done, and the cable box is done loading, there are a few other steps that Cablevision requires. Once you turn your plasma on, you need to press down "Info" and "Guide" at the same time on the front of the cable box. This brings up an automatic install to configure the video of the HDTV cable to your HDTV. It is fairly intuitive, and I don't need to explain it here.

The last step was connecting Tivo to my cable box and the plasma. The cable box has a component video connection (video out). You need to have your own component video cable to connect this to your Tivo, which can be bought at Radio Shack. This connects the same way to your Tivo. The picture quality of Tivo and the recording of regular TV and HDTV is...not good. It works. But the Tivo isn't really HDTV compatible (unless you get satellite) and it takes some signals and really shrinks it down. I *would* get the DVR from cablevision, but I own my Tivo and don't pay a subscription fee (I paid $250 for a "lifetime" of Tivo in March 2003). Second, my Tivo can record programs to DVD. Wednesday I recorded "LOST" for my roommate and handed him a DVD of the show. Rumor has it that Tivo is coming out with a Series 3 HDTV Tivo in a few months. I'm a big fan of Tivo, and will stick with it for now.

Once installed, I was really happy with the video quality of the channels from 700+. The "normal" TV stations aren't as crisp as my old tube TV - I doubt that any plasma or LCD can beat a tube TV. But the HDTV channels are off the charts amazing.

But there are a few quirks that i'm trying to get used to. Since my plasma HDTV native resolution is 1024x768, it can take an incoming signal of 720p (1280x720 progressive scan) or 1080i (1920x1080 interlaced) but it will have to fit it on to my screen. You can read more on HDTV basics here. The quirk is that the TV will take the incoming signal and sometimes it won't fill the entire TV screen. This can be a bit distracting, when you have grey bars across the screen. It also doesn't have any apparent rhyme or reason, I watch some regular TV channels and it fills the screen. I watch some HDTV programs, like the Masters on CBSHD, which are in letterbox. On the other hand, I was watching the NCAA finals and the picture was full screen and in a very crisp, clear format.

I very much look foward to watching NFL football in HDTV. As much as I run the Eagles club of Hoboken i'm going to be tempted to skip a few nationally broadcasted games to watch it at home.

If you have any questions, email me. I will be happy to help with email advice on any plasma TV install.

3 Comments

Definitely return the $125 HDMI cable for now and get a less expensive HDMI/DVI cable instead of using the component cables, you will notice an improvement using a DVI cable. Check out eBay and the like for a HDMI to DVI cable (here's an example http://cgi.ebay.com/Brand-New-HDMI-to-DVI-15-Foot-Cable-15_W0QQitemZ9708251984QQcategoryZ73387QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem) - should cost you around $25-$30 for a 4 or 5 footer. Don't be tempted to get a higher "grade" HDMI or DVI cable - because the signals transmitted over them are solid-state (digital) and aren't really susceptible to signal degredation like in older or analog cables. Gold plating and crazy insulation won't make an ounce of a difference in picture quality.

We had the Cablevision HDTV box in our apartment for a few months before we upgraded to the Cablevision DVR - the DVI output gives excellent quality. The DVR provided by Cablevision has an HDMI output on the back of it, not DVI like the plain cable box, so at that point you might want to get an HDMI to HDMI cable or just buy an adapter (also can be found on eBay for a few dollars). Until the Series 3 comes out, I would say go for the Cablevision DVR anyway. You get the convenience of being able to record the digital TV in identical quality to the original broadcast, plus you can still hook your DVD recorder into it to transfer programs to disc (there is a "Copy to VCR" feature on it that lets you record a program to an external source using separate outputs while you watch something else on the TV).

The Cablevision DVR interface leaves quite a bit to be desired after switching from TiVo, but the basic ability to pause, rewind, and watch HDTV in perfect quality is worth the $10 until you can be in full TV heaven when you can get your hands on a CableCARD (HDTV) ready TiVo, and continue to take advantage of your lifetime subscription.

In terms of the picture not fitting the screen... well that is the dilemma with having two different aspect ratios on a single size television. Most HDTVs have a stretching option, that can fill the entire screen with the picture either by cropping the top and bottom or stretching the picture side to side. Either way, I am eternally annoyed when I'm watching non widescreen programs and have to ruin the picture to avoid letterboxing (black bars). I suppose it's just a matter of time until most programming is filmed in the newer format.

Abandon my poor Tivo? NEVER!

After second thought. Maybe I will.

Sadly this Panasonic doesn't have a CableCard slot anymore, they removed it! I don't know if that is a *huge* deal, but just a minor point for me.

Also my "lifetime subscription" is just for the Series 2 box itself, not me. So my Series 2 will be able to keep getting Tivo updates for free for the rest of "its" life.

Thanks for the info!

Hey Furey, that's why I stuck with DirecTV and the LG HD box. The non-HiDef channels come in great full screen. The stretch is optimized and barely noticeable. I can't seem to ever watch anything with the bars on each side. It's just annoying. Not sure about Cablevision, but I know there was a way on my DTV box to change the bars (if you didn't stretch it) to black at least. When I watch a non-hidef show on a hi-def channel it's that way at least.

By the time most programming is 16:9, you'll be buying a new TV again.

PS, you still should have bought the industrial model, plus side speakers and a stand. The quality of the screen is better. YMMV.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on April 7, 2006 12:43 AM.

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