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Where Are All of the HDTV Tuners?

Cliff posted more than 6 years ago | from the in-case-you-forgot-to-buy-one dept.

Television 208

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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208 comments

Samsung (4, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154570)

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.

Re:VOOM for OTA (1)

n76lima (455808) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154862)

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 (4, Interesting)

winnabago (949419) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155186)

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.

Re:Samsung SIR-TS160 (2, Informative)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156228)

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 you get is a black screen and/or some clicking sounds. After a couple hours though something in the unit gets warmed up again and it works fine. This issue is well-documented online and easily resolved, but a lot of "broken" units show up on eBay this way.

Re:Samsung SIR-TS160 (1)

winnabago (949419) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156624)

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 list. All in all, though, a great bargain for what it is. It decodes to 1080i, too, I think.

it hasn't been restricted yet (2, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154302)

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...)

Re:it hasn't been restricted yet (1)

dyc0n (610779) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154740)

Yagu- Although I agree that your best bet for continued service is to pay for a subscription service but there are major pitfals to this. For instance: my parents only option for tv was satellite, however, because local broadcast ( abc, cbs, pbs ) is said to be available OTA in their area, they cannot get that service through the satellite company. Their only choice is OTA. I don't think that we will have any problems getting free HDtv for years to come OTA because the channels that come in are the same ones that we have been getting for free for years- it's not like we can pick up HBO, :-D .

Re:it hasn't been restricted yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18154888)

Agreed parent,
Do not confuse DTV with HDTV. They are not the same. DTV consists of SDTV and HDTV.

Re:it hasn't been restricted yet (1)

Orphan264 (574472) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154918)

It's not about hating cable or satellite. It's just simple math. How much do you spend to get HDTV channels via one of those services? Why should I spend $75 a month to get compressed/pixelated versions of these freely available channels? You still see commercials eaither way. I am approx 40 miles from broadcast towers and yet receive 11 channels (more than 20 if you count subchannels) with an INDOOR antenna! The box cost me the same as two months of cable. Saving approx $900 a year. I know several people who are moving to OTA after seeing what they can get. Yet, as the original post mentions, the only new box available is a samsung H260F... if your local CC or BB can even stock them.

Re:it hasn't been restricted yet (1)

beckerist (985855) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155298)

Because I would much rather watch South Park than Masterpiece Theater...?

Re:it hasn't been restricted yet (1)

Orphan264 (574472) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155524)

So buy the DVDs! Watch them all you want, and no commercials!

Re:it hasn't been restricted yet (1)

CavemanKiwi (559158) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155878)

My biggest problem is rugby the only provider for that in the states is direct TV. So I figured I may as well get my HDTV thru them too. If I could find another way to download the rugby that is at least SD quality over the internet cheaply or free. I think would ditch pay tv here in the states all together.

Re:it hasn't been restricted yet (1)

Johnny00 (213878) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156974)

You are completely off-base when it comes to antennas for Digital and HD content. Both Circuit City and Best Buy had at least 20 foot of shelf space set aside for 8 or 9 different models of antennas ALL capable of receiving HD. This was just after Christmas 2006. I paid $30 for a small omnidirectional Terk model and get 12 beautiful HD channels and countless digital sub-channels (I love RawNews from KNBC 4.2!).

Now, why on earth would I kick myself later for shelling out $30 ONCE for OTA HD?

I've seen the HD content available on cable and satelite. There are a few more channels (less than 10), but its not ready yet. By the end of the year, yes, then it will be worth it.

BTW, Direct TV doesn't seem to make the subchannels available. Is cable exposing them?

If the industry does nerf OTA (a bit of a paranoid thought IMHO), I'd still have saved a lot of money by not paying for content while I can.

The 2009 deadline.... (2, Interesting)

croddy (659025) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:The 2009 deadline.... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154508)

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:The 2009 deadline.... (2, Informative)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154620)

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 your TV didn't already have a digital tuner built in. They weren't mandating that all signals go HD.

So it's not about HDTVs as much as everyone getting off their behinds to make it happen.

Let's be even more clear about this (5, Informative)

Mariner28 (814350) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:The 2009 deadline.... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154732)

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 birds to even think about phasing out SD, and that doesn't even cover the current cost disparity. I expect that will be done in about 10 years for satellite and 15+ for cable. 30+ probably for rural areas, or until those towns install municipally owned fiber networks, or we get some major breakthrough in wireless technology.

Re:The 2009 deadline.... (4, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155168)

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.

Re:The 2009 deadline.... (3, Informative)

Phil Karn (14620) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156966)

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.

Re:The 2009 deadline.... (1)

croddy (659025) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154778)

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.

Re:The 2009 deadline.... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156774)

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 assumption that NTSC broadcasts will be turned off.

No, it's based on the assumption that the price of HDTVs will continue downwards to the point where they're comparable (more or less) in price to today's SDTVs, at which time there will be little point in SDTVs anymore. 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.

Re:The 2009 deadline.... (1)

Gription (1006467) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154576)

The FCC had a December 2006 deadline to turn off analog TV transmissions. The fact that 2 years before that most of the TVs being sold were still analog made the lawmakers reconsider pulling the plug. (Apparently pissing off a large percentage of their constituency is scary for a politician!)

I think that 2009 might stick though. TVs are all HD now and when people have seen the quality that comes from a simple HD antenna they will run to switch.

I don't have cable. (Can't stomach the concept of paying for TV that has commercials...) Last night I finished a homemade bowtie antenna (like a DB2) and watched TV for the first time in digital.

OMG. Perfect reception on way to many channels. The Oscars in HD is actually more interesting. I will never use the rabbit ears again.

Buy a Mac mini and an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid (3, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Digital != HDTV (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156192)

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.

One of them does (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#18157162)

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 mean, over the air! That's what we are talking about, right?

The HD tuner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18154356)

was called Supernova; now it's called mininova.

Re:The HD tuner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18154666)

Minor correction: It was Suprnova, no "e"

Why? (1)

Zonk (troll) (1026140) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154400)

Not to be an ass or anything, but what is worth watching OTA? Heroes, Family Guy, and The Simpsons are the only things that come to mind.

Just get satellite or cable. You can get HD or continue to use analog TV with it. Dish Network is a good choice.

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154566)

30% of the population (including me!) doesn't feel the need to pay for TV. I get OTA digital, which kicks ass. Most of the time. Mostly, I just don't watch that much OTA programming. Also, a lot of what seems to be on cable or satalite isn't actually HD. It's digital, but it's only provided in 480. On the other hand, to refer back to the OP question, there is very little demand for digital set top boxes. Most of the early HD adopters either bought a box at the time, or get everything via cable/satellite. Also, when you look at it, the set top box costs $250, while you can get a new 27" or larger TV for that price. In short, screw Flanders.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156770)

Yep, haven't seen the need for cable or satellite in about ten years now. Rarely watch any OTA TV either, for that matter. Any TV series worth the time to watch are worth buying the season DVD set a year (or so) after it airs, and over the course of a 20 episode season you'll save yourself five or more hours by not having the commercials.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154668)

Those are the only shows you like on OTA. I like others as well.

Sorry, I have no desire to get satellite or cable. There's no way I'm going to pay money to watch commercials.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18154832)

Not to mention they have the audacity to charge extra for HD.

Re:Why? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155330)

24, prison brake.

Re:Why? (5, Funny)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155824)

Next time on prison brake:

Junior Guard: "Oh no!! The prison is out of control! Help!!!"

Senior Guard: "We must stop this prison at once! Call the commisioner!"

(crashing sounds, scraping metal)

Junior Guard: "Theres no time! We can't stop it!!"

(prisoner 4812 enters the room)

Prisoner 4812: "I can stop this prison. Using the brake."

Senior Guard: "You? But, you are a prisoner! Exactly why should I trust you?!?"

Prisoner 4812: "Because I'm the only one who can stop this prison, dammit!"

(more crashing sounds, ground shakes uncontrollably)

Senior Guard: "Make it so."

Will they stop the prison in time? Will prisoner 4812 double cross the senior guard?
Patrick Stewart guest stars in an unforgettable episode of Prison Brake!

Re:Why? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155338)

Not to be an ass or anything, but what is worth watching OTA? Heroes, Family Guy, and The Simpsons are the only things that come to mind.

And those are pretty much the only shows I actually watch, as in make an effort to see. There's a half dozen other shows that are entertaining if the TV happens to be on when they come on. Studio 60, Lost (mostly because of its crazy-ridiculous plot), Numb3rs (though it's getting worse season to season), Supernatural, and uh... that's all I can think of.

And what's wrong with that? With only three shows, I don't waste a lot of time in front of the boob toob (meaning more time for WoW :P), and best of all it is free. If I paid for cable/dish I'd have to justify the expense by having lots of shows to watch, and barring the obvious candidates on Comedy Central and Cartoon Network, I'm just not convinced that those shows are there. So instead I get a moderate amount of quality TV for free. What's the problem?

Oh, right, if I'm going to only have 3 shows I watch then there isn't much sense in buying an HDTV and an HD Tuner. Oh well.

Seriously though, I think the set of people who watch OTA progamming is one of the least likely to spring for an HDTV, which is why I find the whole discussion sort of funny.

Because (2, Funny)

Groo Wanderer (180806) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156082)

Does BitTorrent over 802.11x count as OTA? :)

              -Charlie

Re:Why? (1)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156420)

Good point... Cable companies offer a "broadcast" connection package usually at $10-15 per month. Almoist every HDTV currently on the market, and those sold for the past few years, have built in tuners. If you cable company lets you use your own, your set. If they restrict you from using your own, many states require them to provide you a tuner for free. Soon federal regulation may require the same if the cable companies piss off the FCC enough. The cost to get a single HD antanea and install it outside your house is worth almost 2 years of HDTV from your cable provider or sattlite service. With HD antaenas I believe you also have to have 1 for each TV set. It's simply not worth it if you have 2 or more TVs... Keep in mind, broadcast TV won't give you good options for DVRs either (no electronic published chanel guide to use). I think Tivo might work, but now you'r paying for the privelidge anyway... If you can't get cable TV, get a sattelite. It's likely if your town isn't big enough to have cable, the local broadcaster can't afford the HD upgrade and will sell out or shut down in 2009 anyway.

Re:Why? (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156852)

Keep in mind, broadcast TV won't give you good options for DVRs either (no electronic published chanel guide to use).

Um, actually, the ATSC standard does specify a format for guide information and such. And I've seen it when I was doing the OTA thing with my tuner (right now I'm back to getting the local HD channels off cable). Some stations were concientious about filling it in, some weren't. But it's there and I expect it to do better. I don't think it goes more than a few hours in advance, though.

Re:Why? (1)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156830)

PBS is one of my favorite channels, as well as one of the first to start broadcasting in digital (and in HD). Also, while I don't watch them, many people watch shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, etc.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18156880)

Where I'm at(central TX) PBS, FOX, and CBS are broadcast in HD OTA. For me, and others, this means things like Austin City Limits, NOVA, and other Nature programs (PBS), look immaculate and drool-worthy. On FOX and CBS, most professional sports that are shown come in HD, which makes the games all the more worth watching.

Aside from those, all other commercial HD channels are available through the local Cable, and Satellite provider. As it stands now, I can LIVE with what is currently HD OTA. I don't expect more channels to pop up, but I'm definately glad they're there.

Do you have a home theater PC? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154406)

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 over the air HD. There are a lot of PCI cards that capture ATSC. There is even one that's about the size of a large USB flash drive, two if you count the rebranded version, so you can use it with a notebook computer too. With a good roof-top antenna, I get good video with better pickup of more stations than I can get with an analog tuner with the same antenna.

When I checked, satellite set-top boxes have HD tuners too.

Re:Do you have a home theater PC? (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155118)

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 these stand alone tuners, the cost for marketing and distribution is high on a per unit basis. More people will just go for the extra money on the vast upgrade to a HDTV LCD set instead now that the prices are down and the larger sizes are now required to include the tuner.

The number of early adopters with a HDTV monitor needing a tuner is few. Most are subscribing to HDTV over their cable box or Sat box and won't spend the $160-$300 for an over the air tuner. This is why the number of stand alone tuners are in limited supply. The demand is low. The manufactures have anticipated this and have not wasted money building large inventories to remain sitting unsold.

The NTSC only TV's will simply be retired, or passed along as a monitor for VHS tape, Game Consoles, and other legacy applications. If you are going to spend over $150 for a tuner, it may as well come in the new HDTV.

That is what I did. I waited out the HDTV monitor craze and waited for the sets to arrive with tuners. The advantage to waiting is the price is about 1/3 the price of just a monitor a couple years ago. Instead of over $2500 for a monitor, I spent less than $800 for a TV.

Re:Do you have a home theater PC? (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155322)

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....

Re:Do you have a home theater PC? (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#18157142)

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.

Re:Do you have a home theater PC? (1)

BlueBat (748360) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155326)

Jeff DeMaagd wrote:

Given that most or all broadcasters are transmitting digitally

In my area of NY State in the USA, none of the broadcasters are sending digitally yet and I have been told that they wont until they are forced to do so. It is very annoying as I would like to drop cable but can't because an analog signal just doesn't come in very well in my area. It does come in enough that I don't qualify for satellite channels. I only have basic cable for the local channels and get everything else from DirecTV. I hope the FCC sticks to the 2009 deadline so that I will be able to drop cable.

rabbit ears are useless for HD (4, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:rabbit ears are useless for HD (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155256)

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.

Re:rabbit ears are useless for HD (1)

winnabago (949419) | more than 6 years ago | (#18157034)

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 others' reviews. Take a look at http://antennaweb.org/ [antennaweb.org] and AVS forum [avsforum.com] for more on this subject.

Re:rabbit ears are useless for HD (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155670)

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.

How many people have an HDTV without Broadband? (1)

The Phantom Mensch (52436) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154482)

I think the lack of ATSC tuners is because most of the market segment that has gone to HDTV is already using cable or satellite service and doesn't need an OTA tuner. Maybe in the next few years that'll change as HDTV or Digital TV in general goes down market but I'm not sure if it'll result in a decent market for ATSC tuners. It might result in a market for cheap ATSC tuners with only a standard definition output.

HD home run (ethernet with 2 tuners) (4, Informative)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 6 years ago | (#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).

HDHomeRun (ethernet with 2 tuners) (4, Informative)

tivojafa (564606) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154786)

I like the LG 3510A (2, Informative)

glennrrr (592457) | more than 6 years ago | (#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).

Re:I like the LG 3510A (1)

blackmonday (607916) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156088)

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.

Re:I like the LG 3510A (1)

glennrrr (592457) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156466)

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 good. I have one in my mother-in-law's room driving an old 17" VGA monitor and some old 2.1 speakers, and she can watch TV, video CDs, and DVDs using a "TV" made out of obsolete computer hardware and a 3510A I could have picked up for $80 on eBay. (I actually paid substantially more for it from geeks.com.) And because it is a CRT based monitor, standard definition looks better than it does on the LCD HDTV in the TV Room. And this all comes down to the 3510A having lots of output ports.

Anti-Piracy (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154652)

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!!

Every Device Must Have One! (4, Informative)

Xesdeeni (308293) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Every Device Must Have One! (2, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154952)

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 what they got.

There are two possibilities for the lack of digital tuners: (1) there's so much stock that we won't see them for a year and/or (2) every body is switching to providing "monitors" witht he next release, figuring it's still more profitable to produce a small set without any tuner than to have to include a digital tuner. With the market penetration of cable and satellite STBs, they may not be wrong (much to the dismay of the 10-15% of us that still get terrestrial broadcasts over the air).

Re:Every Device Must Have One! (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155934)

I think it is just TV's for now. VCRs, DVD recorders have until July or something.

Big-ass loophole? (1)

MojoStan (776183) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156246)

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 current example that meets the requirements.

I'm not sure how cheap device manufacturers will react to the digital tuner requirement, but I think (for now) they'll probably just change that coaxial "barrel" input to one that accepts analog cable only (and not an OTA antenna). Inputs (component, composite, etc) will handle the rest.

Samsung TR451at circuit city (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Samsung TR451at circuit city (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155512)

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 everyone else...

Don't confuse Digital with HD TV (4, Insightful)

josecanuc (91) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154820)

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!)

Promises of a $20 tuner (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154860)

A few years ago, one of the industry promises was a low-cost tuner, I think under $20, for people who couldn't afford a more expensive device. The difference between actual cost and $20 was supposed to be industry-subsidized. I haven't heard a peep about this in awhile though.

By far the vast majority of people who can't afford a $100 tuner already have cable or satellite TV. Many low-income apartments have it built into the rent or available for a nominal price.

The main target audiences for the discount-OTA tuner will be poor retirees and other low-income homeowners, or those living in apartments who do not offer cable-TV subsidies.

ask your gov (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154944)

http://www.ntia.doc.gov/otiahome/dtv/dtvcouponfaq. html [doc.gov]
How do I obtain and redeem converter box coupons?

Between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, eligible households can request up to two coupons, each valued at $40. All coupons will be sent to requesting households via the United States Postal Service. Recipients must redeem the coupons within 3 months of issuance, but may not combine their two coupons toward the purchase of a single converter box and may not use them for other products.

Can you provide more details about the converter box coupon program?

The specific rules addressing the coupon program will be made public in early 2007. As you can imagine, there are many program implementation details to consider.

In 2006, NTIA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that sought the public's suggestions on various details of the program's operations, including issues related to these questions. NTIA will provide more detailed program information for the digital-to-analog converter box assistance program on our website, www.ntia.doc.gov.

Also: where are the _downconverters?_ (4, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#18154912)

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

Re:Also: where are the _downconverters?_ (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155162)

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.

Re:Also: where are the _downconverters?_ (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155270)

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.

If I HAD a DTV receiver... (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156506)

...why would I even want to keep my analog receiver?

Or do you mean "tuner?"

Re:If I HAD a DTV receiver... (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156592)

I think that's partly why you're encountering issues with the salespeople at stores--a digital television tuner and receiver are the same thing. You're asking them specifically for a "downconverter" when every digital tuner on the market will do the job for you. Stop being so pedantic about things and actually think for a moment.

Re:Also: where are the _downconverters?_ (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155278)

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 you can't see any on-screen displays.

To even set it up on a TV without component inputs, you have to plug the green component signal into the video jack on the TV; then you get a black-and-white signal where the menus are visible. After that, you use the coax or s-video hookups, and just try to remember what channel you're on. (Honest. See here [avsforum.com] .)

As I said, I have it hooked up to a more recent TV so I don't have to worry about this problem, but as you can see from that thread, people who want ATSC reception on an older TV are close to SOL. Though at our local grocery store, I saw 27-inch SDTVs with built-in ATSC tuners for sale...

Re:Also: where are the _downconverters?_ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18155386)

Downconversion isn't really necessary (yet). Remember, HD == Digital, but Digital != HD, and many local stations are simulcasting HD and SD versions of the same programming on their subchannels.
For example, most of my local OTA broadcasters are set up like this:
Ch. 4: Analog
Ch. 4-1: Digital HD
Ch. 4-2: Digital SD

(Or, there's the OTA religion station, which pumps out 12, yes TWELVE, digital SD feeds of various evangelists and church services)

All most people will need to do is get the ATSC tuner to convert digital tuning to an analog output (whether via S-Video, Composite, RF, whatever). I will agree that a built-in downconverter may likely be useful to many people, but it shouldn't be necessary for a while.

Re:Also: where are the _downconverters?_ (1)

daj24 (728601) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155554)

I have been OTA for about 3 years now. I have a LG w/DVD from Best Buy. Its correct to say that there are often only about 2 or 3 available. The Best Buy personel I talked to was knowledgeable about the HD subject. I am using a $5 pair of rabbit ears. True, only the UHF loop is used in the HD reception but you need the other for non HD channels on VHF. I have had no problems with my DVD unit to date (remember above, three years of use). If I purchased a more expensive UHF (the Silver Surfer is an acknowledged great antenna) I could bring in some of the farther away channels. I think that part of the reason for only a couple of selections is most people are dumber than a box of rocks about HD and are only now just learning. Also newer TVs above a certain size (27 in?) are now required to contain a HD tuner. All will be required to have in in something like '09 or so. Not too many companies want to invest the cash for a short term product.

Cheat Sheet (5, Informative)

fo0bar (261207) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Most people use cable or satellite (1)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155578)

I don't know anyone who relies on over-the-air broadcast for their television. Everyone I know with a television has either cable or satellite.

It's cheap enough these days, and far superior, so why would anyone still need to rely on over-the-air anyway?

Re:Most people use cable or satellite (1)

astrokid (779104) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155834)

Define "Cheap", my current cable bill is $12/month. It's basic, and only includes local programming (NBC, ABC, FOX, WB and CW), PBS, 2 Spanish channels and some other various channels.

I can't justify signing up for any other services to make my bill (relatively sky rocket). Luckily, my Tv has a built in QAM and ATSC Tuner so i'm able to catch whatever signals are being sent OTA and unencrypted.

A sizable minority uses OTA (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155842)

It's not unusual, however, for peer groups to cluster such as yours, where no one uses a particular technology. This is why some websites have huge concentrations of Mac or Firefox users. Would you judge the larger public's OS choices based on Slashdot? Hardly.

Re:Most people use cable or satellite (1)

singingjim (957822) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156116)

There are millions of people living in rural areas in the United States that are not served by cable TV. Satellite is, of course, the option in those areas if they choose to do so, but plenty of people don't care about having 200 channels of shit on the TV to choose from (choose from...choose from...choose from...)

Re:Most people use cable or satellite (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156212)


I have no cable or satellite TV. I get four analog channels over the air, and one of those is in french.

I could get cable/satellite/TV-over-DSL but I choose not to pay the extra money. I'd rather spend it on other things.

Re:Most people use cable or satellite (1)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156694)

Then I have no sympathy for whatever troubles you may endure as a result of changes to the broadcast rules.

In other words, beggars can't be choosers. If you're getting something for nothing, you have no right to complain about the quality of service you get. You don't even have the right to complain when the service goes offline entirely.

Re:Most people use cable or satellite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18156628)

Because OTA is free, it's DRM free, the quality is better, you can easily send the signal to every TV in the house without adding boxes, and several other reasons

Re:Most people use cable or satellite, ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18156894)

Given that the cable company wanted $10,000 for install I didn't go with them. There are people with cable less than 1/2 mile in all diections of me but my little area doesn't have it.
The Sat providers were really annoying when I went to sign up. I had all the equipment from the previous homeowner but they still wanted $250 for new equipment (that was exactly the same as the equipment I had). They would not let me use the existing equipmentnor the existing cards. So they lost me as a customer.

End result is me staying with OTA along with probably 20 other houses near me.

What do you mean cheap enough? (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 6 years ago | (#18157102)

What do you mean cheap enough? I live in a small/rural town and the cheapest package the cable company offers is $50 for the first 6 months, then it is $60/mo. I could afford it, but I don't think $60/mo is cheap enough for the limited programs I used to watch on TV. Before giving it up, I was down to 1 half-hour show per week. Most of the country (which is rural) is gouged by the local cable monopolies. As for satillite, that works well enough (starting at $30/mo) if a) they provide service in your area, and b) you have LOS; otherwise, you are out of luck. Don't assume everyone has the same access as you do.

Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18155658)

there's a reason digital tuners with QAM are hard to find! I (luckily) have a Samsung DTB-H260F(with QAM), and do you know how many channels I can get with only basic ($13/mo.) cable? BEAUCOUP!!! My cable provider is putting almost all the standard cable channels on in a 480i digital format as well, probably preparing for the digital switchover. So...if you have a tuner with QAM, there they are in beautiful living 1's and 0's!

No Joke...Nintendo FTW! (0)

Maugrim (947665) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155850)

The awesomest OTA HDTV tuner I've run across is the RF adapter for the original Nintendo. Accidentally had that plugged in and all the OTA HDTV channels worked, unplugged it and they disappeared! So now it just dangles from the back of my friends TV.

more curious... (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155894)

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...).

Would very much like to hear people's comments on the quality of OTA HDTV, particularly in margin/fringe areas.

Re:more curious... (1)

ThrobbingGristle (62723) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156660)

You don't say if you have an HDTV.

If you do and your reception is "good enough" then it will look awesome.

If you don't have an HDTV, it still might look better than your analag OTA reception but wouldn't IMHO be worth spending
$300 to find out.

How do you determine if your reception will be "good enough"?
Ask your neighbors, or buy a tuner from somewhere with a good return policy so you can take it back if you don't like it.

Re:more curious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18156850)

I'm not an expert, but I believe you are correct. You either get 100% of a digital signal (and 100% of the quality), or you get nothing (blank screen). So if you are at the edge of the broadcast area, a change in the weather could cause you to temporarily lose channels (until the weather improved). I believe a better antenna would help - it sounds like you have a good antenna.

One other point - I don't think the quality of the HD gear (other than the antenna) would make that much difference as to whether or not you can receive the signal. So buy some cheap HD gear, or borrow (rent?) some, and see what you get. Or wait for prices to come down.

Re:more curious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18156856)

Digital is pretty much a binary thing. It's either on (beautiful) or off (black screen). Occasionally, there are some minor drop-outs in a small area of the picture, but at your distance from the transmitter, I'd think that if you get good analog reception, you're a go for digital.

Re:more curious... (1)

Stalin (13415) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156888)

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 will see "macro-block errors" (parts of the screen that are shifted or obviously wrong), sound dropouts lasting a few seconds, or image freezes lasting a few seconds. All of these errors are crude, unsubtle errors. If these are not present, your image is perfect.

If your image is perfect, there is still one reason you might want to improve the signal: It would make dropouts less likely in bad conditions, such as heavy rain. Rain can affect DBS and UHF reception, but not VHF. In some places, wind can affect UHF.

(If you get sound dropouts but not image dropouts, or visa versa, then the fault is not a reception problem. Usually the station is at fault, but occasionally it is the STB.)

If you would like to figure out what DT signals are available in your area, a good starting point is AntennaWeb [antennaweb.org] . You can enter your street address and it will return a list of OTA signals you should be able to receive (analog and DT).

Re:more curious... (1)

Heckle78 (155325) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156964)

I'm not in a fringe area (only 10 miles from broadcast towers), but I have done nothing to improve my reception and have actually done some things that hurt reception for the purpose of aesthetics.

I have an HDTV with butterfly ears (Terk TV5 [amazon.com] ), and the antenna is only about 3.5 ft off the ground hidden behind the TV. Lots of trees in our line of site, and this is on the ground floor of a two story house. I've had good luck with digital compared to analog reception. In fact, digital reception is much, much better for me. Every analog channel comes in with snow, static, blur, you name it. Every corresponding digital channel comes in with perfect clarity, and rarely do they go out.

On the odd occasion when I have lost the HD signal, I've flipped over to the corresponding analog channel to compare, and it was usually so static-filled as to be unwatchable, so it wasn't a loss. Occasionally I have to tweak the antenna for a second, but that's it.

OTA is the best way to get HD right now (1)

tommyj1986 (1004101) | more than 6 years ago | (#18155946)

Over the air is the best way for most people to get HD right now, it is extremely less than cable and dish (Obviously) but it also tends to be the closest to a true HD source. I work at this small Radioshack and we sell at least 25 antennas for HD a month. I've sold four in one day, these things are awesome and tons of people are getting them here in Madison WI. My Radioshack is near the UW Madison and we get a lot of professors and UW Hospital staff who have these nice sets that they want to watch PBS in HD. PBS of all stations! I talk to dozens of people everyday who don't have cable or dish, it is super common. By the way, shows I would watch in HD: Lost, Prison Break, House

Re:OTA is the best way to get HD right now (1)

Stalin (13415) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156670)

Don't knock PBS. They have the best content of all OTA broadcast television signals. In a couple weeks I will be moving to a location where OTA television is the only option (aside from satellite). My only problem with this? GPB [gpb.org] isn't broadcasting an HD signal yet. I should be able to get PBA [pba.org] , but I prefer GPB's schedule to PBA's. But, since they are both PBS stations, I will still be able to get my News Hour [pbs.org] fix; albeit, and hour later than on GPB.

Re:OTA is the best way to get HD right now (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 6 years ago | (#18157112)

On my cable system, Discovery HD is encrypted. PBS is not.

I have yet to care....

(and who knows, with FiOS being installed in my 'hood, I'll be off Commiecast anon!)

Find an installer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18156220)

I don't know if this will be all that helpful, but if you can find an installer for high-end home theater products, they might be able to get you one pretty cheaply. A friend of mine does these kinds of installs and a lot of the high-end TVs don't have integrated HD tuners, so they come with an external one. A lot of his clients go with HD content from either satellite or cable and don't want the tuners that come with the TVs, so he ends up with a bunch of them that just sit in his storage unit. He's gotten to the point where he has more than he'll ever need in reserve, so he now gives the extras away.

Anyways, that's how I got mine, I'm not sure how much that will help everyone else. I might have to point him at this article as an indication that there's actually a market for these kinds of devices and he should think about putting his extras on Craigslist.

Dish Network can help you (1)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 6 years ago | (#18156758)

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.

encryption support? FIOS cards? (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 6 years ago | (#18157118)

With so many cable TV HD (and other SD digital channels) being encrypted, how about tuners that support cablecards? 2nd-gen cablecard with bidi support for more features? I heard about one that will only work with Vista. What about anyone else, for WinXP, Linux, etc? What about FIOS "tuners"? What about Satellite receiver cards with the subscription card slots? (I've heard Europe has Satellite tuner cards, but I'm in USA and haven't seen any here)

I'm sick of Comcast and would like to switch to FIOS which is supposed to be coming soon (They've already completed "phase 1" in my neighborhood, whatever that means), but I'd also like to continue using my MythTV box.

Not Exactly an Answer, but (1)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 6 years ago | (#18157156)

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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