Can you turn an old tube TV into an HDTV?

Sad to say, it cannot be done. You can watch signals from most HD sources using a converter like this one but it’s still going to be in standard definition. The quality may look pretty good but when all is said and done it’s still going to be an analog signal with a maximum of 480 lines of vertical resolution, in other words, “standard definition.”

There are some devices out there that claim to turn an old SD television into something magically similar to an HDTV, but don’t believe them. We don’t sell them at Solid Signal and we don’t recommend you buy them. In fact, if you have a tube TV at all these days, it was probably made before 2005 and so it’s definitely in its dotage. If you’re happy with it, feel free to keep it but know that it’s going to get more and more limited and you’ll need to spend more and more money to make new things compatible with it. Is that money really well spent? That’s up to you.

But please realize that your old tube TV is never going to be a high-definition TV. You may coax a bit of quality out of it but nothing even close to HD. The TV just won’t handle it! In order to put out a TV picture, your tube TV sends a beam of electrons from the top to the bottom of the screen, sweeping back and forth 262 times in 1/60th of a second and repeating the trick 60 times a second. In order to make that TV do high-definition, you’d need to have it sweep back and forth twice as fast, twice as close, to get the 540 line minimum for high-definition service. To get the top level of HDTV, known as 1080p, it would need to sweep 1080 times from top to bottom, each 1/60th of a second.

And let me tell you something, that’s not going to happen. Even if you took your TV apart and custom-rigged the timing circuit (AND DO NOT DO THIS BECAUSE YOUR TV TUBE CARRIES 20,000 VOLTS) then it would work for about a minute and then the transformer would blow. I will grant you that deftly applying this method would give you an HDTV for about 60 seconds but I really don’t think that counts.

Any solution built into a cable or small box is not going to work. Period. The picture may be a little better, it may be a little brighter, but it won’t be HD. Don’t waste your money on gimmicks that promise to “bring new life” into your old television. I say, let the old life naturally expire from your old TV and then get something that makes more sense today.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.