Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Digital Converter Box - A Cost Effective Alternative To HDTV For Us

Earlier this year, I thought I might have to buy an HDTV due to the conversion of television broadcasts to digital in February, 2009. Fortunately for me, a commenter let me know that there was an alternative. Converter boxes would be made available to enable analog TVs to keep working after February, 2009. In addition, the government provides $40 coupons that can be offset the cost of the converter.

In April 2008, I used my $40 coupon and a $25 gift card for Circuit City and purchased a Zenith DTT900 digital converter box for $59.99 plus tax. I installed it in May, 2008, and have been very impressed with the digital channels we are receiving. Here is a summary of my experience with the Zenith DTT900:

  • Installation - I am a do-it-yourself type person, and I considered this one very easy. The instructions were clear and all the parts were provided (e.g. cables). The hardest part was getting access to the back of the VCR/DVD and TV, which are housed in a entertainment center.


  • Functionality - Well designed and easy to use. The remote can work on both the converter box and the existing TV. The remote also allows easy conversion of aspect ratios to a standard TV.


  • Reception - The converter box gave us access to all the local digital channels, which doubled the amount of broadcasts we receive. PBS stations have multiple broadcasts, providing us more variety and quality.

    The quality of reception also improved significantly. We no longer get the "snow" of analog broadcasts. Occasionally (less than 1% of the time), we get poor reception, which results in no reception since digital is either "on" or "off."


  • Wish fors - My only complaint is that the converter box doesn't allow a "passthru" for the analog signal. Thus, our VCR and standard TV do not receive a signal and we are required to turn on the converter every time. In addition, I can no longer record shows on the VCR.

    The solution is to get a splitter. However, since this would only work until February, 2009, I probably will just live with it and save the money.

  • To note, we only receive digital and not high definition. However, I still consider using a digital converter to be a superior cost option to buying a new HDTV or subscribing to cable/satellite.

    For more on Ideas You Can Use, check back every Tuesday for a new segment.

    This is not financial or electronics advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2008 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    4 comments:

    pfstock said...

    I, too, purchased a Zenith DTT900 from Circuit City. I was also impressed with the picture quality, and the extra channels such as on PBS.

    My concern is how will you record programs on the VCR after February 2009? I know it is possible, but a bit problematic because you would have to setup the VCR to record from the converter box, and leave the box on and tuned to the channel you want to record. By default, the converter box will power itself off after 4 hours.

    (not) the Jet Set said...

    We too are very impressed with the reception of the DTV box. For us it is a small investment to help us sell our existing TV to help fund an HDTV purchase. Like painting your house before going to sell it. This $20 expense has left everyone interested impressed with the picture quality (as well they should be, it's excellent for SD), and we may have it sold this week. The DTV box goes with the TV.

    Also, our box was a Digital Stream model from RadioShack and it has an optionin the menu for the box to go to sleep after 4hrs, 8hrs, or never. May help with your recording issues if the Zenith (LG?) model has the same feature.

    Amy said...

    We recently canceled cable and bought a Zenith DTT900 converter box. Our picture quality is better than our old digital cable and we no longer have monthly fees. After some research, we found that many of our favorite shows (even the cable ones) were available on the Internet for free on sites like Hulu.com. My husband (a cgi programmer) just wrote a free web based tool which we use to locate our favorite shows.

    We are blogging about our experiences with free digital tv and have just posted the 'showfinder' tool on our blog at CancelCable.com

    Also wanted to let you know that Zenith has released a newer model (DTT901) has an analog passthrough, in case you are thinking of getting a second box.

    Anonymous said...

    pfstock said..."By default, the converter box will power itself off after 4 hours."

    I have this box, too, and there is an option to change that behavior. I set mine to remain on until I manually shut it off.

    And I don't understand the comment in the posting about not being able to use a VCR. I tape programs all the time! The only hang-up is that if you want to record two shows on different channels, someone has to be around to change the channel on the box.