Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Passing on some info

I've discovered a few things about AT&T U-Verse the past few months in terms of aspect ratio and HD programming that I wanted to pass along.  Both of my grandparents have U-Verse and both have HD service and HD flat-screen TVs.  My Derby grandparents got U-Verse way back in 2007 when it was still new because my grandpa had an HD TV that he wanted to get more out of (i.e. HD channels).  Right off the bat, despite paying for HD channels, he wasn't happy about how they looked and it seemed they never displayed totally right on the TV.  We always had to mess with the aspect ratio and adjust the picture so it fit correctly.  The control box for U-Verse also has a little blue light on it to indicate it is getting an HD signal.  Despite several phonecalls to AT&T early on, he was never able to get that little blue light to come on.

Well, last year the original HD TV (which weighed a ton or so it seemed) up and died, so he got a new flatscreen TV to replace it.  I figured that would help some of the aspect ratio problems since the old TV was a very early HD TV (from 2002).  We got it all set up, but it still seemed to have problems.  Not only did we still have to set it at "Zoom" even on HD channels, but when we did so, the edges of the picture were cut off.  In most cases that's not a big deal, but on channels like ESPN, CNN, Fox News, etc. with a ticker on the bottom, you can't read it.  Because of that, my grandpa would leave the setting at normal, so even HD channels would be displayed with a huge black box around them.  My Ridinger grandparents, who had also gotten an HD TV and AT&T U-Verse in 2008, had the same problem with the picture being cut off along the edges.  They really didn't care, but it bothered my dad and me.

Earlier this year I was looking into getting U-Verse phone service for my Derby grandparents to combine their phone, Internet, and TV since TV and Internet were already coming from U-Verse and the landline was from AT&T anyway.  While looking into whether running 2 phone lines into the same router the TV and computers were also using would affect Internet speed, I stumbled across some U-Verse forums that talked about the settings for the AT&T control box, particularly how to change the aspect ratio.  When I had the chance a little while later (maybe a few days or so), I checked the settings at my Derby grandparents house and sure enough, it was set at 4:3 standard definition.  So, not only was the signal coming in without the HD, it was being formatted for a traditional square TV, hence the need to use "Zoom" on the TV (to eliminate the black box around the picture) and why it displayed with the full black box around the picture when in "normal" mode.  The AT&T box was putting the vertical black bars on either side of the picture (formatting it into 4:3) and the TV itself was putting the horizontal bars above and below the picture too.  I switched it to 1080i (the highest available), and boom, not only did that solve the problem of picture size, it also made that little blue HD light come on.  AT&T boxes are automatically set at 4:3, but few people seem to realize that.  As a result, people are paying for HD channels, but are getting cheated a bit because it's not as sharp as it should be and it's not displaying properly, either with edges cut off using the TV's Zoom setting or with the black box around the picture.  If you have a flatscreen TV that is HD capable, then it can handle the highest setting.

When I figured that out, I thought I had figured out the problem with my Ridinger grandparents' TV as well.  Once I was finally able to have time to "mess" with it (both my Ridinger and Derby grandparents have the TV on much of the day, so it's hard to get time to do anything with it), I discovered it was slightly more complex.  Even after switching the settings to 1080i, it still wasn't displaying correctly on the TV and was cutting off the edges.  What I found out was that the AT&T box was connected to the TV by way of a standard coaxial cable, so even though it was now properly receiving HD signals (the little blue light came on), the box had no way of relaying that to the TV because of the cable.  So I went to Walmart and bought an HDMI cable and plugged it in.  While that made a noticeable difference with the picture quality, I noticed it was still cutting off the edges on channels like CNN, ESPN, Fox News, etc., channels that use the tickers on the bottom and/or side of the screen.  Through trial and error, I discovered to correct that, I had to set the AT&T box back to 4:3 standard definition, then put it on 1080i again.  And by set, I mean totally set and confirmed it.  Once I did that, problem solved.  The other day my dad was over there and he did something to the TV or AT&T and the edges were being cut off again, so I had him set it at 4:3, then change it back to 1080i and it corrected it again.  No idea why, but it did.

SO, if you're having problems with your AT&T U-Verse not displaying correctly, make sure it's set properly!  It can be found using the AT&T menu, go to "Options", down to "setup options", and then to "aspect ratio".  When you choose a screen resolution, you select it, then the TV will "test" it, and if it displays a picture, you confirm the change.  Make sure your TV itself has the aspect ratio setting at "Set by program" or "Automatic".  This varies by TV, but it usually found in the TV Menu under video settings or Setup.  Some TV remotes have an aspect ratio button on them.  Also, make sure your AT&T box is connected to your TV with the proper cables, either HDMI or HD component video cables (has blue, green, and red ends), not the typical red, white, and yellow component cables or coaxial cable (black and round).  When your AT&T box is receiving HD, a little blue LED light should come on.  It's located on the front of the box in the middle and is labeled.    

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