Should you use DIRECTV’s “Native Mode?”

Hidden deep within the DIRECTV menu structure is a setting called “Native.” You may have seen it and not known why it was there, or you may have tried it and noticed it didn’t seem to do much.

Native mode is a carryover from the early days of HDTVs when “you couldn’t have it all.” There was a time when the ability to scale from one TV resolution to another was a very expensive trait, in fact. People wanted to show it off.

Unlike cable, DIRECTV’s HD service has always given you true quality in HD picture and sound. If the original picture was 720p, DIRECTV sends it out at 720p. If it was 1080i, it goes through DIRECTV’s systems at 1080i. Most cable companies pick one resolution or the other and force all programs to follow that. There was a time when people really took pride in their ability to show 720p programs in 720p and 1080i programs in 1080i.

There’s only one problem: your TV. An LCD TV can really only show one resolution. For smaller TVs that’s usually 720p, while larger ones only show 1080p (not 1080i, due to the characteristics of flat TVs.) Everything is converted to one resolution by the TV. As a result most TVs have fairly good scaling equipment that can do the job quite well.

That’s where DIRECTV’s native mode comes in. You have the option with DIRECTV: let your receiver or DVR scale everything to one resolution, or pass it along to your TV and let your TV do the work. It’s pure preference: If you think your TV does a better job of it, if it looks better to you, then do it that way.

To test this out, try native mode by pressing {MENU}, then going to Settings&Help, Settings, Display, then Video. Change the setting for “Native” from Off to On. Then try tuning different stations to see if you can tell a difference. For your 480i test, try any standard definition channel. For the 720p test, try ABC, Fox, or ESPN. For your 1080i test, try CBS or HBO. If it looks better to you, keep it that way!

You’ll probably notice a delay of 1-2 seconds when your TV changes modes, and the screen may turn black. Most folks are ok with that but if you’re not, native mode just isn’t for you and that’s ok. Use the same menu, but change Native back to “Off.” You may need to push the RES button on the front panel or the FORMAT button on your remote to get back to the display mode you want, but once you do that, it will stay that way.

The bottom line here is that this is your choice, and whatever looks good to you is best.