Too many viewers bring home a gorgeous HDTV set, yet never watch a show in high definition. The set is either hooked up using the wrong inputs, or the program itself is from an inferior source.
The first thing to check is that you’re using the TV’s dedicated inputs for optimal picture and sound. Several of the other ports are meant for legacy equipment like VCRs and analog camcorders. They can’t pass-through a high-definition picture or digital sound. Unfortunately, A/V equipment manufacturers often put the most basic A/V cables—composite video and stereo audio—in the box, so they’re the type that a household is most likely to have on hand. And, it’s natural to want to match the yellow, red and white plugs to the same colored ports on the TV. Stop right there!
Your first choice should be an HDMI cable. It’s a single connection that conveys both high-definition video and digital audio. Virtually every HDTV set manufactured since about 2005 contains two or more such inputs. If you’re connecting an A/V receiver, cable box, DVR, Blu-ray Disc player, media receiver or high-def camcorder, make sure, if possible, to use the source component’s HDMI output. If the model is not HDMI-compatible, use the trio of component video outputs (indicated by their red, blue and green plugs) for the high-definition picture and a digital audio connection (optical or coaxial) as the first choice for sound, followed by stereo. (Component video cables carry just the picture.)
If your cable box or satellite receiver predates your HDTV set, you may have to upgrade to a high-def cable box. If the box lacks an HDMI output, it’s definitely time to get a replacement. You can lease a high-def cable box, typically with a two-tuner DVR, from your cable TV operator or buy your own DVR and lease a credit card-size CableCard that authorizes channel access.
Your cable operator is likely to simulcast both a standard-resolution, 4:3 feed on one channel and a high-def, 16:9 version on a higher-numbered channel. So, make sure the tuner is set to the higher channel. Time Warner Cable of New York City, for instance, transmits the CBS affiliate on Channels 2 and 702. Viewers must be tuned to 702 to receive the widescreen high-def picture along with 5.1-channel digital audio.
Check the display setting on your cable or satellite box. If the 480i or 480p choice is highlighted, the signal being sent to the TV is not high definition. Make sure the box is set for at least 1080i output for a 1080p TV or 720p output for a 720p TV.
Be aware that the DVD player was conceived before the dawn of HDTV. Even now, a DVD player cannot show high-def movies. You need to hook up a Blu-ray model playing a Blu-ray Disc (not a DVD) to make the most of all the resolution that your HDTV set is capable of displaying.