If you are currently getting your cable TV from Time Warner Cable or Comcast using a Scientific Atlanta 8300 cable box, then you have an HD cable box that can do a lot more than its default settings. Out of the box, the cable box is set to pull video at a handful of resolutions (480p and 720p), but with a few minor hacks you can really trick out its capability. Here’s how:
Upon holding the buttons down, you’ll be brought to a page that welcomes you to the set-up and asks you if you’d like to proceed.
This will take you to a new screen that allows you to configure the box via “Easy Mode” or “Advanced Mode.” I’ve used both and the only real option here is “Advanced.”
If you’re following this guide and you’re using an HD box to do it, you’re likely viewing shows on a 16:9 screen.
Next, the set-up will show a screen that explains the procedure. It basically says that it will run through screen resolutions. If you can see an image on the screen, your HDTV is capable of viewing video at that resolution and you should select it.
If the screen is black, you won’t be able to view it and you shouldn’t select it. For example, if you have a 720p/1080i HDTV, you won’t be able to view any content in 1080p, although you won’t have to worry about that on cable shows just yet.
At this point, the operation becomes quite self-explanatory. Start with the lowest resolution (480i) and start testing each with the blue “B” key. If you can see the screen, select it and move on. If not, your HDTV doesn’t support that resolution.
Now that you have found all of the resolutions your box can pump through your HDTV, you’re ready to go.
Believe it or not, this actually works quite well. After configuring each of my HDTVs, the picture quality noticeably better, all due to my box’s ability to show video without conversion. I have very few complaints.
One thing to watch out for, though: Once you set this up, the cable box will need to switch resolutions to match the source signal. Because of this, your HDTV screen will blink through black with each channel change. This is not an issue and will not harm your screen.
Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who covers everything from Google to HDTVs. He currently writes for over 15 popular technology publications, including CNET’s Digital Home, InformationWeek and Future Publishing in the UK.