Compressed Signals Make Me Depressed

If you've got an eye for crisp video, surely you've wished the high-definition signal being pumped into your living room was even better. The signal quality appears to have good days and bad days, and you may have even wondered if the same HD channel looks better on cable, satellite, or FiOS.

According to one man's test, the differences in quality can be extreme. Ken Fowler, an HD-enthusiast and frequenter of the AVSForum site, compared screenshots of Comcast HD cable service and Verizon  HD FiOS service in Virginia. The shots were taken at the exact same time and the same channel. The pixelated, blurry picture shown here is of the Comcast version of the Music HD channel (the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist).

Check out his sample-size-of-one study to see the differences between his Comcast HD signal and FiOS signal on several (but not all) national high-def networks. Though the differences are shocking, remember to take them with a grain of salt since Fowler only tested his own set-up.

Fowler says Comcast recently began recompressing high-def signals coming from content providers so that three channels can be squeezed onto each 38.8Mbps of bandwidth. It used to be just two channels per 38.8Mbps. All cable carriers must insist upon some amount of compression to make room for more HD channels, but the idea is to do so with technologies that don't sacrifice quality. -Rachel Rosmarin