Saturday, January 17, 2009

Digital TV Converter Box Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

So after my daughter & I left Circuit City with no $250 40" LCD TV with built in digital tuner (darn!), we headed over to Best Buy to buy a digital converter box. Too bad my government coupon expired, but I needed to get one soon.

They only had two models to choose from, the Insignia NS-DXA1-APT  and the Apex DT502.  Their website also sells the Apex DT250, but from what I've heard on the web, it's reception is poor.

OK, here's the plusses & minuses of both boxes if you have to choose between the two:

The Insignia has channel up & down buttons on the box, should you have an unhealthy aversion to the remote control, but only RF out (the single round plug thing with the hole in the middle that outputs sound & TV signal.  Also called Coaxial).  It costs about $60 at Best Buy.

The Apex DT520 doesn't have any buttons on the box other than power, but has Coaxial, Composite (also known as RCA) and S-Video out.  It costs about $50

So, ten bucks more for two buttons on the box, minus higher quality outputs.  I got the Apex.  I've heard it's reception isn't the best, but I plugged it into my Radio Shack Picture Frame Antenna (which for $16 got seriously great reviews) and I went from getting about 4 non-digital channels with crappy reception to well over 10.  This is in North Seattle, so your milage may vary.  I now get a couple of Spanish stations!  Now my three year old daughter can learn a second language by watching soap operas!  Right?

So far, I dig the Apex (tried it once so far).  Setup was easy.  It doesn't mention in the manual how to hook it up to your VCR.  But yes, it works just fine.  In case I'm not the last person who hasn't ditched their VCR, simply plug our antenna into the DT502, then the DT502 into your VCR & your VCR into your TV.  

As all my other TV inputs were already taken up with other stuff, I ended up using the 'crappy' Coaxial output.  It was SO MUCH better than when I had an analog signal.  I'm sure the s-video & RCA outs rock too.  I'll probably never know, because the next TV purchase I make will probably come with a digital tuner, or just be connected to the interwebs somehow in the bright future of tomorrow.

The main thing I can't figure out yet is the zoom feature.  Apparently, some channels in digital have a black border around all edges.  I noticed this on a couple channels.  This box has a zoom feature, but when I pressed the button, I got a "cannot zoom this image' prompt on the tv screen.  Not a big deal; all the major channels are zoomed or are letter boxed.

There's a bunch of features, like "favorites" that I haven't tried yet, but so far, so good!