The black bars may be added by the HW180STB for output over HDMI or they may be present in the broadcast. You would need to look at a recording using a video editor to find out whether or not they are part of the picture as broadcast, and maybe also use MediaInfo on the file containing the recording to find out the aspect ratio and video resolution used for the broadcast.
There are fewer display issues with HD channels. For one thing, they are uniformly 16:9 aspect ratio. If you see black bars, they were deliberately added by the broadcaster as padding to create a picture in the resolution used by that channel. I can't recall seeing an instance where an HD broadcaster stretched a 4:3 picture to fill the entire frame from side to side and top to bottom instead of padding the sides with black bars.
4:3 SD channels may pad widescreen content with black bars at the top and bottom to fill a 4:3 frame or they can use something called anamorphic widescreen, where a 16:9 picture is squeezed horizontally to fill a 4:3 frame. Viewers with a widescreen TV can use the picture size/aspect ratio controls on their remote to stretch the anamorphic widescreen picture to fill their screen from side to side and top to bottom.
16:9 SD channels usually pad 4:3 pictures with black bars on each side, but I have seen instances where the broadcaster stretched a 4:3 picture to fill the entire frame from side to side and top to bottom, in which case viewers with a widescreen TV can use the picture size/aspect ratio controls on their remote to squeeze the picture back into 4:3 aspect ratio.
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Ignore list: hello_hello, tried, TechLord
I may just live with it. it's not all that bad and I'm just really glad to be able to record programs.
This is not a deal breaker at all.