I traded 2 set-top boxes today for one that matches them both in features, the Scientific Atlanta 8000HD. Previously I was using both the 8000DVR and the 3100HD box. I now have 1 box that is a highly capable HD DVR.
Immediately the return to full-time HD watching is huge. Our preference was for the DVR features and with a baby, we’ve had to limit the amount of HD watching to allow for unexpected breaks. This box lets us eliminate the sacrifice, and just focus – literally – on the quality.
Picture quality is superb, but could be even better with a different television. I am using a Toshiba HD set purchased 4 years ago – so no DVI for me, though the SA box fully supports that. (I actually called Time Warner and inquired about this… it’s scheduled to be turned on in the near future – whatever that means. Instead I am using the Colorstream cables which are a series of 3 RCA cables for each piece of the color spectrum. S_Video is another option. There are 2 options for digital audio – coax and optical. I only have a single coax in on my integrated amp, and my optical cable is not working (argh!) so I am currently using the RCA out. Sound is still quite good and as I recall from my previous set-up HD has better sound as well as video.
For non-HD channels you can choose in the settings, whether you’d like to leave things in 4:3, stretch or zoom to fill the 16:9 screen you have. I chose zoom, since I hate the bars and find that stretch is way too distorted. There are a few widescreen options on my set with which I can further tweak the picture.
Otherwise, there’s a USB port on the front, but no FireWire, so we can’t even complain to get it turned on. There’s no schedule for the USB and even if there was a FW active port you would not be able to easily copy content to DV for DVD archival. There are clearly marked in/out options in the back. I am not sure what exactly you might drive in, but the out seems optimal for VHS archival, as if anyone uses that with an HD box.
That’s about it. The little I’ve watched to check things out, seems good. The DVR features are seemingly identical to the non-HD 8000.