Blue Ridge Cable HD Review Was vising in laws this weekend and they finally stepped up to HDTV with Blue Ridge Cable in Northeastern PA. They have a Scientific Atlanta 4250HDC set top box connected via HDMI.
Upon close inspection of the HD pictures on Blue Ridge Cable, I have to say it's really good. There were some compression artifacts on the local fox affiliate during the NASCAR race, however you cannot see this unless your right up against the screen. The colors were vivid and motion artifacts were minimal on national HD channels like Spike, Bravo, HGTV, MTV, etc... The set top box was setup for native mode, and I was pleasantly surprised on how responsive it was at changing channels with the Passport GUI.
There was one glitch Saturday night where upon changing the channel the screen went grey. The UI loaded, but no channel would display. In the upper right corner of the guide it was also a grey screen. SD, 720p HD, 1080i HD - all grey screens. We had to hold the power button on the front of the 4250HDC until it said boot, then push it once to restart the receiver. It did take awhile to boot up, just like a DirecTV box would. However, guide data is all available once your in a usable state - unlike a Motorola system where you can use it right away but everything is "to be announced".
HD-VOD was clear as well. Also just as responsive to trick play commands as SD-VOD. What it looks like they do is when you enter VOD, a QAM session is immediately fired up and the graphics for the menus is generated remotely, because this is the only graphic menu that fills the screen, and you can see the compression artifacts around all of the text.
The cable box was running Passport 5.1 build 094 on top of 220.127.116.11sp Home Gateway CableCARD edition 1.2. Remarkably the fastest cable system UI I've ever played with. Literally no lag in navigating the menus. Menus fade in/out and slide. Still not an HD-UI, but the best SD-UI in terms of responsiveness and polish.
Apparently the SDV diagnostics have 8 channels in the SDV tables. I'm not sure which channels were switched, but there wasn't any extra noticeable lag beyond the norm when watching the channels they got.
There's still a few HD channels that they do not offer, but the majority of the most popular networks are there - including ones that DirecTV does not even carry. If your in a Blue Ridge area, consider them. More info here: »www.brctv.com/tv/hdtv
The HD Package could use a little re-working though. The HD+ pack is an extra $12 a month, and one of the channels for example is National Geographic HD. However they get National Geographic in SD with the regular digital package, so it makes no sense as to why this is in the package which is an extra charge.