Consumer Reports posts results of converter box tests - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 65 Old 06-08-2008, 02:07 AM - Thread Starter
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I guess nobody's seen this yet?

DTV converters: Best performers from our tests
blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2008/06/dtv-converter-1.html

The standouts:

* Tivax STB-T9
* Microgem MG2000
* Insignia NS-DXA1
* Zenith DTT900
* Philco TB100HH9

Everyone talks about the Zenith and Insignia, but what about the other three? What are people's opinions on these? How do their tuning capabilities compare to the Zenith? Also, on Wikipedia it says the Tivax's EPG is 12-Hour, and the Microgem's EPG is 12Hr-1Ch. What is the difference?
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post #2 of 65 Old 06-08-2008, 05:21 AM
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Did you see the previous reports?

Digital TV converter boxes: First Look
Previews of the Magnavox TB100MW9, Insignia NS-DXA1, and Zenith DTT900
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/e...first-look.htm

Philco TB100HH9: A DTV set-top box with analog pass-through
http://blogs.consumerreports.org/ele...look-phil.html

The Magnavox & Philco along w/ some others made by Funai are similar.

Tivax STB-T9 topic
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1007580

Consumer Reports on the Tivax STB-T9 & Microgem MG2000
"If you're watching a down-converted HD program letter-boxed to fit your squarish screen, images are stretched vertically "

To me PQ, reception, ability to add Ch. is important. While an EPG would be nice on a second converter, it's not necessary to confirm there is very little on broadcast TV worth watching. Another possibility is the DTVPal which is supposed to have a 'VCR timer' along w/ EPG. To expect a cable or dish co. to have the best broadcast tuner converter is a stretch. They initially said it would be free after the coupon.

The Zenith is slick & going to be tough to beat. I got a DTT900 & expect to get a DTT901.
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post #3 of 65 Old 06-08-2008, 10:12 AM
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Consumer Reports has been promising a comprehensive report since April. If it takes much longer, it won't be very useful. Other than having an opinion on PQ for the latest models, this latest "review" didn't really speak to feature differences. You should find more detailed reviews here, just search for by box name. There are also comparison threads on closed captioning and EPG.

I have a Zenith DT900 and pre-ordered a DTVPal for my second box.
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post #4 of 65 Old 06-08-2008, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TalkingRat View Post

You should find more detailed reviews here, just search for by box name. There are also comparison threads on closed captioning and EPG

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmulvany - comparison thread on closed captioning View Post

Evaluating Digital to Analog Converter Boxes for Users of Captioning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Malouff - comparison thread on EPG View Post

NTIA approved (CECBs) - Electronic program guide (EPG) - Style Used

TalkingRat you are forgetting another resource for comparison available here
Quote:
Originally Posted by holl_ands - comparison spread sheet better then Wikipedia's View Post

"CECB Features List - 27May2008" spread sheet update is attached.

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post #5 of 65 Old 06-08-2008, 12:25 PM
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Malouff, I miss your siggy with all the links. Bring it back!
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post #6 of 65 Old 06-08-2008, 01:14 PM
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TalkingRat do you also want this part of the original?
Participating Retailers | Eligible Converter Boxes List

I am seriously thinking of leaving it off because of how the NTIA has been acting and don't want to promote anything to do with them.

I makes me mad to see how they are handling this whole thing.
The lack of a large selection of PassThru. A NTSC tuner would have been better.
The stupid coupons being lost and expiring before given a selection of PassThru
I also don't like what they did to those who were trying to help people like MicroProse and Provantage.
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post #7 of 65 Old 06-08-2008, 02:18 PM
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They are all handy, but especially the AVS Forum one are nice.

There are definite holes in the program, the assumption of accurate mail delivery being the first mistake.

Not allowing returned product to go back on the coupon means there is generally no hope of exchange if the first model doesn't work.

Listing 54 boxes, 6 with APT was deceptive. The early problems with Magnavox and RCA left me with one choice.
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post #8 of 65 Old 08-27-2008, 05:15 PM
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Consumer reports has just updated their review of CECBs. It now also includes the much-touted Channel Master CM-7000 along with several others since their last reviewing. See below.

Unfortunately, they still failed to look at the sensitivity in their comparisons. I guess they don't understand that a large percentage of the people purchasing these boxes are farther from towers with marginal signals and often live in rural communities where cable TV is not an option.

Also, it seems silly for them to ranking primarily by subtle picture quality differences (mostly visible on a HDTV) when most of the people purchasing the converter boxes are doing so because they want to keep their analog TV's going after February 2009. After all, that is the primary reason for providing the $40 CECB coupons in the first place.

http://blogs.consumerreports.org/ele...verter%20boxes

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/e...-and-notes.htm

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/e...es-ratings.htm

medoug.
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post #9 of 65 Old 08-27-2008, 05:46 PM
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Even though it's only Consumer Reports, it's actually good to see a little more honest review of the DTVPal's sub-par picture quality, for a change. They described it pretty well.
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post #10 of 65 Old 08-27-2008, 07:56 PM
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What a bunch of crock!
Quote:


The Channel Master CM-7000 was tops for picture quality. It's among the first boxes to have an S-video output, which can deliver better picture quality than a composite-video or RF out. It's pricey, though, at $80. The Apex DT250 also has an S-video out, though its picture quality didn't quite match the Channel Master's. Older TVs don't have an S-video output, so you'd have to use either the composite-video or RF output.

Of course the S-Video is going to have the highest PQ. It's not brain surgery.

I've seen plenty of older TV's with S-Video connections. Who knows, maybe I might want to send the output to a DVR.

Quote:


They also performed comparably in their ability to pull in digital stations.

They need to get their backends out of NYC and try their tests somewhere around 65 to 80 miles out. Maybe even in the catskills.
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post #11 of 65 Old 08-27-2008, 10:24 PM
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CM 7000 is king

Zenith 901/900 is close behind.

All the rest.

Vizio VP322 Plasma / Vizio GV42LF LCD / Denon 2200 Silicon Image DVD / Panasonic S97 Faroudja Genesis DVD / Oppo 970HD Mediatek DVD / Oppo 983H Anchor Bay DVD / Panasonic LX-600 Laserdisc / Aiwa MX100 Multi-region VCR / JVC S7600 S-VHS / PS2 / Sega Genesis / Nintendo SNES / Roku 2 XS & HD-XR / Realistic STA-90 Reciever / Realistic Minimus 7 / Antennacraft G1483 Hoverman / Belden 7915A RG6 / Channel Master 7777 Titan 2 UHF/VHF / Panasonic AX-200u / Optoma Graywolf 92" / Draper Luma 92"
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post #12 of 65 Old 08-27-2008, 11:00 PM
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If they call that an August update, they should have added the DTT901, since Zenith announced a month ago that they were replacing the 900. The retailer list needs updating, too.

The conditions they tested under should have had multipath. Given their box choices, they must not have watched long enough to see the effects of wildly fluctuating signals.
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post #13 of 65 Old 08-27-2008, 11:13 PM
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DTT901 definitely beats most other boxes in all around features and great PQ.
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post #14 of 65 Old 08-28-2008, 08:16 AM
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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 and www.solidsignal.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.

"A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WILL SMELL AS SWEET. BUT IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT WHATEVER WE CHOOSE TO CALL A ROSE WILL POSSESS THE ROSE'S FRAGRANCE."

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post #15 of 65 Old 08-28-2008, 08:20 AM
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Perhaps Consumer Reports editors do not read the posts on their own discussion board. The same AVS Forum member posted this message to the CR board on 8/27/08:

I see that Consumer Reports has just posted somewhat updated (but still out-of-date) information concerning coupon eligible converter boxes:

1-The CR information includes the Channel Master CM-7000. This model is very highly regarded by its owners. See this Channel Master thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1004274

2-The CR information does not include the current Zenith DTT901 with analog pass through. This model has been in the marketplace for for more than three months now. This model is very highly regarded by its owners. The CR information still includes the DTT900, a model discontinued in April 2008. See this Zenith thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1032622

3-The CR information does not include the current Insignia NS-DXA1-APT with analog pass through. This model is a twin to the Zenith DTT901. As with the Zenith the CR information still includes the Insignia NS-DXA1, a model discontinued in April 2008. See the Zenith thread.

4-The CR information does not include the Zinwell ZAT-970A with analog pass through and eight event timers. This model, well regarded by many owners, has been available for around three weeks now. The Zinwell ZAT-970A has several features similar to those hyped for the Dish Network DTVPal. Zinwell ZAT-970A owners have found their event timers to be functional (unlike those found on the DTVPal) but some owners have reported some features are awkward to implement. See this Zinwell thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1048100

5-Consumer Reports repeats feature information for the DTVPal but neglects to mention that the timer and EPG features don't work. On the AVS Forum DTVPal owners often describe their frustration with non-functional features and the seeming indifference of Dish Network customer service. Many owners express their concern that Dish Network may not replace or repair malfunctioning products. Before purchasing a DTVPal read the most recent of the more than 4,060 posts in the main DTVPal thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1001979 (DTVPal owners/users started reporting DTVPal problems with posts in the 2,000 number range. The problems continue to be discussed to this very day, some 2,000 owner/user posts later.)

6-The CR information mentions the TR-40cra, a DTVPal twin that has just appeared in the last week. Initial postings in the AVS Forum suggest that this model corrects some problems found on the DTVPal. See the TR-40cra thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1055534

Here is the link to the AVS Forum general thread listing of discussions between converter box owners/users: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=186

"A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WILL SMELL AS SWEET. BUT IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT WHATEVER WE CHOOSE TO CALL A ROSE WILL POSSESS THE ROSE'S FRAGRANCE."

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post #16 of 65 Old 08-28-2008, 12:36 PM
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Sweet...my comments got posted on the CR website with regards to the DTVPal and their defective timers, along with a shameless plug for our forum.


Edit: Awww man...someone must have beat me to the punch, as the ones referred to in DigaDo's post arent mine. Mine are on this page http://blogs.consumerreports.org/ele...verter%20boxes.
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post #17 of 65 Old 08-28-2008, 01:46 PM
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The AVS Forum member mentioned in my earlier post has just posted to another CR thread. That post is similar to the 8/27/08 post but adds this material toward the end:

7-The CR information does not address converter box longevity or potentially hazardous conditions. A number of owners report product failures. One owner reported that his widely sold converter box overheated and caught fire! Consumer Reports rates the model that caught fire as Acceptable but mentions that it has minor flaws! Surely these are very important considerations that a consumer organization must more conscientiously identify and address.

Here is the link to the AVS Forum general thread listing of discussions between converter box owners/users: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=186

The postings found on the AVS Forum are from daily users of converter boxes, not someone giving a converter box a quick once-over before moving on to something else.

"A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WILL SMELL AS SWEET. BUT IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT WHATEVER WE CHOOSE TO CALL A ROSE WILL POSSESS THE ROSE'S FRAGRANCE."

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post #18 of 65 Old 08-28-2008, 05:50 PM
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My observations: The CM7000 has the best PQ, when using the S video output. I also found a way to suppress the chroma carrier, if I plan to feed an antique B&W TV set with it. But this box doesn't have quite the sensitivity and reception ability as the Zenith box. The Zenith will sniff out most everything out there. But the PQ is somewhat degraded because it's strictly composite video, no S video.
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post #19 of 65 Old 08-28-2008, 11:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wa2ise View Post

My observations: The CM7000 has the best PQ, when using the S video output.... But this box doesn't have quite the sensitivity and reception ability as the Zenith box. The Zenith will sniff out most everything out there.

Really? That's funny, because my CM has been getting in stations from over 150 miles away late at night on occasion, and the Zenith never does that.
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post #20 of 65 Old 08-29-2008, 05:41 AM
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Different kinds of sensitivity? From what I've read, CM is better for fringe. But Zenith happily locks onto a multipath signal, while the CM breaks up every couple seconds with a wildly fluctuating signal on the meter. Recently the CM surprised me: it added a station automatically -- on the same real frequency as one I already have. It doesn't carry station ID or EPG for the second one. With Zenith and TR40 I tried to find it manually, but the other boxes just point me to the station I already have on that frequency. My CM and TR40 have VBI and white lines on the top/bottom edge of the picture for some channels in some resolutions unless I fully zoom the picture, and the Zenith covers that up. I don't think the consumer report articles mention the lines.

I like the CM PQ, and the TR40 has a similar look to it, but from what I've read, the TR40 adjusts for weak signals by reducing resolution, so it is crisp with strong signals and blurry with weak signals to keep from losing video. Since I have strong signals...

My Frys puts the CM on sale Sun-Tues. It hasn't been on sale for a few weeks, but I bet it will be for Labor Day weekend. They put the boxes in multiple places, so people who work there don't always know what's in stock.
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post #21 of 65 Old 08-29-2008, 09:52 AM
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A Consumer Reports discussion board moderator responded to an AVS Forum member's posts (see my above posts) on the CR discussion board in this way:

"Thank you for your comments, but there is no need to repeat information that you have already posted on this forum. To say that our ratings are out of date is not appropriate. CR has tested in depth (there are no a quick once-overs as you imply) more HDTV converters than any other organization in the US, and we will be testing more.

The AVS forums are a questionable source of reliable information. Anybody can post, including those who have a commercial interest, and the authors are anonymous. While some reports are informative, many posts are unsubstantiated opinions or pure speculation.

We do not test Electronics products for longevity. We do publish reliability information obtained from our Annual subscriber survey. HDTV converter boxes have just been introduced into the marketplace, and it is too early to comment on their reliability.

If we do find a serious problem with a tested product, we do comment on it, and we notify the manufacturer and regulatory agencies."

"A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WILL SMELL AS SWEET. BUT IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT WHATEVER WE CHOOSE TO CALL A ROSE WILL POSSESS THE ROSE'S FRAGRANCE."

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post #22 of 65 Old 08-29-2008, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

Really? That's funny, because my CM has been getting in stations from over 150 miles away late at night on occasion, and the Zenith never does that.

In my area, they're all roughly the same, but my Zenith (and Apex, and Zinwell) seems to hold the signal as well if not better on some channels than my CM-7000.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DigaDo View Post

.... including those who have a commercial interest, and the authors are anonymous....

Ok people, fess up! Which one of you works for Zenith/CM/Apex/etc.?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TalkingRat View Post

If they call that an August update, they should have added the DTT901, since Zenith announced a month ago that they were replacing the 900. The retailer list needs updating, too.

The conditions they tested under should have had multipath. Given their box choices, they must not have watched long enough to see the effects of wildly fluctuating signals.

......Make that four months ago!.....
so much for Consumer Reports being up to date.....
and/or providing accurate assessments of these boxes' performance!
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post #24 of 65 Old 09-02-2008, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DigaDo View Post


The AVS forums are a questionable source of reliable information. Anybody can post, including those who have a commercial interest, and the authors are anonymous. While some reports are informative, many posts are unsubstantiated opinions or pure speculation.

LOL on Consumers Reports. I think the part about anyone instead of the chosen few posting is what bothers them.

You can tell this guy has never really read a thread on this site. I used to read their magazine and to be quite honest, they're the ones who's honesty needs to be questioned.
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post #25 of 65 Old 09-02-2008, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DigaDo View Post

A Consumer Reports discussion board moderator responded to an AVS Forum member's posts (see my above posts) on the CR discussion board in this way:

"Thank you for your comments, but there is no need to repeat information that you have already posted on this forum. To say that our ratings are out of date is not appropriate . . .

We do not test Electronics products for longevity . . . HDTV converter boxes have just been introduced into the marketplace, and it is too early to comment on their reliability.

If we do find a serious problem with a tested product, we do comment on it, and we notify the manufacturer and regulatory agencies."

The poster pointed out exactly how the Consumer Reports information is out of date.

The topic is coupon eligible converter boxes, not HDTV converter boxes--or does that CR moderator know the difference?

Maybe it's time for CR to look beyond their own limited criteria for "testing."

"A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WILL SMELL AS SWEET. BUT IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT WHATEVER WE CHOOSE TO CALL A ROSE WILL POSSESS THE ROSE'S FRAGRANCE."

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post #26 of 65 Old 09-02-2008, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DigaDo View Post

. . .Maybe it's time for CR to look beyond their own limited criteria for "testing."

Take a chill pill.
We're out here close to the edge.
CR never ventures anywhere near the edge.
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post #27 of 65 Old 09-02-2008, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hardly View Post

Take a chill pill.
We're out here close to the edge.
CR never ventures anywhere near the edge.

Please...with the way these CECB's are behaving or malfunctioning, and the manufacturers not doing anything about it...some of have been pushed over the edge.
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post #28 of 65 Old 09-02-2008, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by mhufnagel View Post

LOL on Consumers Reports. I think the part about anyone instead of the chosen few posting is what bothers them.

But he is right on about the "many posts are....pure speculation" on this forum part. Many sub-forum's posts here are based on it and wouldn't exist without it. I would even go so far as to say that this forum thrives on it.

Also about the "including those who have a commercial interest" part, for that matter. Although they can also be found occasionally in other areas, the HDTV Programming sub-forum in particular seems to have more than it's share of regular posters with vested interests. Not so much from the pay-providers, but mostly associated with OTA. In fact, we've even had them on our local threads, too.
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post #29 of 65 Old 09-02-2008, 11:38 PM
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LOL!

Just because you are paranoid, doesnt mean they are not out to get you.

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post #30 of 65 Old 09-03-2008, 12:04 AM
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Well, I probably am paranoid, but you're right - that's beside the point in this case.

These people have been around long enough, and so have I now, for me to have come to this conclusion.
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