What?s so Digital about Digital Cable?

I have been pondering a long time about getting satellite where I live so I can enjoy the many channels and the digital signal it has to offer. Upon investigation it turned out that my apartment isfacing in the wrong direction with no south western exposure. I live in an apartment complex and putting a dish on the roof is out of the question. I had no choice but to look into other alternativesfor television.

With so many new shows this year on HBO and Showtime, I was willing to upgrade my cable service so I could get these stations and experience superior picture and sound. I have a Dolby Digital/DTS receiver and a 55? HDTV so I am outfitted for the best.

The cable provider in my area is ATT Broadband so I went to their website to see what they offered. It turned out they do offer digital cable in my area and because I live in an apartment complex, I would get digital cable at a special rate. Interested, I called the sales office for ATT broadband to find out more information.

The sales representative I spoke to was very nice. He informed me that I get a special discount for living in an apartment complex that uses ATT services. I told him about my current setup and wanted to know more about the digital cable receiver and its capabilities. He told me I could either get a receiver with coaxial output or one with s-video output. I was told the receiver with s-video output would show a higher resolution, about 525 lines of resolution on my television versus the 240 that the coaxial output would provide. I had also been told that the receiver had SPDIF output for Dolby Digital sound. I decided to order two receivers, one for the family room and one for my bedroom, with the s-video and Dolby Digital outputs. I hung up the phone with a feeling of excitement. Now I would be able to get 100+ channels including all the movie channels, and DMX music stations all in great resolution and with Dolby Digital sound. The installation date was set for two weeks later on a Sunday.

Two weeks later?

The ATT installation technician shows up at 2:00 PM Sunday afternoon. He has the two cable boxes with him and the rest of his installation equipment. As he is working behind my television hooking up the cabling, I sat down to take a look at one of the two cable receiver boxes. On the front of the box it says, in the upper right hand corner, ?Dolby Digital?. The box is sleek looking and has perfect component rack width fitting in perfectly with my existing stereo equipment.

Much to my surprise, when I flipped the box over, I saw NO s-video output or Dolby Digital output. Instead there was a metal plate in each of the spots. I told the technician that there was some sort of mistake because I had requested the receivers with s-video and Dolby Digital output. He told me that they aren?t available and that the sales rep had been mistaken. I then realized that I was blatantly lied to by the ATT sales rep. It was a Sunday and ATT had their offices closed. I became absolutely furious. The cable technician told me that he too would be disappointed by their false advertising and bait and switch tactics. When I called Monday morning to complain, I was told that their sales people do not tell customers that there is an s-video out port on the box and that I must have been ill informed.

My experience thus far with Digital Cable has been mediocre at best. In fact, the only thing the digital cable receiver adds, from what I can tell, is an onscreen menu and DMX music stations. Stations 1 through 100 are broadcasted in analog form while any station above that are broadcasted digitally, but remember the box output it coaxial so your television resolution is the same as basic cable despit a cleaner signal. It?s like getting the same number of stations as you would with satellite but with a worse picture. The menu is slow to show up and the receiver switches channels slowly. ATT even sells advertising on the menu as well, which is very annoying when you are trying to switch channels or browse the menu with ads showing up in the corner the whole time.

The picture quality is the same as regular cable too. There is no advantage over satellite with Digital Cable at all. With satellite, you can now get local stations, the picture quality is a true digital signal, and you have the option for different brands of receivers offering different features. With satellite, you can truly get Dolby Digital output and s-video output. They even have satellite receivers with HDTV decoders built in and component video output.

So if you are considering getting digital cable but can get satellite as well, it?s a no brainier? get the satellite. Don?t let ATT Broadband sucker you with their clever commercials because Digital Cable is a joke. It makes me wonder why the receiver box is as large as it is because obviously there is nothing in it. In fact, there’s not much that’s digital about ATT Digital Cable at all.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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