1. Without a HD box, you'd probably be best with component cables. Your box likely doesn't have HDMI, and until you take the step into HD, you won't likely be getting any benefit from it. As well, component cable (Red Blue Green) will work with HD, so when you do make the switch, you don't necessarily have to purchse a new cable.
2. An HD Box will make HD-channels look much clearer. However, the current standard-picture upconversion to a high-definition television isn't bound to give you a significant amount of improvement. Unfortunately, we're in a transitional period waiting for the networks to broadcast in HD, but until they do, the fuzzy appearance on your television from SD-channels is considered normal.
3. If everything is widescreen, it may be because of a setting in your cable box. It's a combination setting between what the box is outputting, and what the television is processing. A little adjustment on your cable box, and subsequently your television should get you the picture you're looking for.
HDTech's personal opinion (in his third person authority here!) prefers to watch content in the exact framing it was filmed in. Others may bring up a valid arugment about "why did I purchase this television if I'm only using a portion of the size", to which I reply, "Indeed! Watch it the way YOU prefer it".
As far as those settings go, think of it as putting a wide-screen edition DVD and watching it on a 4x3. You could change your DVD player's settings, but the source content is widescreen, and will therefore, be crushed. So what you want to do is get your cable box to output the source you watch most, and then adjust your television screen formatting.
On that note, since you have a plasma, I would definitely enable the grey sidebar option (Settings Menu) if you're going to watch 4:3 programming on a 16x9 panel.
4. Next to the VGA port is an audio input, which is the standard 3.5mm input. You can run a male/male 3.5mm audio from your laptop to your television, as a 2-channel solution. If you have 5.1 capabilities available on your soundcard, I would definitely recommend that you transfer from your computer to your surround sound audio source.
5. The best source cabling is HDMI, with Component at a close second. From there, I wouldn't recommend much for HD content.
6. Wii, or any static images, may cause burn-in if the static images are kept there for long periods of time. For the first 100 hours of your set, you want to fill the screen as much as possible.
The Samsung panel you purchased has several features that help prevent burn-in, also in your Settings Menu. I would highly recommend using the Scrolling Feature under the Settings Menu, which scrolls bright white-to gray-to black images if you suspect that image retention has occurred.
Usually after the initial 100 hours, your television will be pretty versitile as far as image retention goes. However, you want to be careful that you don't leave images there for prolonged periods of time. The manual suggests a specific percentage of time, and that's what we recommend.
There is also a technology called pixel-shift on your panel that moves the picture up a few pixels, left a few, down a few, and right a few pixels. That feature came enabled out of the box, and you have probably never noticed it. I've looked for it with a static image and never noticed it. That also helps your panel prevent burn-in, and I wouldn't disable or lower those values.
Let me know if you have any further questions. We're here to help!
Pardon my naivete for all things wide screen and plasma, but I have been watching a tube tv forever until today. I just purchased the Samsung PN50A450 today and have a few questions:
1. I do not have an HD box at present, using my Shaw digital box what is the best connection for the best picture? Currently using coax cable.
2. Will an HDbox with HDMI cables improve picture quality vs the digital box for non HD channels? Pictures appear somewhat grainy at present except on 4:3 which makes the image smaller and clearer. Viewing distance is 10-12 feet.
3. The widescreen is a bit weird to me, everything appearing stretched horizontally, I am watching on "zoom 1" to correct this, is this normal? Are there sources where the 16:9 would give a "normal" image (non stretched)?
4. VGA to connect laptop video, but what do I use to transfer laptop audio to the tv? I am thinking of getting LG HT963TA 5.1 audio, I would assume I plug audio from laptop into that as well? Cables? Help.
5. Source for best video settings for best picture?
6. Will Wii cause burn-in?
Any other advice or info appreciated.