I just picked up a Philco at Fred Meyers in the Portland
area of Oregon (Beaverton Town Center Fred Meyers).
Price - $49.95 (9.95 after coupon). They expected to get
the Sylvania, but had the Philco instead.
It has analog-pass through. This is fairly easy to use. Just
choose RF Out in the channel menu, then choose RF through.
You are immediately switched to the TV receiver. Note -- you
leave the converter box on while doing this. To return to the
converter box, just hold the setup button for 3 seconds.
Reception is generally good on the pass-through except for
a few trouble channels. I would say that overall it is better
than I would normally get.
As to the box itself -- setup was very quick. The wizard scanned
and found all the channels plus a number of 'extras' -- several
PBS and things I don't usually get. Reception was unbelievably good --
I usually have a lot of interference over the air, and have problems
with the local 5/32 (CW?). But these were perfect with the box. The
antenna didn't need any adjustment for any channel -- it's an old rabbit
ears. Usually I am fussing with it for every channel.
The box itself is white -- no doubt identical to the Magnavox described
here. There are vent holes on the bottom and a couple of slots on
the side. It gets a little warm on the top, but so far not hot. I raised
it up by placing an old vhs tape under it, to give the bottom holes
more clearance. Maybe I'll try drilling some holes like someone here
suggested. However, if I hadn't read the warnings about Magnavox here,
I might not have noticed the warmth as being unusual.
The remote -- the buttons are small but well-spaced, and slightly mounded,
so there is no problem pushing them. There is no zoom on the remote.
I don't think this is as much of an issue as people have stated. You get
to the aspect through the menu. After a little playing with it, I decided to
leave everything in letterbox. Zoom would be my last choice.
An aspect setting (zoom-full-letterbox) seems to apply to all subchannels in
a range, but apparently can be set independently for channels. This isn't immediately
apparent, (especially since letterbox setting shows up differently on different
channels) because when you check the settings through the menu, it
shows your last choice, NOT what the channel is using. When you leave
the menu, you are also likely to set what it is showing -- so it might look like
the channels cannot be individually set!
There is no TV volume control on the remote. This doesn't bother me,
I'm used to having a pile of remotes for my TV and VCRs -- and I would
need my TV remote anyway when using the VCRs instead of the converter box.
According to the documentation, channels can be individually added, though I
haven't tried it, since I am getting all channels. The documentation also
suggests you can use a universal remote.
The remote also has: alt ch - (return to last channel button), display (info on
what you are watching, with signal strength meter), audio (choose another
language, if available), still (pause picture, but audio continues), epg.
EPG - the guide describes what is on, with a next arrow to view about 6 hours
on the channel you are watching. On a positive note -- it is partly
transparent, so you can continue to watch your show while looking ahead.
I suppose a full-screen guide would blank things out. Probably I will continue to
use something like TitanTV.com) to quickly overview the
digital channel offerings.
I made sure when buying this that I got the analog pass-though. But now I
don't know why I cared! Certainly next year it will be unimportant. For my
next one, I will probably try out one with an extended EPG like the Artec.
My main issue is with VCR recording. I usually have two hooked up on
an antenna splitter. The converter (any converter at present) pretty much
negates their use. I will probably just reach around the back of the TV
when I need them, and rehook them directly. Next year, of course, this
will be a problem when there is no analog at all.