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.