Consumer Reports has its own DTV discussion board but there is not much activity. Since early March one CR poster has repeatedly given links to the AVS Forum. Here is one such post from 8/13/08:
The current NTIA list of coupon eligible converter boxes is found here:https://www.ntiadtv.gov/cecb_list.cfm
The current NTIA list of approved converter box retailers for online, phone, or retail store sales is found here:https://www.mydtv2009.gov/VendorSearch.aspx
From that page you may input your zip code to find retail stores selling coupon eligible converter boxes in your community. The listings give addresses and phone numbers and a link to a map of the store location. Unfortunately it may be difficult to determine which retail stores carry which brands/models without calling the store for that information.
Many thousands of discussions between converter box owners may be found on the AVS Forum here:http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=186
Generally the coupon eligible converter boxes that are most highly regarded by owners/users are the Zenith DTT901 and (lately) its twin, the Insignia NS-DXA1-APT; and the Channel Master CM-7000. The Zenith is found at Circuit City ($59.99), KMart ($49.99), some Radio Shack franchise stores and several regional chains such as Bi-Mart ($49.99) or local stores and online at www.watchdigitaltv.com
. The Insignia is found at Best Buy ($59.99). The Channel Master is found at Fry's and some local stores and several online sources including www.watchdigitaltv.com
(but the CM-7000 is usually priced at $79.99 or more). The current Zenith and Insignia models have analog RF pass through, an important feature for those residing in areas that may continue to be served by low power, community, and translator stations that may continue analog broadcasting after February 2009. The Channel Master is one of very few models that have an S-Video output but it does not have the analog RF pass through feature.
Some stores sell more than one brand/model, e.g., KMart sells the Zenith and Magnavox; WalMart sells the RCA and Magnavox; Best Buy sells the Insignia and Apex; Radio Shack may sell the Digital Stream and may order the Zenith, etc. Some online or phone sellers may have an assortment of several models/brands.
A recent arrival to the marketplace, the Zinwell ZAT-970A is generating positive owner comments because it has the ability to program the converter box to turn itself on and change the channel for up to eight programmed events thus allowing unattended recording with a VCR or DVD recorder. Some owners have reported performance quirks with the Zinwell. Read owner comments at the AVS Forum and decide for yourself it this product is suitable for your intended use. The Zinwell ZAT-970A is found online at www.watchdigitaltv.com
The Dish Network DTVPal generated a great deal of speculative discussion prior to its arrival in the marketplace, but since that time the owner comments have often been negative. Owners report mediocre picture quality and the inability of its program timer to function properly. Owners have pointed out that the DTVPal constantly resets its clock to whatever time signal is transmitted by the currently tuned-in TV station but those times vary widely from the actual time or from the time transmitted by other TV stations in the same community, rendering the DTVPal event timer useless. The DTVPal may be found at Sears and a few other retail stores and at some online sellers.
My immediate and extended family pooled the family coupons. So far six Zenith DTT901 and DTT900 models have been purchased. (The DTT900, a discontinued model, does not have the analog RF pass through feature. The DTT900 models of April 2008 production--see the bar code sticker on the end of the cardboard box--corrects the main audio problem found in some earlier models.)
Many owners regard the Zenith DTT901 and its twin, the Insignia NS-DXA1-APT, as providing outstanding performance and value, a view I share.