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Television Media

Where Are All of the HDTV Tuners? 208

Posted by Cliff
from the in-case-you-forgot-to-buy-one dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "Today I read about rabbit ears making a comeback with OTA HTDV. I want to purchase a standalone ATSC HDTV tuner to go with my projector, but I am having a very hard time finding one. The big-box stores seem to only stock one or two models and are frequently sold out. Searching online yields similar results. It would seem that there would be ever increasing demand for these tuners given that many HDTVs were sold without internal tuners in years past, and these tuners will be necessary for all old NTSC TVs after the February, 2009 shutdown of analog broadcasts. Where should I look to buy one of these devices? Of the currently available models, which are the best? Will the standalone HDTV tuner become a ubiquitous item as the 2009 deadline approaches?"
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Where Are All of the HDTV Tuners?

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  • Samsung (Score:5, Informative)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday February 26, 2007 @12:48PM (#18154292)
    If you can find a Samsung SIR-T165 [amazon.com], SIR-T451 [samsung.com] or DTB-H260F [samsung.com], pick one up.

    I have an SIR-T165 and it works great. Tunes all analog cable, OTA analog and digital, plus OTA HDTV. Supports all formats. No broadcast flag, IEEE-1394/FireWire, DVI, VGA/RGB, S-Video, component, composite. Samsung did a really great job packing in a lot of connectors, formats, and functionality. The SIR-T451 appears to add QAM for digital cable (in the clear, no doubt), and HDCP on the DVI.

    This doesn't answer the question about where they've all gone, but Samsung did a good job and hopefully you can pick one of these, or something like it, up somewhere.
    • $180 (Score:3, Informative)

      by davidwr (791652)
      For that price by the time OTA analog goes dark you should be able to get a VCR or DVR with an HD tuner built in.
    • I picked up a Voom TV [hdtvheaven.com] box from a local installer after they folded, just so I could get HD OTA broadcasts.

      Paid a whopping $50 for receiver and another $25 for the VOOM flat panel antenna and mount. Only had to buy a little COAX to go with it, and I was set. Even came with its own remote.

      As I understand it, the VOOM box has to have been activated for it to be of any use, so be sure you check on that point before picking one up off Ebay, etc.

      --
      Karma is overrated!
    • Re:Samsung (Score:5, Interesting)

      by winnabago (949419) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:37PM (#18155186) Homepage
      I use a Samsung SIR-T160 together with an amplified Terk indoor UHF antenna. It outputs to my HD monitor, and I've never been happier. It's a decent unit for tuning, and even shows program guide info where it's available. In an urban area I get ABC, NBC, CBS, CW, 2 feeds of PBS, FOX, and assorted local digital stations. I didn't even bother hooking up the VHF ears to it, because DTV comes in so well.

      The Samsung receivers are available on ebay in abundance, well south of 50 bucks-just be careful that you understand how to set the unit to non-DirecTV OTA mode - it may require a used access card to stick in the back.

      Also, in response to another post, some digital stations ARE on lower numbered VHF channels, and when the switchover happens, some currently on uhf will move down to vacated space, so don't assume that it's only UHF in your city, or it will always be.
      • I too have one of these Samsung units. It's a good tuner. Originally it was a DirecTV receiver with cable NTSC and over the air ATSC and NTSC support for local channels. I got it for something like 20 bucks on eBay and disabled the DirecTV part of it, now it's just a fine ATSC/NTSC/cable tuner box. I'm quite pleased with it. I think one reason they go for so cheap is because this line had a funny quirk where if you leave it unplugged for a while, when you plug it back in, it won't work at first. All y
        • by winnabago (949419)
          Yes, I know the error, it was related to a firmware revision that would try and wait for a telephone line connection, I believe. I got mine for about that much and let it sit overnight until it fixed itself. Off topic, though, I have one gripe about the tuner, and that is that it is not possible to add channels that aren't currently being received to the channel list, so if you are not getting an OTA station at the exact moment of autoprogramming or manual tuning, you are unable to have it show in the lis
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Monday February 26, 2007 @12:48PM (#18154302) Journal

    Over the air (OTA) HD isn't restricted yet, but I developed an industry paranoia over the last ten years and don't trust that OTA will:

    1. continue to be available, and
    2. continue to be unrestricted
    One may find themselves with an external OTA tuner and on the outside looking in as to what's available for viewing.

    It's probably one of the reasons you don't see many rabbit ear and external tuners available at the electronics stores. And if there is any groundswell to "free" access to HDTV by consumers indicated in trends towards antennas and external tuners I'm guessing the industry will take note, and tighten the thumbscrews on how you can access OTA (e.g., some convoluted cable requirement, or antenna to TV DRM).

    As much as I hate cable, satellite (actually I hate satellite a little less than cable), etc., I think going the OTA route could be something you kick yourself for later. Hold your nose, bite your lip, and sign up for cable or satellite (I've had good luck and service from Dish...)

    • OTA is not free. Advertisers pay for it instead of end users. They have to pay for access to us. Subscriptions fees are chump change next to advertising. OTA isn't going anywhere.
  • by croddy (659025) on Monday February 26, 2007 @12:48PM (#18154306)

    What was the first time they told us analog TV was going away "real soon! we promise!!"?

    Wasn't it something like 1997?

    Seriously, guys, I'll believe this one when I see it. The FCC's digital TV broadcast announcements have become a pathetic parody of the boy who cried wolf.

    • What, do you think it's just not going to happen? It's only a matter of time before SDTVs aren't being built anymore, and then only a matter of time before the gross majority of households are using HDTV.

      Clearly the FCC did a poor job at estimating a timetable and expected HDTV prices to drop much faster than they have, but I see no reason to think that SDTV broadcasts aren't going away eventually.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Clearly the FCC did a poor job at estimating a timetable and expected HDTV prices to drop much faster than they have, but I see no reason to think that SDTV broadcasts aren't going away eventually.

        There's a difference between digital and high-def. The FCC was requiring that all analog broadcasting go digital by year-x to save alot of frequency space. Said broadcasts would still be in standard definition but would require a digital tuner to plug into your TV instead of just bunny ears or roof-racks if y

        • by Mariner28 (814350) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:50PM (#18155412)
          Let's be even more clear about this.

          Analog over-the-air television broadcasting is going away. The OP is confusing SDTV (Standard Definition digital TV) with Analog. SDTV is still digital - it's just at the same resolution as analog NTSC - 480 visible scan lines (525 including non-visible vertical blanking interval).

          SDTV is not going away: stand-alone SDTV tuners will allow you to receive digital TV and convert it to analog for display on your old TV, or for recording on you even older VCR.

          It's lights-out for analog TV over-the-air broadcasting in 2009. Analog via cable is another matter. As long as the cable companies can squeeze dollars from that turnip, it will continue.

          • by vtcodger (957785)
            ***It's lights-out for analog TV over-the-air broadcasting in 2009.***

            Barring a miracle, the chances that analog TV will be shut down in 2009 are roughly the same as those that George W Bush will be elected mayor of Ramadi, Iraq in a free and fair election. My guess is that the next analog deadline in the on-going debacle that has been digital TV rollout in the US will be 2012. And the real shutdown will be in 2015 or later.

            Many congressmen have staff people who are capable of figuring out the consequ

          • by Luyseyal (3154)

            Analog via cable is another matter. As long as the cable companies can squeeze dollars from that turnip, it will continue.

            And so long as they price the digital at 2 - 3 times the cost of the analog version, that will continue. The shitty part is they've made the analog cable worse, intentionally, to drive sales of digital cable.

            I said "fuck em" and went with an inexpensive Dish network package.
            -l

        • That's kind of a technicality that doesn't remove my point-- either you have to buy a new TV, or buy a tuner. Owning an HDTV removes the issue.
          • by croddy (659025)
            No, I don't have to buy a new TV, and I don't have to buy a new tuner. I don't have to buy anything... much like the majority of American TV viewers who aren't upgrading equipment that's perfectly fine, I can just keep using my existing equipment. The folks who are running out to Circuit City to buy a 36" LCD HDTV are in a niche market. There are a whole lot of sets left to displace before mandated obsolescence becomes either economically feasible (for the broadcasters) or politically feasible (for the feds
      • I see no reason to think that SDTV broadcasts aren't going away eventually

        You're right - the problem is the GP poster seems to think 10 years is a long time. I bet 20 years from now you'll need an adapter to downsample HDTV which will be the only feed source still around, but people will still have NTSC sets. Those adapters should cost $12 by then, so not a big deal.

        In the meantime a big chunk of the existing wire plant in the US needs to be replaced and the satellite providers need to launch many more bi
        • by Overzeetop (214511) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:36PM (#18155168) Journal
          DirecTV has already done it, and that's more than half of the sat world to most consumers. Of course, they cannabalized their (mumble mumble) data service to do it. Dish just keeps adding dishes to the lawn to bring in more sats.

          It takes less bandwidth for digital cable than OTA, and having two hundred more shopping channels isn't exactly on consumer's must-have-now list.

          10 years is a long time. Consumer HD devices have been out for quite some time, it's been the encoding that has kept the whole thing from going anywhere. Most of the problems with the roll out stem from the FCCs total lack of backbone in setting the standard (singular). Instead, we got a "whatever you guy want" spec that is a royal PITA to implement. And don't even think of arguing VSB or QAM. As a consumer, I don't give a shit which has more technical superiority in certain circumstances - I want it to work. The FCC should have mandated a single type of encoding. Period. We all agree that VHS was chosen over Betamax for user-friendliness over quality - but you get enough eggheads and technophiles in a room with the bean counters and you can pretty much just ask the consumer to drop trou and bend over.
          • by Phil Karn (14620) <karn@ka[ ]net ['9q.' in gap]> on Monday February 26, 2007 @03:20PM (#18156966) Homepage

            And don't even think of arguing VSB or QAM. As a consumer, I don't give a shit which has more technical superiority in certain circumstances - I want it to work.
            VSB and QAM don't even compete with each other, so there's no debate. 8-VSB is used over the air while the various flavors of QAM (64-QAM, 128-QAM, 256-QAM) are used over cable. 8-VSB is specifically designed to resist noise, both digital and analog co-channel interference, multipath and selective fading. This robustness comes at the expense of data rate. 8-VSB over the standard US 6 MHz TV channel provides 19.39 Mb/s.

            US cable systems also use 6 MHz channels, so 8-VSB would certainly work over cable too. But it would waste cable capacity because the cable channel is so much cleaner than the broadcast channel. 256-QAM, popular on US cable systems, provides about 38 Mb/s per 6 MHz channel, about twice that of 8-VSB in the same bandwidth. This signal is necessarily more 'fragile' than 8-VSB, but it works fine on a well-engineered hybrid fiber/coax system.

            Perhaps you meant to compare 8-VSB to DVB/OFDM, the over-the-air scheme used in Europe and other countries? This is where the debate has raged. OFDM, with its built-in multipath resistance, had a definite advantage over 8-VSB in early implementations. But as the receive equalizers in 8-VSB improved, it has become at least the equal of OFDM according to the on-air tests I've seen. Both work.

            Many digital TVs sold in the support both ATSC 8-VSB and QAM signals. 8-VSB is obviously needed for over-the-air reception, but you can't necessarily receive digital TV from your cable system even if you have a QAM tuner. My experience with Time Warner Cable is that all of the digital TV channels are encrypted except for the minority taken from local TV broadcast stations. In other words, with just a QAM tuner in your set you can't get anything from cable that you can't get from an antenna. This makes the QAM tuner much less useful than it could be.

            Some (but not many) digital TVs have slots for a "CableCard". You rent this from your local cable company, and it decrypts the remaining digital channels for you (or at least the ones to which you have subscribed). Besides not being available yet on most digital TVs, current CableCards are unable to handle two-way services such as video-on-demand and pay-per-view, so it's just not very useful yet. That means you might as well rent a digital tuner box from your cable company and plug it into your TV set with HDMI so that you don't use the TV's QAM tuner at all.

            • And that's partly my point.

              I specifically meant to compare VSB and QAM. Oh, sure, you can double the bandwidth over cable with QAM, but do you have to? Would it not have been better to have a single tuner standard, with a single encoding standard, and a single resolution standard? I'm an audio/video geek, I admit it. But to be honest, after watching a decade of failed product after failed product I'm inclined to believe the Television should be like a Mac - it should just work. It's not optimal, it's not th
      • by croddy (659025)

        Yes, I think it's just not going to happen. I think there is a much greater chance that over-the-air broadcast will be made entirely obsolete by network content distribution before the feds ever throw the switch on NTSC. I also think that the claim that SDTVs will simply not be manufactured anymore rests on the faulty assumption that NTSC broadcasts will be turned off.

        • Yes, I think it's just not going to happen. I think there is a much greater chance that over-the-air broadcast will be made entirely obsolete by network content distribution before the feds ever throw the switch on NTSC.

          So it's a race, which will happen more quickly: HDTVs will become ubiquitous -or- the big OTA networks will give up on their business model. Which do you think will happen sooner?

          I also think that the claim that SDTVs will simply not be manufactured anymore rests on the faulty assumpti

          • HDTVs can display a SDTV picture, so there's not really much of a downside to HDTV except price, and that price keeps coming down.

            All of the HDTVs on sale now seem to have a 16:9 display, even the CRT ones. I don't want an HDTV until the shows I watch are in 16:9 - why put up with a squished picture, or wasting space on black (sometimes grey) bars on the sides?

      • SDTV does not mean NTSC. If you had read previous posts, maybe you would understand that. Even at Slashdot, things have to be dumbed down for the masses. Not all digital is HDTV, nor will it ever be. Only analog is eventually going away. Duh!
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday February 26, 2007 @12:51PM (#18154342)
    At least one compact tuner is the Elgato EyeTV hybrid [elgato.com]. Use that with a Mac mini, and you have a great DVR that does OTA HD as well as standard def TV - and all of the video recorded is DRM free, transcode away or burd to DVD or do whatever.
    • From Elgato Systems' description:

      use it to connect a set top box to receive premium channels, digital cable or satellite (in standard definition).

      Therefore, doesn't address the author's question.

      • I am pretty sure that device does receive OTA signals. If not, at least one of the things they make does - I have an EyeTV 500, which receives OTA (no set top box) HD signals. You can, in theory, use any combination of Elgato gear together and it all works with EyeTV which as I said is actually a pretty good DVR (you can do live pausing and rewind while you are recording and so on).

        Also, why does this part not say to you it would work:

        "Watch analog as well as free over-the-air digital TV on your Mac."

        I me
      • Nice try. I snipped this from a Macworld review - "The Hybrid's tuner can receive both analog cable and free digital ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) signals. ATSC over-the-air broadcasts can be both standard-definition and high-definition."
    • At least one compact tuner is the Elgato EyeTV hybrid. Use that with a Mac mini, and you have a great DVR that does OTA HD as well as standard def TV - and all of the video recorded is DRM free, transcode away or burd to DVD or do whatever.

      That's quite a recommendation (at least $750) for someone who simply requested "a standalone ATSC HDTV tuner to go with my projector." Someone already recommended a $180 Samsung tuner [samsung.com] that might meet the submitter's requirements better than your Mac mini ($600 without DVD burner) plus Elgato tuner ($150) suggestion.

      • The Samsung tuner has an HDMI output with HDCP. HDCP will be needed to watch broadcast flagged content in non-degraded HD.
      • Includes a QAM tuner [wikipedia.org] for unscrambled digital content from cable (even
      • True he only asked for a tuner, but as long as he's going to go to those lengths why not also go for a DVR solution that leaves him with open media and the freedom to schedule remotley, as well as watch web content on the TV?

        I have some counter points to your points:

        The Samsung tuner has an HDMI output with HDCP. HDCP will be needed to watch broadcast flagged content in non-degraded HD.

        Are you sure you are not thinking of AACS HD disc protections here? I was not aware OTA broadcasts ever included this flag
  • I really don't know where the set-top HD tuners are. I do agree they need to be made and made affordably. I would hope that they would be made available for $50-$100, I don't see why that can't be done. Given that most or all broadcasters are transmitting digitally, I'd think there would be a market for them to improve picture quality. I don't even bother tuning to analog channels because of the snow, static and other analog issues that aren't present on the digital signal.

    I just use an HTPC to record o
    • I really don't know where the set-top HD tuners are. I do agree they need to be made and made affordably.

      Market forces play a lot here. The manufactures know their market. The tuners are not cheap to make. Consumers are looking for a sub $100 box. A digital tuner is generealy a $75 UHF tuner with a $75-$100 single board processor attached. Not many people are interested in buying one of these tuners to stick on their 10 year old TV set that had the same value when brand new. Because few people buy th
      • by karnal (22275)
        I've got a projector. No built-in HD tuner there...

        I'm about ready to lay down some cash on a TV tuner for my home theater box that is hooked up to the projector, though. I would much rather have a stand-alone device to do the HD deal, but I can deal with the PC if it's 2x cheaper....
        • I've got a projector. No built-in HD tuner there..

          Which is why there is a limited supply of set top boxes.

          They are not for the 13 inch tv/vcr combo unit you keep in the kitchen.
          • by karnal (22275)
            Actually at some point in the future they would be required for that 13 inch tv/vcr combo that I keep in my kitchen.

            Otherwise it'd just get static.
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday February 26, 2007 @12:55PM (#18154422)
    Rabbit ears are generally useless for picking up HD signals. Rabbit ears pick up VHF signals, while almost all of the HD broadcasts are done in the UHF range. In order to pickup HD signals you'll need to get either a directional UHF antenna (my Silver Surfer works great), a loop UHF antenna, or one of those grid things that you can stick in your attic.
    • I've been using rabbit ears for several months. For some reason, it actually worked better than one outdoor antenna that I bought. I did replace it with an in-attic installation because the CBS affiliate was too far away (IIRC, 40+ miles). The one that didn't work well was an "amplified" antenna. I think amplified antenae are rubbish, I was only willing to try one because that's all a local Radio Shack had that was good for UHF+VHF. I suggest just getting a large passive antenna and put it in the roof.
      • by winnabago (949419)
        The primary use for an amplified antenna is for when you are unable to put the unit next to the tuner. If you have a 100 foot run to the tv, you would probably want to invest in an in-line preamp of some sort to overcome loss in the coax. But, you are correct in that an amplified antenna won't magically bring in distant broadcasters - an appropriate one might, though. Don't knock it because it didn't work for you.

        Tv reception is an amazingly complex affair, and it is difficult to judge any antenna by
    • by antdude (79039)
      I am currently using a DB2 HDTV Antenna [antennasdirect.com] (rabbit ear antenna was too weak (had problems with stronger signal strength [never higher than 50%], but this bowtie type fixed it) with my Broadband Technologies' Air2PC-ATSC-PCI [www.bbti.us] in my computer. This antenna (30 miles) should be fine for HDTV sets if I ever get one.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:01PM (#18154538)
    http://www.silicondust.com/ [silicondust.com]

    go read up. you need a pc (this isn't an end-user device that connects directly to a tv) but it DOES have atsc and clear-qam. meaning: off the air and also cable unencrypted.

    seems to work, too. I love mine. 1 channel of HD takes 15% of a 10/100 ether. gig-e is not even close to needed, here, thankfully. (all the work is in PLAYBACK, not saving to disk, btw).
  • I like the LG 3510A (Score:3, Informative)

    by glennrrr (592457) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:04PM (#18154600)
    I have a couple LG 3510A's in the house, and recommend them for OTA use, very flexible devices, lots of output ports. Forget the fact they are DVD players; too flakey. Every now and again there are a bunch of refurbished players on eBay. Don't overpay, look for ones marked as having bad DVD playback. As for where the standalone tuner boxes went. They are only useful for people who (a) don' have a HD cable box, and (b) don't have a QAM/ATSC tuner built right in their TV. Also, a growing fraction of people have some sort of media PC with a tuner attached. You'll notice there are plenty of choices there. (I like the networked HDHomeRun).
    • I have this box, and if this is one of the best options, I'm aghast. I can't even direct tune to channel 2 in HD. (known bug, apparently never fixed). Its a great unit as far as outputs go, but the DVD player won't play burned discs, and the channel tuning is very slow. On the plus side, commercial DVDs look significantly better than the Oppo thru DVI (I have both players), and it remembers where you left off on the DVD, which the Oppo won't do. Ugh, I can't wait to get a mac mini with an el gato tuner.
      • by glennrrr (592457)
        Well, when you put it that way, it sounds pretty bad.

        I had forgotten about the channel 2 issue, I don't watch a lot of PBS here in the Boston area.

        What I do like is that: these boxes are pretty sensitive receivers, don't lock up on intermittent signals, I can hook them up to an otherwise worthless VGA monitor and make a cheap TV, I can hook them up to the DVI input of my LCD TV and get very good picture, and they can be gotten cheap on eBay.

        And if you get lucky, DVD playback can be extremely go
  • Apparently anti-piracy efforts are proving highly effective in beating HD tuner cards to death.

    HD-TV is the poster child for the kind of anemic, twisted, worthless marketplace you get when #$@%#$@% content providers get all pissy about protecting their #@$#@$$ content!!
  • by Xesdeeni (308293) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:08PM (#18154674)
    What gets me is that we are 3 days from the March 1, 2007 date when every device with an analog tuner, must have a digital one (see "Digital Receiver Availability and FCC Tuner Requirements" [fcc.gov]). That means not only all TVs (even 13" and below), but also VCRs, DVD recorders, etc. But where are they?

    Xesdeeni
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop (214511)
      Maybe everyone has applied for hardship extensions - hey, it kept all but one of my local stations from having to convert to digital broadcasts for 4-5 years.

      Seriously, though, I'd forgotten it was coming up because it had been delayed so long. Of course, we could all be watching HD on either full sets or STBs if the FCC had had the balls to decide on a single ATSC format 20 years ago. Instead, they "let the industry and market forces" decide. Apparently, the industry prefers a clusterfuck, 'cause that's w
    • we are 3 days from the March 1, 2007 date when every device with an analog tuner, must have a digital one... That means not only all TVs (even 13" and below), but also VCRs, DVD recorders, etc. But where are they?

      There appears to be a loophole: devices can meet this requirement by not including an analog OTA tuner (see "March 1: The beginning of the end for analog TV" [cnet.com]). For years we've seen digital televisions with no tuners but lots of inputs for external tuners, and these meet the requirements. According to the article, VCRs, DVD recorders, DVRs, et. al. can skirt the digital tuner requirement by tweaking the analog tuner to only accept a cable TV tuner (but not an analog OTA antenna). The TiVo Series2 DT is a cu

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:17PM (#18154796)
    I would recomend Over The Air digital to anyone. I was also puzzled by the lack of tuners when I went looking for one about 4 months ago.

    There are many more digital channels available in minneapolis than on NTSC (normal) broadcast. I get 7 PBS stations over the air digitally. I get a just for kids Qubo station. I get an all music video with no comercials station. I get 2 weather channels. Plus I get all the local channels in high def, digital perfection and a digital guide. Why would anyone view over the air on NTSC?

    I view this on my beutiful Westinghouse 42' LCD at 1080i but I'm pretty sure my tuner would output to an old 480i CRT TV.

    The Samsung TR451 works pretty well but I have a few quibbles. The guide takes a while to load the information when I press the guide button. The channels take longer to change than a regular TV.
    • by karnal (22275)
      The SIR-T451 is no longer available via www.circuitcity.com - in addition, they seem to have dropped all HD receivers...

      Shame, really. I was going to try to buy one before the Superbowl (about 2 months before) and the local shops only had like one model EACH to choose from. Would really like to get some "face" time with the unit before I plunk down 250$ for the device... ugh....

      In addition, I only have a projector that will do 480p. Doesn't matter to me - would still like to get the OTA goodness like eve
  • by josecanuc (91) * on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:18PM (#18154820) Homepage Journal
    The FCC requirement for transmission and TV sales is for DIGITAL TV, which is not necessarily HD, though it can be.

    DTV is not required to be HD.

    Chances are your local broadcast stations will only be transmitting in HD those prime-time and sports programming. Expect regular morning and afternoon programming to be standard definition with alternate-language or alternate image in the sub-channels (a single DTV "channel" can have 4 SD sub-programs or 1 HD program stream). Some stations are using one sub-channel to show real-time weather RADAR, others do Spanish programming or children's programming.

    I would guess that the predicted-cheap-and-ubiquitous set-top-boxes will not support HD since the goal is to get older TVs to still watch this new digital stuff. (Clearly you will not be able to get a higher definition picture on your old tube!)
    • I would guess that the predicted-cheap-and-ubiquitous set-top-boxes will not support HD...

      They have to decode HD, because what if a particular channel is only broadcast in HD? The box has to decode it. In theory some cheap boxes could have only scaled-down SD composite outputs, but I think by 2009 the box will be one chip and HD component output will be "free".
      • by josecanuc (91) *

        They have to decode HD, because what if a particular channel is only broadcast in HD?

        Should have been more clear: Will not output in HD. I am guessing that the cheap tuners would employ a cheap chip that downconverts to the lower resolution of NTSC. Less connectors on the back means less cost.

    • Chances are your local broadcast stations will only be transmitting in HD those prime-time and sports programming.

      That's pretty much all I watch broadcast television for anyway. All the rest of the time I'm at work. I've found the majority of the television I watch is in HD.

      Either way buying an HDTV with an ATSC tuner has been a great choice, as I don't have cable in the first place. The ATSC signal comes crystal clear, much better than the analog stations. It's worth it just for the 480i shows.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:22PM (#18154912) Homepage
    We're perfectly happy with our 100-pound 27" CRT-based television receiver and the quality of the pictures we receive over the air, with one exception: we don't get channel 2, the local PBS affiliate, very well. I'd love to be ready for the HDTV switchover, and, even if it never happens, I'd still love to be able to view a downconverted version of WGBH's HDTV signal, which should be pretty good (since our UHF reception is very good).

    Every six months or so I wander into a Best Buy or a Tweeter and ask.

    Not only do they not have them, they often don't seem to know what I'm talking about.

    Since my understanding is that The Plan, when they pull the plug on VHF/UHF, is for people that can't afford all-new TVs to buy downconverters... and that The Price is supposed to be in the $20 range.. you'd think that _a few_ would be available _now_, for, say, $100?

    None available, at any price, through normal retail channels. In my (admittedly limited) personal experience.

    Something about this does not make sense...

    Something
    • All the HD tuners I've seen offer downconversion to composite, S-video, 480i Component, 480p component, as well as the HD resolutions. Most of the current digitally broadcast content is 480i/480p, save for prime-time and high profile shows, so usually there's no scaling needed.
      • Seriously, it sounds like this guy hasn't considered simply plugging a coax or composite cable from a DTV receiver into his existing TV. It'll work fine.
        • ...why would I even want to keep my analog receiver?

          Or do you mean "tuner?"
    • I'd still love to be able to view a downconverted version of WGBH's HDTV signal, which should be pretty good (since our UHF reception is very good).

      Not really a call for that yet. For example, I have a Samsung DTB-H260F for my LCD TV, and it works reasonably well (some problems with HDCP... sometimes it works, sometimes not). That can downconvert, but the problem is the menus and such aren't sent out the coaxial/S-video outputs, only the component and HDMI outputs. So you can see the actual program, but y

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Don't waste your money. The final switchover is constantly getting delayed, and the FCC is already looking into heavily subsidizing such "downconverters," so that they would basically be available for free by the time the switchover occurs (last I heard, it had been pushed back until 2009 and probably will be pushed back even further before it's over).

      For the money you would spend on one now, you could buy an actual HDTV in 2009. And, it won't matter anyway, since the converters will be essentially free b

  • Cheat Sheet (Score:5, Informative)

    by fo0bar (261207) on Monday February 26, 2007 @01:41PM (#18155250)
    Most of this information has been repeated in the comments here already, but I thought I'd sum up the dates and whatnot:

    (From Wikipedia) The FCC has issued the following mandates for devices entering the US:

            * By July 1, 2005 all televisions with screen sizes over 36" must include a built-in ATSC DTV tuner

            * By March 1, 2006 all televisions with screen sizes over 25" must include a built-in ATSC DTV tuner

            * By March 1, 2007 all televisions regardless of screen size, and all interface devices which include a tuner (VCR, DVD player/recorder, DVR) must include a built-in ATSC DTV tuner

    That's 3 days from now, AND includes things like TV tuner cards, which explains why companies like Hauppauge just released a "budget" dual NTSC/ATSC line, the HVR-950/1600.

            * A Congressional bill has authorized subsidizing converter boxes that would allow people to receive the new digital broadcasts on their old TVs. The current plan is to make two $40 coupons available from January 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009 for each household that relies exclusively on over-the-air television reception.

            * In the United States, the switch-off of all analog terrestrial TV broadcasts has been mandated for no later than February 17, 2009. Legislation setting this deadline was signed into law in early 2006. Currently, most U.S. broadcasters are beaming their signals in both analog and digital formats; a few are digital-only.

    So, expect to see ATSC tuners become more plentiful in early 2008, once the subsidies start rolling in.
    • by statusbar (314703)
      A subsidy? What ever happened "Let the market decide?", or are we learning to be like the communists now?

      --jeffk++
    • by russotto (537200)
      By my reading, TV tuner cards are NOT included in the mandate:

      From 47 CFR 15.117:

      The reference in this section to TV broadcast receivers also includes devices, such as TV interface devices and set-top devices that are intended to provide audio-video signals to a video monitor, that incorporate the tuner portion of a TV broadcast receiver, and that are equipped with an antenna or antenna terminals that can be used for off-the-air reception of TV broadcast signals...

      PCI and USB TV tuner cards generally d

  • I'm more curious about the quality.
    I have a gianormous HDTV-capable antenna on my house, and we live in a usually-good-occasionally crappy reception area, probably 35 mi from the broadcast antennas. I would very much like to know if I plunk down $300 for an HDTV tuner, am I going to get decent quality, or am I going to get crap (particulary if, as I understand, analog signals that occasionally have a sparkle of static will completely CUT OUT if they are instead being picked up as digital broadcasts...).

    Wou
    • by Stalin (13415)

      According to http://www.hdtvprimer.com/ISSUES/hints.html [hdtvprimer.com], that isn't entirely true. The analog signal doesn't necessarily give you any indication as to how well you receive the digital signal.:

      Picture quality

      The image quality is not affected at all by a low to moderate level of noise in the signal. This is true for both satellite and OTA DTV. Yet some people can't resist wondering "could I improve the image by improving the signal strength?" The answer is NO!

      When the signal becomes too weak, you w

  • While this might seem odd, the Dish Network DVR-622 satellite DVR has an OTA tuner in it as well. I have one hooked up to my 32" Toshiba LCD and love it. You get lots of HD from Dish (20+ channels) and your OTA, and it is all managed by one device.
  • http://pchdtv.com/hd_5500.html [pchdtv.com]

    Shouldn't be too difficult to hook a UHF cable up to one of these

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