Friday, June 19, 2009

And if you have NOT purchased a TV converter yet and need an opinion...

Matthew Moskovciak at CNET, June 11, 2009

As of June 12, 2009, nearly all over-the-air analog TV transmission will cease in the United States. If you rely on over-the-air analog TV, you'll need to get a DTV converter box and the clock is ticking if you want in on the subsidized-coupon program--the last day to apply is July 31, 2009. Whether you pay for the converter box out of pocket or using the coupon program, you'll want to get the best value for your money, and we've compared many of the converter boxes available at major retailers.
Out of the boxes we've tested, our favorites are the RCA DTA800B1 and Dish Network TR-40 CRA. The DTA800B1 has an excellent remote with jumbo-size buttons, a basic electronic program guide (EPG), solid video quality, and it even works with new Smart Antennas that automatically align themselves to get better reception. On the other hand, the Dish Network TR-40 CRA has the best electronic programming guide by far, displaying several days' worth of data in an easy-to-read layout. Coming in right behind those boxes is the Zenith DTT901, which actually has the best image quality of any of the boxes we've tested, and the Apex DT250, which is loaded with features but doesn't pull in quite as many stations as the other boxes. The GE 22730 Digital Converter Box comes in a distant last and should generally be avoided, as its video quality is poor, it's difficult to use, and it also pulled in fewer channels than the other boxes we tested.

Lastly, if you've got an analog portable TV that you'd like to work after the transition, the Winegard RCDT09A is the only battery-powered converter box we've seen so far. It runs off six D batteries and lasts for 18 hours, making it a good option for those that live in areas prone to power outages.


These converter boxes are all capable of handling their basic function reasonably well, and they'll enable you to use an analog TV after the switch to all-digital broadcasts. They should give you access to just as many digital TV broadcasts as an HDTV, and all provide acceptable picture quality. Based on our tests of the first boxes to arrive in stores, the Insignia and Zenith converters provide a slightly better image and some added features that make them more convenient to use than the Magnavox. The Zenith and Insignia performed closely overall, but the Zenith didn't show the same quirks as the Insignia did when we used the composite-video output, so we would choose the Zenith. Still, if you want optimal picture quality from digital broadcasts, you'd be better off buying a decent digital TV.There are higher-priced, full-featured converter boxes available, but they're overkill for use with an analog TV, which can't take full advantage of their capabilities. Also, such boxes don't qualify for the government coupon for DTV converters.

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