Digital converter box reviews?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by faintember, Mar 26, 2008.

  1. faintember macrumors 65816


    Jun 6, 2005
    the ruins of the Cherokee nation
    So I started to do some research as to what is the best digital converter box since I will be needing one soon, as will my parents and grandparents. Basically after doing some ole-fashioned google searches I came up with almost no reviews of digital converter boxes. So I figured I would post what I have found so far, and would hope that others would post any reviews that they find. My apologies to the mods if this is too close to the Terrestrial Television thread; merge if needed.

    Digital TV converter boxes: First Look
    Note that the Zenith and the Insignia are both made by LG Electronics, and the differences noted in the CR review may be due to a defect in one of the boxes.

    Consumer Reports Blog
    The full test reports seem to be delayed, or I just can't find them, as the blog was posted March 6th.

    Customer reviews:
    Magnavox at Wal-Mart
    Insignia at Best Buy
    Zenith at Circuit City
    Zenith at Radio Shack

    Other info:
    List of converters that are eligible for the government coupon
    Find the digital/analog status of TV stations in your area

    Looks like I am leaning towards the Zenith unless some more info surfaces soon.
  2. dtvgirl macrumors newbie

    Mar 26, 2008
    Agreed, no real converter box reviews

    I work for a public television station that will be greatly impacted by the digital conversion since a good percentage--30%--of our viewers are viewing via analog now. Many are older and/or will choose to not buy a new digital tuner equipped TV. So, why was I interested in your entry?

    Our station wants to create page on our website where viewers or the general public can share their converter box experiences. In the process, I have been thinking what the right pre-set questions are to ask and then, of course, leave room for free form comments.

    Keeping in mind our audience, who may not be technically savvy, here are some questions we're thinking about using:

    1. What converter box do you have? [drop down menu of the coupon eligible converter boxes.]
    2. What zip code are you using the box in? [we believe the zip code will give us enough info to see what the location/topography is like]
    3. What type of antenna do you have? [we've found simple loop antennas actually worked better than the special amplified ones.]
    4. Where is the analog TV located in your house? [maybe drop down menu: high rise, upper story, ground level, basement, etc] We've noticed location in the house makes a difference.
    5. Was it easy to set up? [1-5 star rating]
    6. Which local channels do you receive with the box? [to get at whether they are able to pick up all the channels]
    7. Rate the picture quality? [1-5 star rating]
    8. Overall rating [1-5 star rating]
    9. Open form comment box

    Do you have any comments?
  3. arcthered macrumors newbie

    May 15, 2008
  4. macwall macrumors 6502

    Nov 5, 2007
    Cupertino, CA
    I would just get the cheapest one. I don't think that the "features" on the more expensive ones really add any significant benefit.
  5. WLW65 macrumors newbie

    May 22, 2008
    This is all very frustrating. I have spent so much time reading about different boxes and I still do not know which one I should get. If I could combine 2 or 3 of them I could probably get the right thing. Once you purchase one with the coupon, the coupon is gone. So if you make the wrong choice you will end up paying for another one.

    I went to a couple stores and the employees had no idea how they worked. I had to stand there and read the info and tell them what features they had. I left without one.

    Some of the few reviews I saw said some have complicated menus. Some will still receive analog, some will not. Some have different channel memory and adding features. They have different inputs/outputs. Why does the DTV site not have a point to point comparison section for the approved models?

    My mother is 86 and is going to have to set one of these things up and maintain it. I see many phone calls in the future asking me why the TV is doing ???

    The PSA announcements they have on TV make is sound very simple, get a coupon, get a box. I am not finding that to be true. From most of what I have read, I may also need a different antennae, etc.

    My mother and I are both avid PBS watchers and I would hate to lose the ability to watch the programs I enjoy on that channel and others. However, I am on the verge of just using the TV for DVDs.

    My antennas are are set up now so that I have few reception issues. I do now want to mess with the antennae every time I want to sit down and watch TV, I could just read a book without all of this hassle. However, my mother watches a lot of TV and I need to make a good choice for her.
  6. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    That doesn't matter. Whether or not the boxes have NTSC tuners (analog) built-in, all analog tv broadcasts are being turned off February 17, 2009. All TV stations will be broadcast solely via digital (ATSC) signals, and you need the ATSC tuner (convertor box) to watch it.

    The input is going to be a standard coax/RF connector. Get a box that has the correct outputs for the TV you're using. Check the back of your TV and get something that matches. If you have an standard def TV, it's going to be either S-Video or composite video/audio.

    If you have an HDTV without a built-in ATSC tuner, you'll want a ATSC tuner box (these are different than the cheap "convertor boxes") with component video or HDMI.

    It's really easy. You get the box and plug it in. You don't need special antennas: the whole "HD Antenna" thing is a load of crap. You can get a perfect ATSC signal with a set of rabbit ears. Whatever antenna set-up you have now will work fine with ATSC.

    One of the great things about watching digital tv over the air is the fact that you don't have to adjust your antenna at all to make your picture clearer like you do with analog. As long as you're getting the signal, you get a perfect picture (and in HD! if you have an HDTV).
  7. Tilpots macrumors 601


    Apr 19, 2006
    Carolina Beach, NC
    Not entirely true. Low Power stations will not have to make the switch for the time being. You can tell if a station in your area is LP by watching their station IDs. It must be clearly marked there: WWWW-LP as compared to WWWW-DTV.

    The other reason to get a box that passes an analog signal in addition to a digital signal is that if you buy the digital box now, and only several stations in your market are broadcasting DTV, you'll have to continuallly switch sources to recieve the other channels. A box with analog pass-through will do this for you.
  8. phatbabythornto macrumors newbie

    May 23, 2008
    Digital Transition

    I Know that this Transition is a load of crap being fed to the public by the government. I work at an analog T.V. station. That has been told on Feb. 19 2009. We will just tell the people we have gone digital but we will still remain analog. What many people are not thinking about is this:
    If so many stations have already gone digital, how are we all still getting thier signal with our analog t.v?

    Honestly, not all stations are going digital. They just are telling the public that to make them go out and buy a "government mandated" box. If the switch was really for the good then why are they not offering more information to the public. Yes, I have listened to the excuses that digital is cheaper and how I can get more channels on digital. I live in an older neighborhood and many of the older generation will be left behind in this switch and the government is not doing anything to help the little old lady down the street with no grandchildren or anyone to help her ease through this thing.
    Also, I bought a box from Radio Shack and the reception is terrible. I called the 1-800-DTV Converter Box number and was told they could not help me out. I called the number included listed on the Box and they told me they where only there for system issues, such as the box not turning on, not to answer questions about reception. Many times I would be watching a channel then the screen would read weak or no program. I fooled around with the antenna and the box till I nearly took them both out and shot them. After many hours of searching on the web about the boxes, I was told I would have to buy a high powered antenna to get all the channels included my local ones like PBS, granted the station is not far from where I live.
    If you ask me, this all is a pain, and all the government is doing is "reinventing the wheel". Analog works, if some people wish to switch to digital let them but do not end all analog singals forcing people to upgrade.
  9. yg17 macrumors G5


    Aug 1, 2004
    St. Louis, MO

    Because they're broadcasting both right now. But analog will be going away in February.....
  10. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    Until the FCC fines you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    I love that you registered just to make that one post.
  11. WLW65 macrumors newbie

    May 22, 2008
    Over the weekend, I tried reading over more of the documents I printed out regarding the boxes, etc. I tried to highlight ones that had basically the same features and features that were different. Then I read some more info on smart antennas.

    I also read some info regarding setting the VCR to record more than one channel and how you would have to physically change the channel on the box, not just program the VCR. The more I read, the more frustrating it got. I finally just put it away. I believe it was Consumer Reports that found some boxes had a signal problem if you connected a VCR.

    By the time I buy antennas, boxes, cables, etc. I might just be better off buying a TV, which seems to be what they want you to do.

    At Christmas, I purchased a TV/monitor for my mother since her computer monitor died. The TV has a digital tuner. I watched it while I was there, but it would freeze and appear to have interference a lot of the time. I could hear the analog TV in the next room and the digital one would freeze and so it was constantly several seconds behind the other TV.

    Has anyone tried watching digital TV through a different digital tuner such as a DVR? If I am going to spend money, at least it could be for something with more functionality than just a converter box and antennae, if it would get decent reception.
  12. 7on macrumors 601


    Nov 9, 2003
    Dress Rosa
    Just thought I'd say the government isn't just doing this to "screw" with the common man. And Analogue did just work fine - but being analogue it is using very valuable airspace. By clearing out the analogue signal, they're making way for AT&T and Verizon to unleash 4G capabilities... which ironically would have more coverage than their current 3G. If the 700Mhz was dedicated to analogue TV forever then who knows when the US would get caught up with the rest of the civilized world?
  13. Dagless macrumors Core


    Jan 18, 2005
    Fighting to stay in the EU
    I believe in the UK the analogue spectrum is being used for free, over the air HDTV. No 4G for us :(
  14. Phat Elvis macrumors 6502

    Dec 26, 2005
    Phila, PA
    So I have one TV with an analog signal and one HDTV with a digital signal. Both are hooked up to rabbit ears. I live close enough to both broadcast sites that I get really good reception from both. The problem with the digital signal is that it is impossible to watch something that barely comes in. There ends up being a lot of pixelation and sound disruptions. When an analog signal is barely coming in then there is a double image and some quality problems - but you can still watch it. With that said, it's a moot point since the analog signal is going away. Just don't expect the digital signal to be 'perfect' since it does have some quirks.

    The pixels were too much for my wife and now we have FIOS. I like having more stations and a DVR - but I hate having to pay for it.
  15. lovechild macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2008
    I used to have an Insignia, which was causing problem when overheats, audio would disappear and I had to reset the box & let it cool for a while before turning back on. Then I've got a recommendation from a friend to get a Sansonic FT300A, which works great, audio quality is excellent and no problems what-so-ever. You can go to for more info.
  16. MrWeinerDog macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2009
    Sorting through the confusion on Digital Converter Boxes

    It can be pretty hard to figure out which digital converter box to buy. I went to Wal*mart and got one that was a total piece of junk. But then I found this site:

    and got the Tivax they recommended -- I love it. Hope the link helps.
  17. fireshot91 macrumors 601


    Jul 31, 2008
    Northern VA
  18. macfan881 macrumors 68020

    Feb 22, 2006
    you do know the dtv switch got delayed do you? :rolleyes:

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