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Six Steps To Get More HD From Your Scientific Atlanta Set-top Box

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Cable Box

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:

ButtonsStep 1: Turn off the power to the box and hold down the “Guide” and “Info” buttons at the same time.

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.

FirstStep 2: Press the yellow “A” key on your remote to proceed with configuration.

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.”

Screen 2Step 3: Press the blue “B” key on your remote to enter the “Advanced Mode” menu.

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.

Screen 3Step 4: Choose the “Wide-Screen Mode” option by pressing the blue “B” button on your remote.

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.

Screen 4Step 5: Start running through your the resolutions.

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.

Screen 5Step 6: Complete the set up by pressing the “Exit” button.

Now that you have found all of the resolutions your box can pump through your HDTV, you’re ready to go.

Screen 6

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. [digg=]

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.

83 Responses to “Six Steps To Get More HD From Your Scientific Atlanta Set-top Box”

  1. Carl – yes, my SA 8300 started doing that about a week ago. Tech support had me reboot the box to fix it the first time. Since then, I’ve been able to get by the subsequent lockups by simply waiting them out (usually 30 seconds or so). I found it to be the case that it only locked up when I was watching one program and another program was recording at the same time (the recorded program would stop recording after the lockup). However, I only had this issue for a couple days since I’ve since replaced my 8300 with the 8300HD (since I got a new TV). I’ve only had the 8300HD for a day so I don’t know if it has the same problem. I find it funny that you recently experienced the same problem with the 8300… maybe it’s not the unit?

  2. Has anyone had any problems with the SA-8300 freezing up while watching recorded programs.It requires me to completely reboot the DVR then restart the program from the beginning. I’m trying to figure out if I have a defective box

    • TimberbeastWaco

      problems with the SA-8300 freezing up
      i find this happening when the reset comes from grande’s office at 0300 a few times 0330 0345…0300 is the constant, watching live or recorded shows the same>> note on reboot hit yellow c remote key to kill the interactive updates and off you go/ Have fun. mark/Waco

  3. hi, i live in NYC and Long Island, tried to bring my time warner scientific atlatic 8300 dvr out here for a while, i am a cablevision of long island subscriber,, anyway to hook this up without getting in touch with my cable out on long island, in other words, will my time warner 8300 work out here?? hacking or real set up?? HELP!! thanks…vikki

  4. I am not sure if this did anything for me, but…….. It was cool to see a new menu screen! Actually… I think it did tweak my screen. Things looks nice! Thanks!

  5. If your TV is reporting 1080i on some channels and 720p on others, then it’s probably set correctly. (To others, an important menu option is to set preference “Set: Picture Format” to “Auto DVI/HDMI”, otherwise it will always output in a single format (1080i by default); if it’s set right, AUTO will display in the LED display on the front of the unit.)

  6. I have this box. My TV is a 1080P. When I am watching programs I can press the “INFO” button on my remote and see the resolutionn that is being recieved by my TV from the SA 3800HD. I already get some channels at 1080i and 720p from the SA 3800HD. I assume that there is no point in going through this process. Am I wrong?

  7. Michael

    I just got an 8300HD box from Cablevision. In response to the comments from December about nothing happening when the Guide and Info buttons are pressed, note that the “hack” photo above (taken from Cablevision’s guide) shows the buttons being pressed on the box itself (pressing the corresponding buttons on the remote did not work for me; you have to get off of your couch and go to the box).

  8. benjamin stroud

    i have time warner cable in kansas city mo and i have an 8300 dvr box and i it has the new navigator software witch i hate because it is not as easy to use and i did what you said but when i turn off the power to the box and hold the info and gudie buttons down nouthing happens does this matter wather our not if it is an 8300hd our 8300 i dont have hdtvs yet so i dont have the 8300hd box just the standard 480p sdtv 8300 the outher thing is i see that in the book that came with both of my boxes it has one front usb port and one rear sata port how do i hook up an exterinal usb hard drive our sata drive to use as more storage for the dvr when the dvr hard drive inside the box gets full in the book it says that is what the usb and sata ports are for but time warner does not have them activaded so how do i activat them can any one help please?

  9. Jeff H

    Has anyone figured out how to get to the “Settings” menu when using a Comcast remote (which doesn’t have a “Settings” button)? Thought perhaps there was a key combo that would bring it up.

    • Had a little run around with a Rep concerning the lack of support concerning Setup/ and HDMI supported boxes. Turns out “I was one of the lucky ones” who missed this feature. Her suggestion. “I might try going into my local Comcast” dealers and see if they have any new boxes? Hit and miss…. first come, first serve Is that customer support? But to question on ”
      The select / Info and guide question? On the left side of the “8300 ” remote, there is a slider like button that selects all the box settings. (Found by mistake) Personally, I think the box is joke, and as customers, we shouldn’t be forced into little, or no options for The cable box. TVIO runs circles around this equipment, and can up graded.(Increase HD storage)

      An opinion.

  10. There is an instruction booklet that goes over this process in quite detail – therefore I wonder why it’s being referred to as a hack here, it’s more like a setup wizard than a hack – if you go into the menu while you’re watching tv you can set picture format/display as pass through and this will usually not make the flicker happen when it converts the signal, seems to be more seamless – should also be noted that in most cable systems HD boxes do not output HD signal through Coax cable – to answer any past or future questions on issues with dvdrecorders and such and picture qualities –

  11. Piece of crap the SA Explorers are. The UI is totally bush league. It’s laughable. TiVos, DirecTVs, Dish Network/Bell ExpressVu blow this most basic dinosaur technology away. Wake me when you CAN tell me how to hack to get free channels. Zzz….. (7+ year-old “technology”)

  12. Yes, you can get this at the Scientific Atlanta website.
    Unfortunately my 8300HD can not bring up the setup
    wizard. I called Time Warner and the tech said it wasn’t possible. Unfortunately, my component video inputs are 480p and 1080i, the hdmi/dvi are 480/720/1080, but the
    only resolution the box puts out is 480p. So the tech is
    coming next week.

  13. Mitchell

    These instructions will NOT work for the 8300HDC. What is curious is how you obtained an 8300HD now, as 99% of the rest of the country who has Time Warner is being forced to use the HDC with the new “Navigator” software. The real story here, and what i find interesting, is that I can find NO refrence to how unhappy customers are with this software. I think that major news media, and even major news bolgs such as ones from CNET, are afraid to report on this disaster. Go ahead Don, investigate. Then try and publish the story. You will be blocked.

  14. Help! My Sony DVD Recorder only has composite-in (R,W,Y). That means I will be using composite-out from the cable box, into it. Am I losing valuable HDTV or HDMI signals from the start? Even though the DVD-out goes on to include more choices: optical digital audio-out, hdmi-out, and s-video-out, do the HD or HDMI signals filter through and go on to produce an HDTV picture? Or, am I killing myself from the start? Do I need a better DVD recorder?

  15. Time Warner customers using the new Navigator software Take Note: This ‘hack’ doesn’t work with Navigator. Time Warner, in their infinite wisdom (or patronizing view) have decided that their customers are too dumb to work this out, so they have completely disabled the ability to change resolutions. If you are using HDMI (and lets face it, if you want HDTV why wouldn’t you) then you cannot set any resolutions. The STB will select it for you automatically. This is very unfortunate because when you have a 1080p capable TV, it would be nice to output everything at 1080 so that screen resolutions and aspect ratios will display properly. The only option to get around this is to dump your HDMI cable and connect with component. Then you are “allowed” to select the resolution yourself.
    Hopefully someone will come up with a REAL hack that can re-enable the resolution setting ability that the 8300HDC actually has on-board.
    I really cannot understand a company that deliberately disables a machine so it is ‘dumbed down’ for their customers.

  16. Kevin McKee

    The 8300HD uses at least two types of software. The two widely distributed versions are “SARA” by Scientific Atlanta, and “Passport Echo” by Aptiv Digital. If you press the play button and you see a yellow triangle marking your current position in the program, you have SARA. If you see a line with the time above it, you have Passport Echo. This hack doesn’t seem to be included in Passport Echo. This is probably because the output options are always available in the Setting menu with Passport.

  17. I have this box on Time Warner in NYC. I can already choose from 1080i, 720p and 480p with the built-in settings so I’m not sure how useful this hack is. I only enable 1080i and have the box upscale. I’ve noticed that after power outages this setting seems to reset itself and all formats are enabled. This means a flicker when switching between SD and HD channels as my TV has to do the scaling.

  18. Justin Walther

    No luck on a Time Warner SA 8300HD. I unplugged from the wall for 30 seconds as well…let it boot up…then tried the 2 buttons. Nothing happens. Anyone else with Time Warner experience this? Perhaps the lock out this setup.

  19. Don Reisinger

    Hey Sahu,

    Try unplugging the box from the outlet and plugging it back in after about 30 seconds. Once rebooted, press both the buttons with the power off. Let me know if that works.


    • Don,

      I as well am having issues with changing these settings on my cable box. I have tried with the box on/off as well as after I unplugged it.

  20. don, i too am on long island, NY with Cablevision and just got the box. thanks for the advice.

    what’s amazing to me is that savvy consumers have no clue that they need to use special cable connections and reset their TV.

    Much obliged! It looks great.


  21. Allan Bressler

    I have Cablevision in NY and just picked up the same box last week. In the installation guide they show you how to run through this procedure after you hook up all the cables. Not sure why the other companies using the same box don’t point it out.