Putting the HD Back in HDTV
February 25, 2009 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Can I watch television from my HD antenna and basic cable service together without much hassle? If not, how cheap is digital cable in Austin?

I have a Westinghouse HDTV with an HD antenna and basic cable connected by a coaxial switch. If I want to watch something in HD, I have to switch to antenna, erase the TV's list of channels, and rescan. Same to reverting to cable. Needless to say, I don't use the antenna at all because of the hassle.

Several questions. It's a rich tapestry of problems, so apologies for lumping them together:
  1. Is there a way of having the HD antenna and analog cable live in harmony without this ritual? Are there even TVs that can manage this? I am fairly certain my TV can't handle multiple lists.
  2. If the answer to (1) is 'no', I could upgrade my cable. I live in Austin. What is the lowest I should expect to pay for a good number of HD channels? Time Warner's page does not make this answer obvious.
I'd like to avoid purchasing digital cable. Basic cable is paid for in my apartment, so paying for digital would be equivalent to paying immense amounts of $ per new HD channel per month. Hell, getting a smarter TV that can juggle two channel listings might even make more sense. Or perhaps there's a third solution I'm not aware of?
posted by spamguy to Technology (6 answers total)
Some TVs have multiple coaxial inputs. But I think your best bet with this TV is to get a cable box and have it plugged into the TV over a second input (component/HDMI).
posted by jozxyqk at 10:09 AM on February 25, 2009

TimeWarner Austin digital service will run you about $50/mth after your taxes and fees and whatnot, then another $8 for the box or $4 for a CableCard (if your TV can use it, which it doesn't look like you're doing) and of course there's tax and fees on that too. With the digital service you get all of the stuff you're getting in standard definition right now, plus a bunch of other digital channels, and about 30 HD cable channels and the local stations in HD. You can pay a few bucks more and get more HD channels like HDNet, Universal HD, and MGM HD.

My LG TV doesn't require you to rescan the stations between antenna and cable inputs. It keeps them in separate buckets (analog channels, HD broadcast, and cable) so you only need to have it remember the channels you get once.

A lot of times TWC will have deals where if you're getting basic in your apartment for free, the bump to digital isn't as much. Unfortunately the only pricing on their website is standard pricing and you have to call them for whatever offers they may have at a given time.
posted by birdherder at 10:44 AM on February 25, 2009

If your TV has a QAM tuner (it probably does) it should be able to pick up the HD channels (which the cable companies are required to distribute unencrypted). You won't get ESPN-HD, but you will get all of the HD channels that the ATSC tuner is picking up over the air (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.).

I'd poke around avsforum.com for a thread covering your provider in your area, someone will be able to answer the hows/whys/wheres better there than here, or you may be able to answer them yourself just by reading through a thread or two.
posted by togdon at 10:47 AM on February 25, 2009

If you really want to solve the problem, Windows Media center handles multiple tuners and shows both tuner channels in the guide and switches with no problem.

If you have a spare PC laying around, that may be a cheaper option than subscribing to HD cable.

Also, OTA HD picture quality is much better than HD from cable providrs.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:49 AM on February 25, 2009

I *think* a diplexer might work in your situation. Satellite subscribers typically use them to combine signals from the dish (for satellite channels) and an antenna (for local channels). Hook your UHF antenna to the satellite input; your cable to the other input.

FWIW, my Samsung HDTV (an older CRT-based unit) has dual inputs. It's definitely a convenient feature. OTA antenna on the first input, cable on the other; I can toggle the inputs with the remote.
posted by bhayes82 at 11:19 AM on February 25, 2009

I had a Samsung HDTV that had two inputs and you could switch on the menus whether you wanted Antenna or Cable and it would remember the stations for both. Run a channel scan in cable and see what HD stations you can get. They won't likely be friendly numbers, but they work. (for instance, my NBC is 22-1, CBS 22-3, Fox 91-5, ABC 91-6, PBS HD 91-1)

You'll likely also pick up 40 channels of music choice since that is usually unencrypted.
In order for this to work, you must have a QAM tuner in the TV. (as togdon already mentioned)
posted by ijoyner at 9:22 AM on February 26, 2009

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