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You are right, crt TVs couldnt tell these differences apart. My guess it’s down to oversight from the developers, not following specifications for whatever reason. Video signal specs are kind of a mess from the beginning… I presume noone really reacted before because overscan & geometry was variable between sets anyway, partially obscuring this issue.
I don’t have an xbox, but I’m pretty sure the default samperate is not 780. IIRC you can set it to vesa 640×480, but then samplerate should be 800 (like the ossc 480p vesa input setting). I think in most scenarios, you’d want to set output to regular 480p and use the regular DTV matching sample rate: 858.
If you reduced it to 780, you are undersampling the signal, which in itself distorts the AR. Also you cannot count the active output pixels properly, sampling needs to match output. If I were you, I’d stick with 858, and adjust AR by h.active instead, like I’m talking about in the above post/thread.