Tivax STB T-1 (non-crippled/non-CECB) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 44 Old 05-10-2008, 07:06 PM - Thread Starter
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I may get chewed by one of the old farts for posting about a non-qualifying box in the CECB forum but the way I have it figured, there are plenty of people interested non-crippled equipment and this will be the best place for them to find this review.

It will take me a while to evaluate the performance of this thing but I'm sold on the concept. As soon as I started wiring this thing into my system and let it go hunt for stations, I found it was pole day at Indianapolis so for the first time ever, I got to watch qualifying and hear it in full Dolby Digital EX which decodes to 6.1 on my system.

To begin, the unit ships with composite, component, s-video and a coax RF cable. They're not anything to be proud of but they're included in the box. There's a nice 43-page manual written in English, not Chinglish. No batteries for the remote control.

There's an internally accessible serial port. External connections are component and composite video, analog and optical audio, ATSC IN and RF In and RF Out.

The simplest way for me to hook up was run component video cables to my A/V receiver which passes component video straight to my TV/monitor, no matter whether the receiver is on or off. I connected the digital optical port of the Tivax to my receiver and connected the R/L stereo cables to the TV. This makes for MUCH simpler operation that I was expecting. To listen to plain ol' TV stereo surround sound, I turn on the TV and the Tivax. To listen through the whole 6.1 home theater system, I just switch that system on. Nothing to goof with on the Tivax or the TV. The TV stays in straight "Component 2" mode all the time unless I want to revert to watching analog. I hid an old set of rabbit ears in the cabinet behind the TV and hooked to the TV RF to watch the lone station in our area that's not digital.

It apparently has analog pass through. The manual says what's plugged into the RF In port automatically passes through the RF Out when the Tivax is turned off. You do, however, have to plug your antenna into the ATSC port so to pass analog through, you'd have to split your antenna or use an aux antenna.

The Tivax remote is okay. Sometimes it doesn't seem very responsive but maybe the rechargeable AAA batteries I installed in it are low. The volume and mute on this remote will control the TV speakers (analog stereo output). The remote is fairly intuitive with the buttons you actually use located logically. There doesn't appear to be any button luminescence at all. There's a "Switch" button on the remote to change video output from component to composite/s-video. It takes a few seconds for the change to occur and switching from composite back to component reboots the system.

It has normal, zoom, wide and cinema modes, selectable by menu or direct entry with an aspect button on the remote. Normal and zoom are good. I don't see why they bother with the other two. Aspect choices are persistent at each channel.

There are numerous video controls. The basic controls are contrast, brightness, sharpness, color and tint. There are also advanced controls for spatial, speckle and temporal noise reduction as well as auto-contrast, color temperature, black bar detection and 3D Y/C. I've seen no need to play with any of the above items.

Additional audio controls include bass, treble and balance. These controls have no effect on the optical audio output. You can choose between PCM and AC3 modes for the digital audio.

Sound and picture are great. Equal to a dvd.

The menu system is simple. A menu button pulls up four category icons with subcategories available from there. It's a no-brainer

The box has a green, digital channel display with nice large characters but the characters are dim. Hard to see from across the room. There are various status lights and buttons for power, channel up/down and scan.

Scan found every local station I expected it to find. After that, you can cycle through the channels and sub-channels with up/down keys or you can enter channel numbers (and sub-channels) directly with numeric keys. It has a [-] button so you can go directly to 23-4 (for instance). It has a menu controlled manual channel setup. It only takes a new york second to hide the ones you don't want to watch. I'm not sure if you can manually add in channels but there's an add-on channel search that doesn't goof with what you already have set up.

It has a one-year repair/replacement warranty.

Enough with the good stuff. Time for the bad. It's a little heater and I think it may be a problem. In 78° ambient I took IR shots of 104° on the top cover and 111° on the bottom. I'm not exactly sure yet but I think it's rebooting itself from heat. After running all afternoon on one channel, it got really squirrelly about changing channels. Would bluescreen my monitor and then show the Tivax splash screen before getting back to business. This continued until I shut it down for a while. Now that I've pulled the cover off to find out how bad the hot spots are, I've misplaced my little IR gun. Oh well. Will work on it some more tomorrow and post new findings and chip numbers.

Edit: I found a heat sink on the west side that stays hot. I didn't have very good air circulation on that side. Looks like that's the only problem.

I'll talk about sensitivity, signal strengths, dBm and antenna stuff later. I'll also post up all the chip numbers and a digipic of the guts.
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post #2 of 44 Old 05-10-2008, 11:21 PM
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Since the STB-T1 is an SD tuner, it belongs in this sub-forum. The other one is for HD.
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post #3 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 04:45 AM
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Don,

Excellent review - comprehensive and balanced. I look forward to your plans for part II.

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post #4 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

Since the STB-T1 is an SD tuner, it belongs in this sub-forum. The other one is for HD.

Agree.

Excellent product review. You hinted that the unit might not be well ventilated, producing excessive amounts of heat.

What did you pay for the Tivax tuner?
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post #5 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 07:46 AM
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Does the box have passthru? That is can another box or TV hooked to it's RF output tune anything other than channel 3 or 4? Or put another way, can the RF modulator be turned off? Try experimenting with the box both on and off.
I also agree with the others, since it's not HD and many people looking for CECBs may be interested in a "non crippled" one, it's probably best here. I'll be posting about my LX1000 in the HD technical forum though.
Does the box have ventilation holes on both the top and bottom of the unit? My experience with the Digital Stream unit says that ventilation holes on the bottom are almost as important as the top. Possibly a mod. is in order for the STB-T1? I believe heat is also caused problems with the DS box I had. After being on for some time the signal strength on one channel consistently dropped from ~50% to below 20% and breakups. If I had kept it I would have probably looked into drilling holes in the bottom as well as putting some larger rubber feet on the bottom. The tiny ones it came with only elevated the unit ~1/8" off the bottom. It also ran quite warm to the touch.
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post #6 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 05:02 PM - Thread Starter
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The box is well ventilated. There's grid of about 20 in² in the bottom and around 3 in² each of the sides and the top. This puppy just gets HOT. After 4-5 hours of running I took IR shots of up to 150° off various small components on the power supply board. Methinks maybe something is screwed on this board. That seems way too hot for a component such as this.

I haven't yet taken any shots at the point it starts rebooting itself but it hasn't happened lately. Tomorrow, I'll see what the manufacturer says about the high temps in this little cooker. When post a picture of the guts, I'll try to annotate the small parts that get so hot.

BTW: the size is 11" w x 7" d x 2" h

Since I'm still dumb as a stick about this dtv, I've assumed heating has been causing signal dropouts but now it appears as though it's the wind causing that on the weaker stations. I use folded dipoles of different wavelengths hung in a cedar tree to pull from transmitters that are in three different directions and spread by 50°. Hey, it works fine for analog, even in a hurricane, but I'm learning digital is a different animal. Apparently, winds at the transmitter will goof things up too.

Otherwise, when the wind is down it does pretty good on reception. Not sure how this will format but it's supposed to be three columns with "real" channel number, receiver dBm for my coordinates (per tvfool) and typical signal strengths as shown by OSD signal level (on a scale of 0-100).

ch# dBm signal

17 -37.8 87-92
27 -44.8 85-90
9 -49.6 85-90
47 -45.8 75-80
31 -41.4 90-95
41 -60.3 65-75
45 -48.5 82-87

seatacboy, it cost $85 plus $10 for 3-day shipping.
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post #7 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 05:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bouldrey View Post

Apparently, winds at the transmitter will goof things up too..

Not winds at the transmitter, but winds at the receive end. Towers have some sway, but not that much. You're encountering dynamic multipath that the receiver isnt fast enough to correct for. Nearby trees, especially when wet, will really affect ATSC reception,especially at UHF frequencies. And, some receivers handle it much better than others.

You need a much more directional antenna with digital for optimum reception. Omni's and dipoles just don't work well like they would for analog.

Based on what I have seen, I don't think ATSC will work well in a hurricane
on a portable TV. So keep an AM radio handy.

Bob

The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, MeTv, or AntennaTv; my employer; or its parent company.
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post #8 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bouldrey View Post

As soon as I started wiring this thing into my system and let it go hunt for stations, I found it was pole day at Indianapolis so for the first time ever, I got to watch qualifying and hear it in full Dolby Digital EX which decodes to 6.1 on my system.

Not to burst your bubble, but ABC Sports / ESPN does not do real DD5.1. They use Circle Surround (matrix) encoders for 2 channel transmission and then fill the 5.1 channels for end user distribution.

Having said that, it does usually sound pretty good.

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post #9 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Ken. Funny thing is my receiver usually identifies input properly whether it's Dolby D, D EX, DTS-ES, Matrix or whatever. With plain Dolby D 2.0, it identifies it as such and activates Pro Logic. That said, I did notice differences between the Indy sound and the sound of the NAPCAR race on Fox last night, which was also identified as Dolby Digital EX.

Unfortunately, down here, only ABC, Fox and NBC are shipping out Dolby Surround. Everything else is Dolby Stereo. Not a big surprise. We're backward. The ABC affiliate is still mono on NTSC

Thank you too Bob. I can see that I'll be rethinking my old antenna system. Even though my dipoles are tuned to frequency and aimed at the towers, this wind issue will be a pain. Otherwise, everything is about as good as it can get. Funny thing with the ATSC is the propaganda is really exploiting the safety and reliability of DTV and discussing the value of it for keeping people safe in emergency.... while showing footage of a hurricane in action. Like you, I'm thinking ATSC will be useless in a hurricane whereas the analog TV works just fine no matter what the conditions. When 'cane Ivan hit us @ 135, every time I saw the red doppler bands heading for our house, all hell broke loose. Our reception remained perfect all night long. I should say it was perfect for the one station that managed to stay on the air throughout the night.

I wonder if there's any contingency plan for reverting to analog when hurricanes are heading in. An inoperative television system just won't fly in hurricane country.
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post #10 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 07:30 PM
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I'd like to hear from some members in hurricane country right after a 'cane goes through to get the straight scoop on this. I've noticed that my reception is rather spotty with blowing, wet trees, but that is exactly what I attributed it to - blowing, wet trees. It doesn't do DBS any good either.

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post #11 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdfox18doe View Post

Not winds at the transmitter, but winds at the receive end. Towers have some sway, but not that much. You're encountering dynamic multipath that the receiver isnt fast enough to correct for. Nearby trees, especially when wet, will really affect ATSC reception,especially at UHF frequencies. And, some receivers handle it much better than others.

This dynamic multipath effect could be one of the hardest things for typical non-tech-oriented TV viewers to understand.

Will there be any way for testers to objectively measure a given ATSC tuner's ability to cope with dynamic multipath capabilities?
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post #12 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 08:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Here's a pic of the inside of the STB-T1. The parts encircled by the red lines are the parts that get so hot.

Regarding the EPG: It's basic. All I've seen so far is the channel/sub-channel, station name, program title, start/end time, current date/time, video and audio broadcast formats, resolution, Hz of audio and rating. If it's dependent on info provided by the stations themselves, I'm not surprised.
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post #13 of 44 Old 05-11-2008, 08:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdfox18doe View Post

Based on what I have seen, I don't think ATSC will work well in a hurricane
on a portable TV.


ATSC works fine in a hurricane, tested during trifecta hurricane season a few years ago during Charley, Francis and Jeanne in Orlando. What doesn't work is when the stations don't bother to have a generator with gas in it hooked up to the DTV transmitter or the cheap %^&&*(# choose to shut the DTV off to conserve fuel, shutting down distant cable companies who take the DTV feed.

The key to reception is using a real directional array antenna that is safely secured in a location like in an attic.
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post #14 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 06:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bouldrey View Post

Here's a pic of the inside of the STB-T1. The parts encircled by the red lines are the parts that get so hot.

Don,
The hot parts (two capacitors and a diode next to a power transistor/IC(?) w/heat sink and a transformer) appear to be on the power supply circuit board - generally where one would expect to find the most heat.

Have you been able to determine the generation of the tuner chip-set? Perhaps some close-up / macro shots?

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post #15 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 07:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by satpro View Post

The key to reception is using a real directional array antenna that is safely secured in a location like in an attic.

I have just that on one of my recievers. Could not remain locked yesterday during winds and rain. Signal from outdoor rooftop antenna on another receiver was stable.
Of course, YMMV..and not all locations and reception variables are equal.

Bob

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post #16 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 10:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bouldrey View Post

The box is well ventilated. There's grid of about 20 in² in the bottom and around 3 in² each of the sides and the top. This puppy just gets HOT. After 4-5 hours of running I took IR shots of up to 150° off various small components on the power supply board. Methinks maybe something is screwed on this board. That seems way too hot for a component such as this.

I haven't yet taken any shots at the point it starts rebooting itself but it hasn't happened lately. Tomorrow, I'll see what the manufacturer says about the high temps in this little cooker. When post a picture of the guts, I'll try to annotate the small parts that get so hot.

Don,
If Tivax does not resolve the heat issue to your satisfaction, perhaps the following thread may be of interest (if you haven't seen it already):

New & Improved! The Official AVS HDTV STB Synopsis - Winter 2008!


Over The Air DTV/HDTV/Cable Clear QAM

Available Now: (and < $220)
  • Samsung DTB-H260F $179 ATSC, Clear QAM
  • Tivax LX1000 $90 ATSC
  • PrimeDTV PHD-205 $149 ATSC, Clear QAM, NTSC
  • Pro-Brand / Digital Stream HD3150 $199
  • Winegard RC-1010 $190 ATSC
  • Digital Stream HD 5150 $219 ATSC
  • Coby DTV-140 $139 ATSC (Clear QAM?)
If I remember corectly, you've conssidered the Samsung DTB-H260F but are not a big fan of Samsung customer service. Winegard has a long-standing reputation in TV RF and as an antenna manufacturer. And Winegard's RC-1010 (non-crippled/non-CECB) is close to the price of the Samsung. Perhaps it's worth a look?

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post #17 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdfox18doe View Post

I have just that on one of my recievers. Could not remain locked yesterday during winds and rain. Signal from outdoor rooftop antenna on another receiver was stable.
Of course, YMMV..and not all locations and reception variables are equal.

Did a hurricane blow through Charlotte again yesterday? I remember Hugo in 89 snapped WBT-1110-AM towers in half outside my window and left us with no power for 2 weeks, but I digress! We have thunderstorms here and I have never had a problem with dtv reception, perhaps you have a difference with the roofing materials or slope at your location?
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post #18 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 11:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by satpro View Post

I remember Hugo in 89 snapped WBT-1110-AM towers in half outside my window and left us with no power for 2 weeks, but I digress!


I worked at JP/WBTV/WBT then, for 38 hours straight during that storm..WBT-AM was kept on air that time by a dial up phone line with clip leads for program audio.

And I don't think ATSC on a portable with a rabbit ear will work in a himacaine. Doesn't work well at all on the 3 Insignia portables I have even on a sunny day.

I think I'll get one of the Tivax that Don mentions, be interested to see what they say on the heat issue. Most of these boxes run hot anyway, I don't see them lasting long term.

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post #19 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 04:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Here's a rotated shot from a closer perspective. I really can't tell anything about the tuner or generation but I don't know what to look for. I can't find any model numbers on the tuner.

I'm waiting for Tivax tech support to call about the heat issue so I don't know anything there either.

When I opened the box to take this picture, I read that diode at close to 170° F. but as far as I know, the box hasn't rebooted itself since yesterday morning. Then it happened only upon changing to a channel with Dolby surround and after leaving the cover off all night. The night before it was randomly rebooted itself quite a few times but at that time I had airflow slightly restricted through the hot side. It seems to be doing okay now but I think that power board is waaay too hot.

I solved most of my reception problems by removing the VHF low dipole from my antenna system. Don't need it now. Channel 3 is now channel 17. Everything seems to be coming in at 85 to 97 on the signal meter
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post #20 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 05:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bouldrey View Post

Here's a rotated shot from a closer perspective. I really can't tell anything about the tuner or generation but I don't know what to look for. I can't find any model numbers on the tuner.

  • Thompson Tuner - same brand as is used in the Channel Master CM-7000. (The model used = DTT7685X)
  • Zoran CAS-220/C: DTV Demodulator IC
  • MX IC = ? Perhaps this is the MPEG Decoder?
  1. Is there another Zoran IC? They also make MPEG decoders.
  2. A close-up of the other large ICs may be helpful.

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post #21 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 06:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ota.dt.man View Post

  • MX IC = ? Perhaps this is the MPEG Decoder?

MX29LV320 is a flash memory chip from Macronix
The MPEG decoder is hidden by the heatsink, but it's probably a Zoran 640.
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post #22 of 44 Old 05-12-2008, 06:42 PM - Thread Starter
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According to the specs, the system memory main processor is a Zoran 39640

Here's a picture of a couple more chips. These things are impossible to see and even harder to photograph.

The writing on the Samsung says:
Samsung 613
K4H581638F UCB3
I can't really make out the bottom line on any of the pictures I took.

There's a couple more small chips. I'll try to get a pic of those later.
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post #23 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 06:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ota.dt.man View Post

  • Thompson Tuner - same brand as is used in the Channel Master CM-7000. (The model used = DTT7685X)

Thanks for the link. It doesn't appear to be this tuner. The linked tuner has RF in and out and a 3/4 switch. The tuner in the Tivax has only ATSC in. The RF out and the 3/4 switch live in the little silver box next door that's labeled TAMC H501F.

This tuner is also QAM but it doesn't look like the ATSC VSB & QAM DTF 868XX that Thomson shows. It's lacking the green card extension with the pin connector.
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post #24 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
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I got nothing from Tivax tech support. I'm not surprised. Before ordering I emailed them a few simple questions about the unit. They offered a satisfactory answer to none. The only way to get answers was order the unit. I'm afraid Tivax support people are nothing but boxpackers. The guy I talked to didn't have the foggiest idea of how hot one of these units should run or how hot is too hot. His only suggestion was email in and request RMA.

Meanwhile, the thing had been burning steadily since Sunday morning and I still haven't seen another reboot.
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post #25 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 03:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bouldrey View Post

I got nothing from Tivax tech support. I'm not surprised. ...

Given that your Tivax customer service/support experience appears to be similar to your experience with your Samsung frig, do you think you'll keep this unit? As I recall, sub-optimal customer service was the reason you didn't buy the Samsung tuner.

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post #26 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
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These days it's rare for a tech support person know more than the person asking the question unless said tech support person is working with the genuinely clueless. What p's me off so thoroughly about Samsung is not lack of product knowledge. That's almost a given. Any end user who can RTFM generally knows as least as much as much about a product as those who are supposed to support it. What p's me off about Samsung is the gross incompetence of their entire US support system. For example: the only icemaker auger motors Samsung stocks in the US for refrigerators costing up to $2500 (or better) run on 230v and 50Hz power yet they insist it should function properly on 115v 60Hx power. I have two of those motors in stock now. In total, I have a box large enough to hold a 25" TV full of wrong Samsung parts that I've collected since Feb 07. When I needed a 13"x4" door for a small compartment in the freezer, I received two complete icemaker assemblies and the flapper/paddle assembly for the ice/water dispenser in the door. When I needed a replacement door bin for the refrigerator, I received the entire back panel for the inside of the refrigerator... three times.... and so on. And this doesn't count all the wrong parts five different service companies have received for this thing.

I'll use the Tivax until something better comes along. I don't see that happening until manufacturers get done falling all over themselves to produce the zillions of crippleboxes demanded by the government and the public. Until then, the Tivax is basically a throwaway with a one-year warranty. I'll spend my coupons on a couple of crippleboxes before too long so I'll have a backup for when the Tivax dies and I have to send it off for replacement.
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post #27 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 04:20 PM
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I like Panasonic but in some ways they aren't much better. I had a total of 5 bad EZ-17 DVD recorders. No one at Panasonic had a clue what was going wrong. When they were working they also had programming bugs that I had well documented and could duplicate at will. No one including management level had a clue or seemed to care. My newest Panasonic DVDR EZ-28 has not died so far but does have the programming bug that it's predecessor did
Too many companies running on auto pilot IMO. No one minding the store, etc.
I also agree with you about Tivax CSR's. That's why I decided to order one myself. They didn't seem to know how there product worked so I figured I'd try one myself and there the importers.......
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post #28 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 05:48 PM
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Don,
Your Samsung "gross incompetence" experience is simply incredible! Apparently, anything other than sales has little to no importance in their priorities. Tivax obviously has a long way to go before they even approach such gross disregard for customer satisfaction. - Amazing, unbelievable story!
Quote:


I'll use the Tivax until something better comes along. I don't see that happening until manufacturers get done falling all over themselves to produce the zillions of crippleboxes demanded by the government and the public.

How true!
Quote:


Until then, the Tivax is basically a throwaway with a one-year warranty. I'll spend my coupons on a couple of crippleboxes before too long so I'll have a backup for when the Tivax dies and I have to send it off for replacement.

It is a sad commentary that you as a consumer have to think in terms of a Plan: A, B, C, to take care of a single household need - an operational TV - like you have nothing else to do in life!

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Just say "no" to a never-ending subscription TV bill that increases faster than the rate of inflation.
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post #29 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bouldrey View Post

I'll spend my coupons on a couple of crippleboxes before too long so I'll have a backup for when the Tivax dies and I have to send it off for replacement.

Which of the crippleboxes are you leaning towards? Which do you see as the lesser of all evils?

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Just say "no" to a never-ending subscription TV bill that increases faster than the rate of inflation.
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post #30 of 44 Old 05-13-2008, 08:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I prefer to wait and see about the dishpal/echostar before I get anything.

If I get in a hurry, I have a neighbor who takes coupons and has a garage full of Philco boxes. These have a genuine analog pass through that would be nice for the bedroom tv since we have one analog station holding out until the bitter end. Performance seems okay and it does everything we need it to do. I can get one of these for these for almost nothing. If it breaks, I just give it back and get a new one. No shipping.

For another option, I wouldn't mind paying a few extra bucks for the allegedly higher tuner and picture quality of a Zenith/Insignia but not with the Looney Tunes sound feature.

I'd probably pick up one CM-7000 if I could get it locally. Also maybe an RCA if I could get it locally but nobody sells them.
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