Question about video scalers

I recently purchased a Sony Bravia 40" lcd television and am less than thrilled at the quality of some standard definition material. Our previous CRT display, a 32" hdtv Hitachi Ultravision, actually looked better to me than the Sony and looked great on all programming, hdtv or standard. The Sony looked better than anything else in the store on hdtv, but the inhome experience lacks a bit on standard def. I'm sure a big part of it is that the larger screen magnifies source quality discrepancies. So, my question is, how well do video upscalers work and how much does one have to spend to get acceptable quality? I see everything from $300 units to $5k or more Runcos. Any tips or where to purchase and what to look for? FWIW, cable service delivered through an Atlanta Scientific Explorer 8300hd box/dvr connected via component inputs. I've got a HDMI cable on the way.
i was also very unhappy with SD material on my new HDTV, but it really isnt the TV's fault. A scaler may not be able to help much, what may help is a call to your local cable provider to request some assistance. This may mean adding a signal booster or it could mean having a technican come out and clean the local fiber node.
LCD's tend to look soft overall. Sony is one of the nicer pictures out there however. You might find some improvement with a scaler, but your display might be the final limitation. I would try avsforums.

CRT black level and phosphore speed is much better than most LCD displays so this is what you may be seeing. Ultravisions were pretty good, especially if they were set up right. Yeah, it's not flat, but the picture is better.
You could run the signal through a coumputer and TV card (I'm not sure if Hauppage PVR has ouputs back to TV) along with a shareware program called DScaler. There might be sound sync problems due to computing time, so a very fast computer is needed.
It is still true that CRT gives the best picture quality, but you may be able to get more from your LCD by using one of the setup/calibration DVDs like Avia. My understanding is that all sets ship to look good in a brightly lit store.
Well. Whats happening is that Standard def material is being upscaled to fit a higher resolution fixed pixel display. Upscaling is technically difficult and a quality scaler DOES make a difference; however, you cannot create a picture better than the original source resolution.

Bottom line- The scaler in the Sony LCD is not the best. If you intend to watch a fair amount of SD material, try a video scaler; I belive your result will improve. It IS the scaler in the display that makes a difference.

Also, your box will likely have resolution options--in theory it should be set to the resolution of the display. Try all options though and combinations and see what happpens.
I think Photon46' point may be that the substantially lower line count of standard definition format, when played back on a large screen high-definition TV means that things are chunky. You get the same problem with DVDs on ultra-large full high-definition screens (like the new 65" Panny plasma or the 72" Sharp Aquos LCD). When Sully in Monsters Inc. has his blue fluff turn into digitized hair (with right angles to follicle edges sometimes), which can only be reconverted to fluff by squinting a bit, one realizes that the high-def screen format really begs for high-def source material.
I think a part of the problem starts at the stores such as Magnolia/ BB/CC and the like,in that have a higher resolution feed than we have at home. Not to mention some sets are just set better-- in their menu's--Which is why colors differ set to set,in the stores. So, you get your set home and there is some letdown.---(In that their feed has a higher bit rate/less compressed.)
CRT's do black better than any other tech,so having one in the same room, or having that, as your last tv, don't help much.
A scaler in the right hands could help,I would guess; --- much like a calibration WILL help.
I read LCD's have come a long way;but they were starting from the botton rung,re. blacks.
In TPV,set after set,-- that they review/.i.e. plasmas/lcd's ALWAYS score low for black level,some score low for color accuracy and the like.
Also, factor in that HD SHOULD look better;it's why we buy the sets.
At least there is now an equalizer.--- HD-DVD or BlueRay. Now PQ at the store should be =,if we have one of those players at home(Or buy one).
Get an ISF certified technician to calibrate your tv before you waste any money on a scaler. I had it done on my tv and it was a night and day difference:
T_bone's last sentence hits the nail on the head concisely and accurately.
Photon -
Yes - a quality scaler will significantly help making SD look better.

Look into DVDO , I've had good luck with a VP30 with the ABT102 card

More expensive (but others say is good too) is Crystalio 2