Zinwell ZAT-970A? - Page 4 - AVS Forum
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post #91 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 10:08 AM
 
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P.S. I bought two Zinwells today. I had a coupon I needed to spend ASAP, so I went ahead and took the jump. They're only $54 each, which is not bad.


Also I'm taping the Olympics this week using a CM-7000 (turned on all the time). My first trial run with DTV. Unfortunately last night I was getting a lot of dropouts due to a stupid storm; I hope the rest of this week is dropout-free.
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post #92 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 11:08 AM
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I know someone who spoke with one of the Zat's sellers, pointing out the clock ending up two hours off in someone's machine.

The seller replied that the rare hiccup can hit any machine or device. A tire, one of a thousand made, could come out bad. A car might be a lemon, whereas others of its make and model run fine.

I guess the suggestion was made to wait and see if any other Zats turn out to have the clock problem.

Maybe I'll know in a few days?
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post #93 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 11:09 AM
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On Sunday morning I woke up to find my Zat's manual clock fast 2 hours, 1 and a half minutes. I reset it to correct time, and it was still correct when I last checked it at 10 PM Sunday night.

However, when i checked it this (Monday) morning, the clock was once again fast, this time by 2 hours, 12 minutes.


If any other Zat owners could chime in on the accuracy of their manual clocks, it would be greatly appreciated. Maybe I just have a lemon...
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post #94 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by visualsensation View Post

On Sunday morning I woke up to find my Zat's manual clock fast 2 hours, 1 and a half minutes. I reset it to correct time, and it was still correct when I last checked it at 10 PM Sunday night.

However, when i checked it this (Monday) morning, the clock was once again fast, this time by 2 hours, 12 minutes.


If any other Zat owners could chime in on the accuracy of their manual clocks, it would be greatly appreciated. Maybe I just have a lemon...

I received my ZAT-970A on Saturday set it up for the Timer events. I don't know why you would set the clock in manual mode. If your local station are putting out incorrect time then work with them to correct the situation. A month ago several stations in San Francisco Bay Area were off. But now CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS are all putting out correct time. It would appear that the ZAT box does not have a crystal time standard and so will drift with time. So use the PSIP time.
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post #95 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 11:31 AM
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I received my ZAT-970A Saturday and within 15 minutes had the unit up and running with Timer events stored. Today I removed the power (pulled input in back) for 5 minutes and then powered on again. All Timer events were there and all correct. No channel changing or event deletions as per DTVPal. I have one possible problem issue and will report when I have more information. So far very happy.
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post #96 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pestocat View Post

I received my ZAT-970A on Saturday set it up for the Timer events. I don't know why you would set the clock in manual mode. If your local station are putting out incorrect time then work with them to correct the situation. A month ago several stations in San Francisco Bay Area were off. But now CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS are all putting out correct time. It would appear that the ZAT box does not have a crystal time standard and so will drift with time. So use the PSIP time.

I thought the manual time was why you people were wanting the Zinwell instead of the DTVPal?

If you are going to be using it with PSIP time what has changed?

You could at least test the manual time and see if your's also drifts and report back.
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post #97 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 12:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by visualsensation View Post

However, when i checked it this (Monday) morning, the clock was once again fast, this time by 2 hours, 12 minutes.

Before going to bed, press "record" on your VCR and see if you can catch the Zinwell changing times. I suspect it has something to do with the midnight hour.
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post #98 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malouff View Post

I that the manual time was why you people were wanting the Zinwell instead of the DTVPal? ...

Most dislike the fact that the Pal can have its event timer details corrupted when the box is turned on and downloads new guide data from the stations.

A secondary problem has been the fact that the Pal is totally dependent on the TV stations to set its clock. No manual set.

If a station's clock is wrong (and even after pestering them they can continue to be, even on occasion), it can destroy your chances of getting a recording.

With the Zat not having the problem with channel and time being changed in its event timer, AND having the option of having the clock be immune to influence from the TV stations, it looked very appealing.

Unfortunately, it now seems the Zat has clock issues of its own, and will have to be hunted down and destroyed with fire....

Or something like that.

I'm just a little ticked over both the report of clock problems, and the fact that mine (which came today) has a tuner that picks up channels my Pal couldn't, but is flakey (occasional breakups) on channels my Pal got perfectly.

Excuse me...

Gonna go move the antenna a bit and see if I can get better reception.
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post #99 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 04:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by electrictroy View Post

Before going to bed, press "record" on your VCR and see if you can catch the Zinwell changing times. I suspect it has something to do with the midnight hour.

Witches? Trolls? Elves?
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post #100 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 05:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gastrof View Post

Most dislike the fact that the Pal can have its event timer details corrupted when the box is turned on and downloads new guide data from the stations.

A secondary problem has been the fact that the Pal is totally dependent on the TV stations to set its clock. No manual set.

If a station's clock is wrong (and even after pestering them they can continue to be, even on occasion), it can destroy your chances of getting a recording.

This should only get better over time shouldn't it.
Once Firmware F10x is released and the FCC starts giving stations penalties if they are unwilling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gastrof View Post

With the Zat not having the problem with channel and time being changed in its event timer, AND having the option of having the clock be immune to influence from the TV stations, it looked very appealing.

Looks are not everything but ironically it was probably what also attacted a lot of DTVPal customers

Quote:
Originally Posted by gastrof View Post

the fact that mine (which came today) has a tuner that picks up channels my Pal couldn't, but is flakey (occasional breakups) on channels my Pal got perfectly.

Hopefully this problem is also Firmware that can be upgraded if not I would consider this as very important when choosing between Dish or Zinwell.

What good are features that can work with the Zinwell if you can't use them because of the occasional breakups.

At least with the DTVPal you could set it and leave it like the other converters but the timers also work to if left on (we just need to determine what is causing the drift).
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post #101 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 09:25 PM
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Hey...

My Zat turned itself off (at least I think it did...don't recall doing it myself). Going thru the booklet, I can't find any access to an auto-shutoff feature.

Am I missing it, or is it not there? Went thru the box's menus and can't find it there either.
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post #102 of 1146 Old 08-11-2008, 09:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gastrof View Post

Hey...

My Zat turned itself off (at least I think it did...don't recall doing it myself). Going thru the booklet, I can't find any access to an auto-shutoff feature.

Am I missing it, or is it not there? Went thru the box's menus and can't find it there either.

As I read the manual, it looks like the factory default inactivity timout is 4 hours. To change that setting:
Main Menu
->Setup Menu
->->Timer Setting
->->->Sleep Timer
Quote:


Sleep Timer
On the Sleep Timer Menu, you can set the system enter standby mode automatically after the user’s setting time. Press to set the sleep time parameter listed as following: Off/ 1hr/ 2hr/ 4hr/ 8hr, and then press ENTER to start sleep time countdown. The Factory default period of inactivity before automatically switching to sleep state is 4hr.

I suspect this manual was written by someone who's native language is not English. I presume the intended phrases were similar to: "set the system to enter standby after the user’s time setting" and "to enable sleep time countdown". I am not really comfortable with the corrections I offered, but I didn't want to change their phrases too much. I hope the changes reflect the way the unit actually works.

I am just going by the manual. I do not have a ZAT.
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post #103 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 01:17 AM
 
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Due to the (unfortunate) forum crash, My original review (and numerous follow-up threads) of the Zinwell converter box went lost!
However (until I can possibly recover the original review), I will make some comments here......in direct reference to the somewhat positive remarks that were issued originally to counter my (mostly) negative review of this (poor excuse for a) converter box:

For the members who prefer to remain cautiously optimistic and/or wish that this box would do what it was intended to do......and for the members who purchased it based on impulse......I apologize for all the negativity (here and previously).
I'm just very realistic and practical by nature......and tell it as I see it......for better or worse......no sugar coating from me (sorry)!


Quote:
Originally Posted by electrictroy View Post

Thanks to the wonder that is Google, I was able to retrieve some of my messages:

Ironically a lot of the things you list as negatives, I consider as positives. I will note here using +, -, or 0 (neutral) what I like/dislike followed by an explanation in paratheses.

"0" "There's no EPG." (Analog television doesn't come with an electronic guide... never used one before. Don't need one now. Zap2it.com is good enough.)

......perhaps you don't need one but the majority of us would prefer it. If this box lived up to it's promises and wasn't so problematic, the missing EPG would be less significant (perhaps)!

"0" "When changing channels directly, there's a six second delay" (I'm only using this for my VCR, and it doesn't care about this. Besides, ALL of these boxes have a long delay when switching channels.)

......This is not a major issue......just another (of many) annoyances I found.

"+" "There are two signal meters (unusual). One displays quality, the other displays intensity." (Great! The INTENSITY of the signal is what every box should have so I can adjust my antenna for maximum reception.)

......the "intensity" is what most boxes do display. The "quality" meter is far less important and less telling. From my experience, the "quality" can remain consistantly in the 80-100% range......while the "intensity" is much lower. In my experience with this box (with weaker, more telling signals), the "quality" was as high as 95-100% and the picture would be basically unwatchable!......so much for "quality"!
Having two meters (insofar as this box is concerned) is basically useless.


"+" "Where other boxes may blank out with these channels, this one would display a picture that was basically unusable, since it was unstable (breakup, pixelization, etc.)" (Fantastic! SOME kind of picture is better than no picture. It's hard to enjoy the Baltimore game if it's a blank screen, but a degraded image still lets me catch the O's latest exploits. Same way Analog TV worked.)

......Perhaps you're unfamiliar with the (major) difference between analog vs. digital and how it relates to what you actually see on the screen. When the digital signal is weak and fluctuating, you will see what is basically a useless picture (breakup, pixelization, freezing or a blank screen)!
By comparison, analog (under some conditions) is far better. You may see snow, ghosting, interference, etc.......but it's still watchable (vs. an unwatchable digital signal).
So, in essence, it's not the "same way analog TV worked"!


"0" "Using the analog pass-through..." (Don't care. As of Feb 17, my analog stations will be dead. All I need is a pure DTV tuner.)

......the majority of users prefer to have the "pass-through" option.
The way this box was designed......it may as well not have the pass-through option at all!......it requires nine steps on the remote control to access it!!
Ludicrous design!......you should simply be able to turn off the box and make it dissapear (hence allowing the analog signal to "pass-through").


Bottom Line:

Based on this review, I'd buy it. I see no cons here that would affect my desire to get a DTV tuner attached to my VCR or DVR. I don't need passthru, or e-guide, and I see a lot of benefit in seeing stations even if they are weak.

......since this is basically a different version of your original thread (and my original review is lost in cyberspace)......and is missing some of it's original information......I will add some additional comments here:
A) This box basically performs no better than various others I've tested in terms of sensitivity. Initially, I thought that it was slightly better but, for the most part, it's not. The only (minor) difference (comparatively speaking) is that, when a signal is weak or drifting, it will display a frozen (often pixelated) image vs. other boxes that may go into a blank screen. No real advantage to having a still picture on the screen (vs. no picture)!......
which leads me to......
B) You originally stated that you felt that "some kind of picture" was "fantastic" (vs. no picture). I beg to differ with you. Having a frozen or pixelated image is useless and can often be more frustrating than a blank screen!
There have been reports of the Channel Master box having what's described as a "blurry" or "watercolor" appearance but it's been noted here that it tends to be very temporary.
I, for one, haven't seen this at all on my CM. Perhaps it's a signal related issue and/or the way the CM's circuit processes the signal.
C) The program timers (the one feature that everyone was buzzing about) were very poorly integrated on this box. They're basically pathetic!
24 hour clock and timers vs. 12 hour (the American standard). Who needs to fuss with 24 hour time and the confusion it creates (for the average person here in the US)?......What were they thinking?! ......
Add to this the fact that the timers only "wake up" the box and don't turn it off at the time that the show ends (more stupid design)!......this is a poor excuse for a program timer!......but it gets better......after a few days of use......the clock is drifting (making the timers useless altogether)!!
DTV PAL revisited?!......perhaps the so-called "manual clock" option is merely intended as a correction for the automated clock and not a true manual clock setting to begin with (just speculation on my part).

There are other (less serious) problems to report but overall, this is truly one of the worst boxes out there and it appears as if we may just be guinea pigs, testing a prototype......as opposed to a finished product!......either that or it was designed by someone who lost touch completely!
This box needs a total make-over......I'm afraid that software modifications may not be sufficient......
but we can only hope......

It's clearly not what I (or anyone else) truly expected and has proven to be a major dissapointment!!
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post #104 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 01:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slprp1 View Post

However (until I can possibly recover the original review)....

Google cache.
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post #105 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 02:02 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

Google cache.

Thanks!
I tried that but (so far) have been unsuccessful.

In the interim......my comments (above) should suffice.
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post #106 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 04:40 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slprp1 View Post

B) You originally stated that you felt that "some kind of picture" was "fantastic" (vs. no picture). I beg to differ with you. Having a frozen or pixelated image is useless and can often be more frustrating than a blank screen!

There have been reports of the Channel Master box having what's described as a "blurry" or "watercolor" appearance but it's been noted here that it tends to be very temporary.

I agree that Zinwell displaying a frozen image is no good. Yuck.

The Channel Master literally displays whatever it gets, and rarely freezes, but it does often make the image "run" down the screen like a poorly-painted watercolor. - The Channel Master also has an "audio only" mode so even if the Orioles image turns to trash (due to a passing plane for example), I can still hear what's going on and not miss the action.

I grew-up watching marginal analog pictures from 50-60-70 miles away.
I've learned that SOMETHING is better than nothing.
Quote:
24 hour clock and timers vs. 12 hour (the American standard). Who needs to fuss with 24 hour time and the confusion it creates (for the average person here in the US)?......What were they thinking?! ......

(shrug). "Something is better than nothing." Of course I work for the military, so I guess I'm just used to 24 hour time.

1900 hours. "Oh that means 9-2 = 7 o'clock." Easy.
Quote:
Add to this the fact that the timers only "wake up" the box and don't turn it off at the time that the show ends (more stupid design)!......this is a poor excuse for a program timer!......

Depends. Do the other timers activate when the box is turned on?
Quote:
but it gets better......after a few days of use......the clock is drifting (making the timers useless altogether)!!

I agree. There's really no excuse for a drifting clock. The thing has the 60 cycles per second power source to keep accuracy, and should be as just accurate as my VCR (1 second per month drift).
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post #107 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 07:51 AM
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Leaving the link to some of the lost posts retrieved as cache.

http://209.85.141.104/search?q=cache...ient=firefox-a
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post #108 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 09:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenavs View Post

As I read the manual, it looks like the factory default inactivity timout is 4 hours. To change that setting:
Main Menu
->Setup Menu
->->Timer Setting
->->->Sleep Timer...

Oh.

I see.

So now the inactivity shutoff feature is a SLEEP TIMER.

How silly of me not to know that.

Thanks for clearing it up.
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post #109 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malouff View Post

I thought the manual time was why you people were wanting the Zinwell instead of the DTVPal?

If you are going to be using it with PSIP time what has changed?

You could at least test the manual time and see if your's also drifts and report back.

Malouff,
The reason for purchasing the ZAT-970A was the hope that the Timer events would don't get corrupted. For me keeping a correct time is not an issue at this time. A month ago, TV stations were not keeping the correct time. But some e-mails have fixed this. So if you have station not putting out the correct time, make your self heard. Tell them that us with DTVPal and ZAT-970A converter boxes need correct time for the converter boxes to work correctly. This AM I set Time to Manual, will report this evening.
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post #110 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 10:54 AM
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For those using the Zinwell ZAT-970A in "automatic" clock mode I was wondering how it gets its time. Does it use the PSIP time from each station that you tune to? If you have TV stations sending out different times in your area, how does the Zinwell deal with that with regard to its timers?
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post #111 of 1146 Old 08-12-2008, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gastrof View Post

Oh.

I see.

So now the inactivity shutoff feature is a SLEEP TIMER.

How silly of me not to know that.

Thanks for clearing it up.

I agree that most people raised in the US would probably not call this function a sleep timer. Zinwell is an Asian company. As I said, "I suspect this manual was written by someone who's native language is not English." I guess their thinking was that since it specifies the inactivity time that put the unit to sleep, it was a sleep timer. I also felt uncomfortable when reading their web site.

Back to the actual function: Was the SLEEP TIMER menu where the manual indicated, and did it give you control of the inactivity timer?
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post #112 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pestocat View Post

Malouff,
The reason for purchasing the ZAT-970A was the hope that the Timer events would don't get corrupted. For me keeping a correct time is not an issue at this time. A month ago, TV stations were not keeping the correct time. But some e-mails have fixed this. So if you have station not putting out the correct time, make your self heard. Tell them that us with DTVPal and ZAT-970A converter boxes need correct time for the converter boxes to work correctly. This AM I set Time to Manual, will report this evening.

After going to manual for 12 hours, the ZAT-970A was 20 seconds slow. And after 24 hours, still 20 seconds slow. I have reset time to "Time Zone" and now correct. I suggest to keep to Time Zone option.
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post #113 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trp2525 View Post

For those using the Zinwell ZAT-970A in "automatic" clock mode I was wondering how it gets its time. Does it use the PSIP time from each station that you tune to? If you have TV stations sending out different times in your area, how does the Zinwell deal with that with regard to its timers?

Yesterday I e-mailed Zinwell with that very question. Here is the reply:
ZAT-970A can get the time data from TV station,but when ZAT-970A is turned off,it doesn't wake up to check the time.
ZinnetUSA

The key point I got from the message was that the ZAT does not wake up to check time. This could be a problem if you leave the unit off for an extended period. I think I will leave mine on all the time since I need a somewhat accurate time for Timer events.
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post #114 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenavs View Post

...Was the SLEEP TIMER menu where the manual indicated, and did it give you control of the inactivity timer?

Hmmm...

I did eventually find the right controls and set the clock for what I think was manual.

Kept time okay.

Problem was the info being sent out by the channels was now showing in GMT time (I guess), which left it four hours off the time I had it showing.

Very annoying. Can't win. Set the clock manually, and any little bits of programming info you get are wrong with regards to time. (Weird seeing the clock read out the equivilant of 4PM, but the station's showing "now" as being 8PM.)

I've changed it back to my time zone and let the automatic thingie take over.

The inactivity timer...

I forget if I found and changed that or not.

Will get back to you. Film at 11....

Oh, I'm sorry. Film at 23:00.
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post #115 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by visualsensation View Post

On Sunday morning I woke up to find my Zat's manual clock fast 2 hours, 1 and a half minutes. I reset it to correct time, and it was still correct when I last checked it at 10 PM Sunday night.

However, when i checked it this (Monday) morning, the clock was once again fast, this time by 2 hours, 12 minutes.


If any other Zat owners could chime in on the accuracy of their manual clocks, it would be greatly appreciated. Maybe I just have a lemon...

Quote:
Originally Posted by pestocat View Post

After going to manual for 12 hours, the ZAT-970A was 20 seconds slow. And after 24 hours, still 20 seconds slow. I have reset time to "Time Zone" and now correct. I suggest to keep to Time Zone option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pestocat View Post

Yesterday I e-mailed Zinwell with that very question. Here is the reply:
ZAT-970A can get the time data from TV station,but when ZAT-970A is turned off,it doesn't wake up to check the time.
ZinnetUSA

The key point I got from the message was that the ZAT does not wake up to check time. This could be a problem if you leave the unit off for an extended period. I think I will leave mine on all the time since I need a somewhat accurate time for Timer events.

I would have thought that no one would mess up a timer function worse than DTVpal. It appears that Zinwell has done it.

Manual clock mode sounds like it is unusable. The 2 hours a day drift reported by visualsensation is so bad, that it could have been a defective unit that could have even been caused by shipping damage. The 20 seconds a day drift reported by pestocat is still too much to be used for timing. My old manually set VCRs were good to about a minute per month.

If the answer from Zinwell is accurate, it sounds like their automatic mode is unreliable also, even if the stations are accurate. If they don't occasionally re-sync when in standby, they are dependent on that manual time, which seems to be inadequate.

I don't know how confident I would be that the answer provided by Zinwell support was accurate.

When I emailed Zinwell support:
Quote:


I am interested in purchasing a ZAT-970A.
Are there any on-line stores that are currently selling the ZAT-970A?
Are there any stores in Colorado that stock the ZAT-970A?

I was told:
Quote:


Signal Group and Happy Laguna will be selling our box very soon, please contact them for this. Zinnet service team

Signal Group is the corporate name for SolidSignal.com, but they don't promote themselves that way, and that is not how they are listed on the NTIA website.
When I asked about it before, someone in this forum suggested that Happy Laguna is probably Happy Iguana which he saw listed on the NTIA website.

I have called the support number a couple of times. The people answering said they did not have information about brick and mortar retailers. I was told that Zinwell was shipping to distributors, but it did not know what retailers the distributors were delivering to.

I don't think I'll be buying a Zinwell ZAT-970A.
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post #116 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gastrof View Post

Hmmm...

I did eventually find the right controls and set the clock for what I think was manual.

Kept time okay.

Problem was the info being sent out by the channels was now showing in GMT time (I guess), which left it four hours off the time I had it showing.

Very annoying. Can't win. Set the clock manually, and any little bits of programming info you get are wrong with regards to time. (Weird seeing the clock read out the equivilant of 4PM, but the station's showing "now" as being 8PM.)

I've changed it back to my time zone and let the automatic thingie take over.
...

The standard does require the stations to specify the time and the program times in UTC/GMT. The station is also required to specify whether DST is in effect. It is up to the receiving unit to adjust for the time zone and DST, if applicable.

Did you happen to notice whether the program listed for "now" was the current program, or the one from 4 hours earlier? (I presume you are EDT which would be 4 hours behind GMT). I am curious whether they completely ignore the time zone setting, or just ignore it for some things.
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post #117 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TalkingRat View Post

slprp1,

Is this your review?
I found it below.

Good job TalkingRat on finding the cache of missing posts. I was very interested to see the photos by visualsensation showing the dual signal bars. I assume the Signal Quality bar is related to BER (Bit Error Rate). Is this feature unique to the 970A, or are there other boxes that give signal level AND signal quality?

Given the importance of signal quality to get a good lock on a digital signal, this feature alone is enough to consider purchase.

The Brits are also finding out that OTA DTV is not as easy to receive as advertised:
www.megalithia.com/elect/aerialsite/dttcon.html

If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.
Lord Kelvin, 1883
www.megalithia.com/elect/aerialsite/dttpoorman.html
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post #118 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 07:56 PM
 
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I will preface this by apologizing for being unable to provide screen shots (since I don't have the equipment available currently to do so).

I will provide as much detail as I can based upon my initial evaluation of this unit. If there are any further (relevant) observations/details later on, I will surely post them here.

I approached this from a mostly positive/enthusiastic mindset, since this box had potential (at least on paper)....at least for the (rare) program timer option. My enthusiasm lost it's momentum rather quickly!

Some basics:
Footprint is rather small (7" wide, 5 1/2" deep, 1 1/14" high).
RF and composite (line) outputs only. Audio is available at both outputs when in "RF" mode. Audio is considerably lower in volume when set to "line" mode. AC adapter has an unusually short cord.
Power and channel up/down buttons on front panel. Power on/off LED also on front panel (combined with IR sensor window) which is small and only somewhat visable (especially when viewing at an angle). Has simple ("now/next") guide (better read fast though, since it dissapears in 5 seconds!).
Instruction manual requires a magnifiying glass to read, is poorly written and leaves out important details, rendering it somewhat useless.

Firstly, although mostly superficial, the outward appearance of this box was a dissapointment. It's all plastic and looks somewhat like a toy. I suppose it's the combination of a grey body, white cover and white buttons that gives it this somewhat "Mickey Mouse" appearance....but this is certainly subjective.
However, construction is somewhat decent (how much can you honestly expect from these inexpensive units?) and it's vented on it's sides (although minimally). After many hours of use, it hardly broke a sweat. It became slightly warm in a 74-76 degree room (ambient temperature is a major factor to consider when judging this). The power supply is a seperate AC adapter, which (obviously) contributes to the low level of heat the unit produces.

Navigating the menu from power up is relatively fast and easy. In fact, the initial channel scan engages automatically (no prompting necessary). Unlike certain other units I've seen, it lists the actual call letters of the available channels as it adds them to the scan list.

I could go on and on with details about the menu, displays, remote control, etc. but quite frankly, I'm basically dissapointed and therefore, all of these details seem relatively unimportant, since, in my opinion, they're overshadowed by all of the negative aspects and problems that I encountered while testing this box.

Here's what (in my opinion) disqualifies this box from being anything special and, if anything, clearly puts it in the "must to avoid" category. Since I've had limited experience with other units, I'm basing my opinion on what I expected (vs. reality) from this box and it's overall performance.

The cons (sorry, but there are few "pros":
1) There's no EPG, other than the minimalist "now/next" (a poor excuse for a program guide).
2) When changing channels directly, there's a six second delay (scan up/down is typically fast).
3) The on screen channel display is tiny and in an ackward position on the screen. However, when the channel becomes visual, it's accompanied by a large banner on the bottom of the screen which displays relavant info. (such as channel ID, time, limited program data and signal meter(s). The tiny channel display (when you input the channel number from the remote) is difficult to see from a distance and quite annoying.
4) There are two signal meters (unusual). One displays "quality", the other displays "intensity". I found that, even with questionable signals, the "quality" meter was generally 80-100. The "intensity" provides a much more efficient guide, as it will vary more greatly, depending upon the signal conditions.
However, there is no specific "meter" or "signal" button!
To check the signal, you must push the display button. This brings up the full banner and only for five seconds! Without a continuous signal display (or audible beep), forget about re-orienting your antenna to max out the signal....poor design! What were they thinking? That everyone already has their antennas in a perfect position.... Not in the real world!
5) Additionally, when changing channels, it takes several seconds for the meters to stabilize. By the time the meters are in an accurate position, the display dissapears and you have to push the button again....and again!
6) Buttons on remote are closely spaced and too small (oddly enough, there's an extra inch of wasted, unused space available below the button array).
7) Picture quality is good. However, I found that it was a bit darker overall than the analog version and the color was a bit more intense. I would be satisfied with picture quality, had it not been for it's other (numerous) faults.
8) On the subject of sensitivity. Overall, there are many variables where this issue is concerned. Location, position, obstructions, atmospheric conditions, etc. In my environment, I have the advantage of a good UHF/VHF outdoor antenna (amplified). I am located on the outskirts of Manhattan (NYC). The majority of transmitters are on the Empire State Building, which is approx. 10 miles away. There are no tall buildings or obstructions nearby. Just big, tall trees (which can be somewhat of an problem, depending upon the type and strength of the signal). Regardless of the converter box, my signal strength and quality is quite good from the outset. However, there are various transmitters located as far as approx. 50 miles away (in New Jersey). These signals are weak and well out of range and direction, relative to the position of my antenna. I've had minimal experience with other boxes but this one appears to have slightly better sensitivity with these distant signals. However, where other boxes may blank out with these channels, this one would display a picture that was basically unusable, since it was unstable (breakup, pixelization, etc.).
As a further test, I tried this box with a passive indoor antenna, which provides good signal on some channels, poor signal on others. Even in a relatively good reception location, an indoor antenna can be far worse than an outdoor antenna with certain signals. It presented more of a challenge for this box (as well as others). Under these conditions, this box performed similarly to others. However, I found this one to be a bit more sensitive with the weaker signals. No major difference though. In some cases, the picture was a bit more stable than it had been with the other boxes. Not significant.
I did find a significant issue concerning these weaker signals that was not evident with the other boxes I tested and is worthy of major criticism!! When the signals were questionable and there was breakup, pixelization, etc., firstly, the audio would become badly distorted. With other boxes, it would simply skip (fade in and out). I found this to be quite annoying. Even worse is the fact that the video would lose sync with the audio!! To reset it I would have to change channels (back and forth) or turn the box off and then back on. This loss of sync was consistent whenever the signal became weak enough for even slight instability. This is a major flaw, since signals can be imperfect and cause these fluctuations frequently and commonly. Under these conditions, you would need to reset the channel constantly. I've never seen this happen before (with the other boxes I've tested). As far as I'm concerned, this loss of sync (and inability to recover) is unacceptable!
9) My tests were done in the 4:3PS setting, which generally fills the screen on my 35" Sony XBR TV. In some cases, there's the typical cropping but even with a perfectly normal 4:3 picture, I found some excessive overscan (specifically on the bottom and left side of the screen). In all fairness, this was minimal but could possibly interfere with the common scroll on the bottom of news broadcasts, etc. This will vary, depending upon the TV and it's factory settings. I found the other (aspect) settings to be useless.
10) Using the analog pass-through requires you to: A) Leave the box turned on -and- B) Use the menu to navigate to the appropriate screen where you can change the RF output - That's a total of nine button presses!! In addition, when you cycle through the on-screen setting there is actually no indication that you've accessed the pass-through option. There are three options available (channel 3, channel 4 and pass-through). When you reach the pass-through option, the only indication is a snowy picture (if you don't normally receive channel 3) or whatever channel might occupy channel 3 in your area. This contradicts the manual which gives the impression that you'll actually see the option displayed prior to the switchover. However, I did confirm that you will see the option displayed when you've set the box to "line" vs. "RF" for the output. This might indicate that it may be possible to "piggyback" multiple units (a minor convenience for some). I didn't actually test this theory but it seems logical.
This is ridiculous! As far as I'm concerned, simply turning the box off is the best (and most logical) option, should you need to switch over to analog channels. More poor design!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
I saved the best (ooops, I mean worst) for last:

11) The feature that supposed to set this box apart from the competition.
The infamous, ever-popular program timer.
At best, it's a mixed bag. At worst, it's pathetic!
This feature and it's functionality will be somewhat subjective, so I'm not actually condemming it. However, it leaves alot to be desired!
Firstly, the time can be adjusted manually. This is one of the few intelligent design aspects of this box. However, it's 24 hour time! That's right....no AM, no PM....0:00 - 24:00. This applies to setting the program timers as well. What were they thinking? I'm pretty sure this design dates back what?....30 years? Reality check please....it's 2008!
....and there's no direct access from the numeric keys. You must scan (via cursors) for all settings. This may have been an anticipated, somewhat minor inconvenience but I can assure you, it adds to the overall tedious, inconvenient, outdated functionality of the program timers. Additionally, you must set all parameters for each timer number. Unlike many current timers (incorporated into VCR's, DVD recorders and combo units), should you wish to set more than one program for a specific day (a common occurance), you must set the month and day each and every time. Plus, when assigning the "wake up" channel, you must scan through all of the available channels to locate the particular channel that you wish to record....and only by call letters....not by channel numbers. I personally feel that most viewers tend to focus on the channel number....not the call letters. I suppose that most could become adjusted to this but (as with other features) it's not very intuitive.
Plus, there's no on/off control. The timer either changes channels (if the box is left on) or turns the unit on at the chosen time. You simple set an on time. Assuming that the sleep timer is disengaged, the box will remain on indefinitely. Setting the sleep timer to the various options (other than "off") might be an alternative, assuming that the box would "wake up" if a program timer were set. I didn't test this option. Overall, I found this to be a poor excuse for this (much anticipated) program timer!
Last but not least.... there's no direct access to the program timer function (as with many modern recorders). You must access it through the menu screens. Minor, perhaps, but it just adds to what is, in actuality, an archaic, very inconvenient program timer....worthy of this criticism!

There are other features that I didn't test (as I lost my patience with all the basic imperfections and design flaws that I had quickly discovered).
I honestly almost gave up early on but decided to pursue this testing process further, in order to provide as much info. here for all who are concerned about (and considering) this box. Since it seemed as if it was starting to generate the kind of buzz similar to the "DTV PAL", (which turned out to be quite a dissapointment), I thought that you should have these facts as soon as possible.
Based upon what I've read here about the "DTV PAL" and learned (hands on) about the Zinwell....I would strongly suggest avoiding both!!
......I guess it's "back to the drawing board" (again)!
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post #119 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 08:00 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TalkingRat View Post

slprp1,

Is this your review? It lost formatting when I pasted, but once you copy it and edit in a new post, I'll delete it all out of my post and it will be all yours.

I found it below. The link shows my firefox browser, hope that's not a problem in your being able to see it:

http://209.85.141.104/search?q=cache...ient=firefox-a

......I sincerely appreciate your taking the time and effort to do this!!
(I tried......but was unsuccessfull)

I pasted it into a new post (previous page).
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post #120 of 1146 Old 08-13-2008, 08:21 PM
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Glad to help. I just googled your name and maybe Zat-970A, I could go look, it highlights the search labels. Then I clicked "cache" link instead of the main one.

I'll erase the long stuff and leave the link, in case anybody else is looking for missing posts in this thread.
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