Big Picture Big Sound

Why Does my Time Warner HD cable box only put out Standard Def (480i)?

By Chris Boylan


Dear Big Picture Big Sound,

I just noticed that when I press the "info" button on my TV remote (Toshiba Regza 32" HDTV) it says that it is receiving 480i even though my recently installed Digital Cable Box (Time Warner) is tuned to WNBC-HD, for example.

Further, I cannot see any channels in a format different than 4x3 without manipulating (distorting) the picture size (I have it on "natural" by default).

What can I do? I guess I am not receiving any HDTV channels.

Thanks in advance for any help.

-Pedro, Astoria, NY


Hi, Pedro,

Greetings, fellow Astorian! Your best bet to properly debug the problem would be to contact your service provider (Time Warner) so you can get the HDTV service you're paying for. But based on experience, there are a few things that might be happening.

First of all the non-widescreen issue is due to the fact that your TV is receiving channels in 480i resolution. Once you solve this, the widescreen digital channels should automatically fill the screen when widescreen content is being broadcast as the anamorphic widescreen flag will be embedded in the digital video signal. Do make sure you're watching the HD channels though, which I believe are in the 700+ range on the Time Warner HD boxes (e.g., 701, 702, etc.).

In terms of the 480i resolution problem itself, assuming you are tuned to the HD channels, this is probably being caused by one of the following:

  1. You may have configured the cable box to only output 480i in the set-up menu
  2. You may have a bad box (may need to be replaced)
  3. This may be a temporary problem with the box and you may need to reboot it by physically unplugging it from the power outlet and plugging it back in after 10 or more seconds
  4. You might be powering up your components in the "wrong" order - when connecting via HDMI, many source devices (e.g., the cable box) will poll the display device to see what resolution it can accept and make sure it's HDCP-compliant. If the TV is off, then the cable box gets no reply and it may step down the resolution to 480i. So always power up the TV first and make sure it is switched to the HDMI input before powering up the cable box.

If the problem only started occuring after switching over from component video to HDMI cables, then it is most likely the 4th problem. In this case, either switch back over to component video cables or make sure to power the TV on first.

If none of this solves the problem, then defintely contact Time Warner as they may have more detailed debugging procedures to help identify the specific issue with their hardware..



Keep those cards and letters coming! if you have a question for one of our home theater experts, shoot us an e-mail to "Ask The Expert." We'll select among these for future installments in this column. Due to the volume of requests we receive, we cannot reply to each question personally.

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