TV Picture diffenences between HD and non HD

I am considering the Sony 42" WEGA LCD Rear Projection HDTV (KDF-42WE655) but I am confused about the display quality for non high definition stations. Will this TV display the non high definition stations okay or do I have to stretch the screen for full display and, therefore, the picture image will be distorted? What does it look like if I do not stretch the screen? Please explain the picture display differences between the high definition stations and the non high definition stations? Thanks.....
I'm a long-time HDTV user. The best technique, I have found, is to buy a very high-quality component video cable, and send both HD and regular def signals through that. Your cable box, if indeed you use cable for your HD service, will allow for this in a menu.

If you use a mediocre component video cable, the regular def picture won't even look decent (I use Better Cables Reference Silver Serpent, and am trying to find a used or demo Tara Labs RSC Component cable).

P.S.--I have not tried this with DVI or HDMI, so I can't speak to using those options in the same manner.

P.P.S.--On my screen, reg def looks best when you allow the TV to go ahead and letterbox the sides. It does look a little distorted when stretched across, to my eyes. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Well, it all depends on your source, but I'll tell you what I have. I recently purchased a Sony 34" widescreen HDTV. My primary sources are my Progressive Scan DVD player and my Time Warner Cable 8000HD cable box. When I am viewing an HD channel from from TWC it is displayed in all it's HD wonder and beauty and takes up the entire screen. The settings on my TV allow me to alter the way that almost any signal is displayed - I can change it from Normal to Zoom, etc.

When I zoom a non-HD channel I do notice that it is somewhat distorted so I generally don't make changes, I take whatever the cable box is giving me - which is usually the black bars on the left and right side of the display, although these can be changed in the cable box settings, too.

I don't know if all of this info makessense or has helped you in any way but feel free to ask additional questions. Also, if you are planning to view HD content from a satellite or cable company, try to find a retailer (or go to the local cabel company office) and take a look at it. My local Time Warner office keeps a variety of TV's in their lobby to highlight the various options and has a widescreen tube TV prominently displayed.
Good luck!

The option to stretch non-widescreen (doesn't have to be HD, can include DVD, for example) is generally to prevent burn-in on certain sets. I don't believe LCD is subject to burn-in, so I would just display it boxed, whether the signal comes in over component/DVI/HDMI. There are those that maintain that standard definition signals on HD sets look better coming in through S-Video connections, since it "softens" the picture a bit. You might want to give that a try as well.
On my Plasma I stretch the screen to promote even wear across the entire display and to prevent burning the black bar image into the screen (Mentioned above) I got use to the stretched look and it dosen't bother me. There's two ways to stretch the screen. You can stretch the outside or the inside. by stretching the outside everything in the middle of the screen is normal. This is what I prefer. Enjoy your new TV!
I recently bought a Sony KD34XS955 HD set (tube). Which component cable do you recommend? I'll be getting my HD signals from Comcast Cable. Any good options for about $100 used?
Hi The problem with the setting that stretches the picture to wide screen on on the outside edges is that there is a lot of distortion if there is a lot of action like football or war movies. This setting is more for talking heads. I put mine on standard 6:9 whatever that setting means which kinda compromises all around. Also I think the worst picture quality is local stations through Dish network because the signal goes up to the satellite first and then down through your satellite signal. So if you go that route, you may be disappointed with your purchase. I'm jealous already. Dan
I do not have HD, yet, but I purchased a large (52" DLP) TV two weeks ago and I can say it can be a love / hate thing. I really like viewing with a large screen, but bad signals look really bad, as all things are much bigger, obviously; I use Dish Network and my connection is via coax.

A couple terms to get straight - for years we have all watched TV's that displayed the picture is 4:3 aspect ratio, where the new larger TV's have a screen that is 16:9 aspect ratio; these TV's allow users to view non 16:9 signals is a 4:3 mode as well as stretch those 4:3 signals to the 16:9 to fill the whole screen.

Personally the stretch modes bother me so I suggest everyone to consider this before purchasing; if it will bother you then narrow your search to a TV that doesn't have "burn in" issues from someone viewing long term in 4:3 (narrow) mode.

You asked what the picture on non-HD signals would look like if not stretched, well the picture would look normal, but it wouldn't fill the whole screen, you would have "black bars" on the sides. Take this into account too because the screen is obviously not viewing at its actual size. Example, my 52" TV when viewing in 4:3 mode becomes a 42" TV. Another example, the Sony 34XBR960 is an awesome (tube) TV, but if you view in 4:3 mode that 34" picture is now 28"; this was a huge turn off to me as that was much smaller than I wanted, but that is me.

Lastly, non-HD channels can at times leave you wondering why you spent the money, but HD is the future, it is my suggestion to buy with that in mind.

C/Net has 10 buying tips that are quite good.
Another note, I made a change this weekend that brought my experience much closer to love than love / hate, I changed from using a coax connection to RCA's and for whatever reason this was a big improvement. I should note that the piece of coax I was using didn't look the best. Anyway, this is something you may want to experiment with.
Given the dearth of HDTV offerings, I opted for a EDTV Plasma. I find DVD and HDVT signals look simply amazing. At a normal (greater than 8 foot) viewing distance, I couldn't tell the difference between a true HDTV and EDTV from a digital cable source. (Lets face it the difference between 480P and 1080i is only about 10% because of the interlacing).

The justified (i.e. stretched at the sides) setting take a few days to get used to the distortion, but now I only am aware of it during fast horizontal panning. I prefer this setting to the risk of burn-in. I did notice that CBS-HD does vary the letter-boxed colors from black to a light gray during standard aspect-ratio broadcasts, so leaving the letter-boxing during those times may be fine.

Also, Time Warner Cable of NYC varies the quality of their DTV service. In other words, some standard-def channels are very clear, with a minimum of artifacts, while more obscure channels are noticeably more pixelated.

I'd recommend a decent-quality component video cable. Personally, my experience is that the limiting factor is the source not the cable. You may want to test out a few set-ups, and find the right price-performance level for your taste. IMHO, if you like the picture and sound, just enjoy it. Often I feel too many people get hung-up on squeezing the last 1% of signal out of a system instead of the programming that's being played.

I have 2 different component video cable - an Acoustic Research that I bought fairly inexpensively at a big box store and the cable that Time Warner included with the HD cable box. Both work fine for me, which is good because I'm not in the market to purchase a $100 component video cable.
This probably isn't terribly helpful, I know, but the person above that said that the source is more important than the cable is probably right, though opinions vary greatly.