One coupon left - what should I get? - AVS Forum
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Old 05-05-2009, 11:36 PM - Thread Starter
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OK, I've got 1 coupon left that expires in June, what should I get?

I already have (or have had) the following:

Apex DT502 (Guest bedroom, indoor antenna)
Echostar TR-40 (F105 firmware, ordered 2/18/09)
Channel Master CM-7000 (Backup for Zenith, on shelf)
Zenith DTT901 (Primary CECB, attic antenna)
Artec T3AP (Given away to RV owner for 12VDC operation)
Zinwell ZAT-970A (Given away to friend for use with VCR)

I've kept the ones I like, and given the extras away to family
and friends who need them.

I'm primarily interested in EPG, good reception and picture quality, and
I'm also a sucker for extra bells and whistles.

~j
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Old 05-05-2009, 11:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldsyd View Post

OK, I've got 1 coupon left that expires in June, what should I get?

I already have (or have had) the following:

Apex DT502
Echostar TR-40
Channel Master CM-7000
Zenith DTT901
Artec T3AP (used in RV)
Zinwell ZAT-970A (No hidden EPG)

I've kept the ones I like, and given the extras away to family
and friends who need them.

I'm primarily interested in EPG, good reception and picture quality, and
I'm also a sucker for extra bells and whistles.

~j

Then DTVpal plus
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Old 05-06-2009, 12:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Would I gain anything over the TR-40 with the DTVPal Plus?

I've read posts here that say the only difference is the "Enhanced Digital Tuner" in the DTVPal Plus, which people say isn't noticeably different than the TR-40 tuner. (Thomson DTT 76809)

Plus, I've got the Zenith and Channel Master which are superb at pulling in fringe signals.


I've been thinking, what is the newest CECB to hit the market?
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Old 05-06-2009, 12:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldsyd View Post

Would I gain anything over the TR-40 with the DTVPal Plus?

I've read posts here that say the only difference is the "Enhanced Digital Tuner" in the DTVPal Plus, which people say isn't noticeably different than the TR-40 tuner. (Thomson DTT 76809)

Plus, I've got the Zenith and Channel Master which are superb at pulling in fringe signals.


I've been thinking, what is the newest CECB to hit the market?

Don't know the newest

The TR-40 is not selling anymore. It was a short promotion. I have the pal and will now get the plus. 50% say no difference and other other 50% say they get another 5 signal strength that is enough to get stations that were just out of range. Also plus has newest firmware 106

But you asked for the best guide. This has it.
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Old 05-06-2009, 01:29 PM
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I've acquired and tested:

AccessHD DTA1080-D
APEX DT250
APEX DT502 (2)
Digital Stream DTX9950
Insignia NS-DXA1-APT
RCA DTA800B1
Sunkey SK-801ATSC (6)
Venturer STB7766G
Zinwell ZAT-970A

The APEX DT502, Insignia, Sunkey's, and Zinwell are the only CECB's I've got connected and the DT502 is my primary unit, with the Sunkey's (2) a very close second (not as feature rich).

I've just recently found that Sunkey has three new models (802, 901, & 901A). I don't know if any of them have been ordered by any retailers yet.

I'm also looking to use three or four more coupons.
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Old 05-06-2009, 01:32 PM
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I would not recommend anyone purchase the AccessHD, APEX DT250, or the Venturer.
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Old 05-06-2009, 02:15 PM
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I have always heard that the Lasonic and Sansonic (along with the Tivax) are supposed to have the best composite PQ.

Anyone ever try either of those two? I don't hear about them much here.

Since you mention the guide, the RCA and the Digital Stream might be ones to try - but I really don't think the PQ on them is going to measure up to the best that you already have. Or the reception quality, either. Neither will the guides compare to the Pal. The remotes may be pretty good, though - especially the RCA's.

Otherwise, it looks like you've already got it pretty well covered with what you have. The Pal Plus *might* have slightly better sensitivity, but other than that, it will be exactly the same.

I've got one coupon, too, and I'm not sure what to use it on, either. I'll tell you though - if they ever came out with a "new & improved" version of the CM-7000, the choice would be easy (pass-through, larger, clearer font, solid front panel buttons, better remote, etc.). Or s-video on the Zenith or Pal.

Haven't heard of anything like that in the works, though.
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Old 05-06-2009, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

I have always heard that the Lasonic and Sansonic (along with the Tivax) are supposed to have the best composite PQ.

Anyone ever try either of those two? I don't hear about them much here.

Since you mention the guide, the RCA and the Digital Stream might be ones to try - but I really don't think the PQ on them is going to measure up to the best that you already have. Or the reception quality, either. Neither will the guides compare to the Pal. The remotes may be pretty good, though - especially the RCA's.

Otherwise, it looks like you've already got it pretty well covered with what you have. The Pal Plus *might* have slightly better sensitivity, but other than that, it will be exactly the same.

I've got one coupon, too, and I'm not sure what to use it on, either. I'll tell you though - if they ever came out with a "new & improved" version of the CM-7000, the choice would be easy (pass-through, larger, clearer font, solid front panel buttons, better remote, etc.). Or s-video on the Zenith or Pal.

Haven't heard of anything like that in the works, though.

He asked for the best EPG. Would that not be the Pal?
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Old 05-06-2009, 02:28 PM
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Yes, But he has one already.

And he was only considering trying the Plus because of the possible increased sensitivity, so that likely matters to him some, too - seeing that it's no different from his TR-40 otherwise, and he seems to be aware of that.

Well, except that it might have newer firmware - which would really only matter if he's actually having problems with his TR-40.

If I could ever get a straight and consistent answer out of people as to whether or not the Pal Plus actually does have increased sensitivity, I'd definitely grab one myself (I actually still have a chance to exchange my old Pal for one). But I keep hearing too many conflicting opinions.
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Old 05-06-2009, 03:20 PM
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Unless something newer comes along, I may use two of my coupons on a CM7000 and DTVPal Plus. This will add to my collection two of the CECB's that many have.

I'd really like to find a CECB that gives me the performance and features of my DT502 and include an "ADD" function.
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Old 05-06-2009, 07:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by systems2000 View Post

Unless something newer comes along, I may use two of my coupons on a CM7000 and DTVPal Plus. This will add to my collection two of the CECB's that many have.

I'd really like to find a CECB that gives me the performance and features of my DT502 and include an "ADD" function.


Be aware that once the wife, etc uses the EPG/Guide of the DTVPal Plus... she may be be packing away the other units you have...



.
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Old 05-06-2009, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

Yes, But he has one already.

And he was only considering trying the Plus because of the possible increased sensitivity, so that likely matters to him some, too - seeing that it's no different from his TR-40 otherwise, and he seems to be aware of that.

Well, except that it might have newer firmware - which would really only matter if he's actually having problems with his TR-40.

If I could ever get a straight and consistent answer out of people as to whether or not the Pal Plus actually does have increased sensitivity, I'd definitely grab one myself (I actually still have a chance to exchange my old Pal for one). But I keep hearing too many conflicting opinions.

I didn't see where he said he had the tr40?

I already have (or have had) the following:

Apex DT502
Echostar TR-40
Channel Master CM-7000
Zenith DTT901
Artec T3AP (used in RV)
Zinwell ZAT-970A (No hidden EPG)
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Old 05-06-2009, 09:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldsyd View Post

OK, I've got 1 coupon left that expires in June, what should I get? I already have (or have had) the following:
Apex DT502
Echostar TR-40
Channel Master CM-7000
Zenith DTT901
Artec T3AP (used in RV)
Zinwell ZAT-970A (No hidden EPG)
I've kept the ones I like, and given the extras away to family and friends who need them.....I'm primarily interested in EPG, good reception and picture quality, and I'm also a sucker for extra bells and whistles. ~j

i have the TR40, the Artec T3AP and an Airlink ATVC102 ....

dont get the Airlink ATVC102....i just got one yesterday....i'm still evaluating it but it seems to have some poor picture quality issues, very small fonts, no 12 hour clock option (24 hour only, which i find very annoying) and and no epg program description info, even for the current program.....

the TR40 aka DTVPal has by far the best epg...

the Artec T3AP works well overall and u can still get it totally for free from freetvsignal.com with a $40 gov't coupon....it has some very interesting features that most other cecb's dont have, as far as i know...like picture FREEZE frame and the ability to get to a deleted memory channel simply by direct entering its number from the remote...they should ALL behave that way! or at least have a separate favorite channels list to go to for some or all channels found in the scan....

*** its high time to go back to OTA antennas and CANCEL our cable/satellite pay tv services! their greed is totally & insanely out of control! ***
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Old 05-07-2009, 12:01 AM
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I, too, am going back and forth between several boxes for the last ones to buy (coupon expires early June). I assume that the govt. will not be issuing any more coupons once the "waiting list" of applications has been processed. (I think the cutoff date was March?)

I am hoping that the PP EPG will have more complete information than it does now. Even with its lack of information beyond 12 hours or so for many channels, it still makes finding what's on much much easier than any other box I have, which are limited to "now and next."

Which brings me to ... considering the Digital Stream or Channel Master for listing of programs into the next 7 to 12 hours.

I saw a video on You Tube of the Digital Stream's software program displayed on the user's tv screen, and the EPG looks good. Within a specific time range, it looks like you can scroll down the EPG and see what's on all the programmed stations and then get more information about the program. What attracts me to the DS is the remote - it seems to have more buttons that are function-specific, that is "dedicated" buttons, vs other CECB remotes that require accessing the menu screen first and then plowing through other sub-menus.

I can't analyze this exactly, but I find that several buttons on the PP remote are unnecessary ... it has to do with deleting the information display on the screen by hitting the cancel button or view tv button. I can't figure out what it is that seems like an extra step that doesn't happen on the remote of the Zinwell or the Insignia in this regards.

I have found that the reception on the PP is very good - I am still occassionally losing the picture on some weaker stations, but it doesn't seem to break up as much as what I found with the Zinwell.

I am using three different kind of small antennas for each and haven't taken the time to test each on each of the antennas, so the comparison of reception is not 100% accurate (other than the Zinwell being hooked up to the same antenna as the PP, and the PP seems to hold the picture from weaker stations better).

My main reason for not jumping into getting the Digital Stream has to do with some posts reporting that its sensitivity is not as good as that of the Insignia or perhaps even the PP or Zinwell. I like the Universal Remote feature and the ease of use in accessing various functions by way of the remote, but I don't want unsatisfactory reception on stations.

A different reason for not jumping into getting the CM-7000. I would love to pull in a few weakly received stations by that box, but I'm not sure it will pull them in any stronger than the Insignia given the limitations of my antenna, AND... from what I read about the CM, the font (for cc) and other purposes is small and difficult to read.

I think I read in one of the posts that the CM (or DS??) allows the user to modify the appearance of the cc in many aspects. With my experience with the many modifications that can be made to them from my PP, I have found that most of them are not useful and that I tend to stick to one or two as being the most readable. Perhaps when the background color of the picture content is such, then modifying the color of the scheme of the cc would be useful, but so far, I have found the basic black background and white text, in a "large" [EDITED FROM PREVIOUSLY POSTED "provider" preference for font size]and "proportional" font size and style, which turns out to be a very basic presentation, to be the most readable.

What I like about the Zinwell's approach, is that it allows for displayed information content, not just the cc, to be adjustable for opacity.

When information is being displayed on the screen, pertaining to programs and other purposes, I don't want to have to struggle to read the text. The remote, from what I saw, is below average. (Of the three remotes I have, Zinwell, Insignia, and PP, the PP is by far the most "sturdy" and ergonomically designed, with buttons that offer resistance to the touch. For accessing menu options, the Zinwell is the easiest to use. I still find my fingers going all over the Insignia remote to perform various actions.

I don't have any need for an S-video connection, so that feature of the Apex and CM don't add anything beneficial in that regard.

One reason I might consider getting another PP is to have a "spare" remote should anything go wrong with the one I have which would result in the PP CECB being unusable (the box has no power or channel buttons on the box itself).

I now have two CECBs that allow me to "time shift" for event programming (Zinwell and PP), so for me, the main consideration for future boxes (I have two coupons left) is a good EPG (while not as complete as the grid that the PP displays, at least informative for many hours into the future), well designed remote, and better than average sensitivity.

I also want to have some "bells and whistles," something which the PP has given me moreso than the Insignia and Zinwell, relating to the EPG program - namely the "search" function, and its ability to allow the user to zip through various time periods by specifiying any time period (up to 7 days). I often use that feature to move ahead 7 hours or so. It beats scrolling down a list of programs, hour by hour.

Another way to approach your question (and mine) of what to get next, is to look at the negatives of buying a particular brand. That makes it easier to eliminate it from choice. (the negatives of the CM outweigh my attraction to it vs. considering a DS box or another PP)

If you need a CECB to do station switching for VCR taping, getting a Zinwell or a PP is invaluable for this purpose. The first time you find yourself wanting to tape two programs while you are away that are on different stations, you will be very disappointed that your box can only be on one station.
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Old 05-07-2009, 12:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr100watt View Post

I, too, am going back and forth between several boxes for the last ones to buy (coupon expires early June). .....I have found that the reception on the PP is very good .....

?....PP? u lost me...what brand/model is a PP box?

*** its high time to go back to OTA antennas and CANCEL our cable/satellite pay tv services! their greed is totally & insanely out of control! ***
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Old 05-07-2009, 01:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lexus2108 View Post

I didn't see where he said he had the tr40?

I already have (or have had) the following:

Apex DT502
Echostar TR-40
Channel Master CM-7000
Zenith DTT901
Artec T3AP (used in RV)
Zinwell ZAT-970A (No hidden EPG)

OK - then change how I said "Yes, but he has one already" to "Yes, but he has or has had one already". As if it really matters.

He didn't even say whether or not he kept the TR-40.

Not sure what you're getting so bent out of shape about, but I never told him NOT to get the Pal Plus.

I also never said anything bad about the guide, or anything else against the model. I'm not dissing the model or your advice.

Go back and read the last sentence in his first post. He said he's primarily interested in the EPG, but he's also interested in good reception, picture quality and extra bells and whistles. And he asked about models which he hasn't tried. I mentioned some others, along with the Pal Plus. In fact, when I mentioned the RCA and Digital Stream, I followed that with "but the guides won't measure up to the Pal's". Was that not a statement in favor of the guide on the Pal?

I'm just answering his question and adding to the discussion here like everybody else.
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Old 05-07-2009, 02:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr100watt View Post

One reason I might consider getting another PP is to have a "spare" remote should anything go wrong with the one I have which would result in the PP CECB being unusable (the box has no power or channel buttons on the box itself).

All your other reasons are valid enough, but I wouldn't use that one as a deciding factor. You can get a new Dish remote with the same button layout, and which will work it exactly the same way from ebay or Amazon for only a few bucks.

Also, they're universal, so it might even work your TV, too.
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Old 05-07-2009, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by pm3839 View Post

?....PP? u lost me...what brand/model is a PP box?

DTVPal Plus
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Old 05-07-2009, 12:14 PM
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One can also use the "Reminder" feature on the APEX DT502 for recording.
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Old 05-07-2009, 01:52 PM
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I have the newest Venturer model - it works very good with a great picture and very good reception. Its menus are very similar to the Zenith, and is the same box as the one sold by Winegard, which like the Venturer can be operated with a kiot from Solid Signal on 6 D batteries. The Venturer is sold at Target stores.
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:52 AM - Thread Starter
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To clear things up, I do still have the TR-40. I really like the guide and the remote. And in regard to firmware, it has the newest version. I ordered it directly from Dish about a week before they sold out.

I'm leaning towards a Sunkey or Tivax right now.

Thanks for the input, apparently I'm not the only person with this "problem".
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Old 05-08-2009, 02:01 PM
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The Sunkey doesn't have a "RECALL" button and the EPG is only a three hour simple list, like the one the APEX DT502 has (same firmware with modifications).

It does do manual channel add.
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldsyd View Post

To clear things up, I do still have the TR-40. I really like the guide and the remote. And in regard to firmware, it has the newest version. I ordered it directly from Dish about a week before they sold out.

I'm leaning towards a Sunkey or Tivax right now.

Thanks for the input, apparently I'm not the only person with this "problem".

Just a few suggestions-

While I know you are looking for info on "your" problem:

1: On your initial post- please edit it to:

A Reflect what units you have currently...

B: The reasons you gave away (or stopped using) the other units.

(This A: helps others in the same boat that may be looking, B: helps persons here in their recommendations, C: Saves everyone "time")


2: While not helpful to you per-sa, but then again it may be ..It is helpful to post the TR-40 firmware id string (and maybe the time frame you purchased the unit EG 2009-02?) when talking about the Dish DTVPal /TR-40 series... again this info may help others, ties your comments /observations to that firmware revision..


.
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Old 05-08-2009, 06:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Done.

The full firmware string for the TR-40 is F105TCGH-N which I think is the only TR-40 firmware (aka F105). I purchased it direct from Echostar on 2/18/09.

I realize that the DTVPal Plus has F106 firmware available, but from what I've read there aren't many improvements over F105.

More Dish firmware info here:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...3&post14814883
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Old 05-08-2009, 08:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldsyd View Post

.....The full firmware string for the TR-40 is F105TCGH-N which I think is the only TR-40 firmware (aka F105). I purchased it direct from Echostar on 2/18/09......

i have seen several TR40's bought in 10/08 and also 1/09 and i am pretty sure they were all F105 versions....

*** its high time to go back to OTA antennas and CANCEL our cable/satellite pay tv services! their greed is totally & insanely out of control! ***
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:54 PM
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I have the CM7000, DTV-Pal Plus, and Tivax STB-T8, and can contrast their features so you can make a decision about whether you want to try the Tivax STB-T8 or duplicate one of your other boxes.

Tuner Performance
Overall, I would say that the Tivax STB-T8 rates a "very good" rating on sensitivity, roughly on a par with most other top performing boxes, but the CM7000 does seem to have somewhat better sensitivity for very marginal stations. For example, on one of my weaker stations, It took a little fiddling to get the Tivax STB-T8 to lock in with a solid 100% signal, but this isn’t too bad considering that, on the same antenna and station, I have never seen my DTV Pal Plus report a perfect 100% signal lock for more than a few seconds. This may in part be due to differences in the calibration of the signal quality readout on each box, because, in practical terms, I don’t find the difference in performance to be noticeable unless the signal is right on the ragged edge. For example, as long as the signal quality is hovering in the 80% to 95% range, the DTV Pal or Tivax STB-T8 will display perfectly clean video for hours on end. Under the same conditions, the CM7000 tends to report 100% quality, but gets choppy on video if it’s signal quality drops even a slight amount from that level.

GUI and Screen Fonts
The Tivax STB-T8 has reasonably sized fonts that have good readability for all on-screen menus, and the CC text fonts can also be changed to a larger size (it does not suffer from the ultra tiny fonts that the CM7000 uses). Several users of the STB-T8 have commented that they didn’t like the dark blue color scheme, so I would have to give the nod for overall esthetics and readability to the DTV Pal Plus, but the Tivax gets high marks for simplicity and usability.

Remote
The Tivax STB-T8 has the simplest, best laid out remote of the three, but it gets a slight downcheck for not complying with the NTIA CECB requirement that the box work with existing universal remotes. Tivax claims they support universal remotes, but when you look closer, you see that they are only talking about an IR learning type that can make up for Tivax’s lack of standard codes by learning all the specialized proprietary Tivax codes directly from the Tivax remote. The CM7000 is a bit better in this regard, because you can at least turn the box on and off and control channel selection and volume using standard Pioneer Cable Box codes (even though you will still need an IR learning remote to custom learn some of the other keys, this does technically meet the minimal NTIA requirements). The DTV Pal was the best of the three by far for working right out of the box with my existing universal remote. Once I set my RCA 850 universal remote to use the recommended echostar satellite box codes, I found that even such specialized keys as guide, info, menu, etc. were all supported on the DTV Pal Plus using the universal remote with no custom key programming required. edit: I should also mention that the Tivax STB-T8 remote is more limited in range and works over a smaller angle vs. the CM7000 and DTV Pal Plus. The T8 remote is perfectly usable, but I would say slightly below average for an IR remote in both range and response angle, where both the CM7000 and DTV Pal Plus remotes are above average, and will work with the remote pointed just about anywhere in the room.


Electronic Program Guide
All three boxes have EPG support with channel guides that can look forward at least several hours, but the Tivax STB-T8 EPG is the most basic of the three. On the Tivax, when you bring up the EPG, you get only a simple now/next banner display with two events visible at a time; with full details available only for the one of the two that is selected. You then have to scroll ahead through the guide using the left right buttons on the remote. All three of these CECB boxes limit the length of the detailed program description text, but the Tivax STB-T8 was the worst offender here, chopping off the detailed program description text after only four lines. The CM7000 displays EPG title info several hours ahead on a single screen, which is an improvement over the limited info shown by the Tivax, but the CM7000 gets downchecked badly in my book due to it’s micro sized fonts. As several folks have already noted, when it comes to the Electronic Program Guide feature, the DTV Pal Plus is the clear winner. Not only is the information displayed with large fonts in a nice clean format, but the DTV Pal Plus can display guide info several days in advance if your stations broadcast data this far ahead. Even if only 12 hours of info is available, the Pal Plus also has extra memory to cache the guide info for the channels you are not currently viewing, so you can display a full cable-box style EPG for all channels at the same time, without having to tune to each channel.

Video Quality
As far as video quality goes, my Tivax STB-T8 is slightly sharper than either my CM7000 or DTV Pal Plus. None of the CECB boxes I have seen are as close to DVD quality as I would like when it comes to sharpness, but the STB-T8 came the closest. The STB-T8 is also the only box that allows full zoom settings to work with 480i SD video content. This may be important to you if you want to center-crop video that was intentionally letterboxed inside the 704x480 window. CM7000 and Pal Plus use the same chip set, and do not seem to support zoom settings for 480i. On the down side, because 480i zooming IS supported on the STB-T8, but auto-aspect setting is NOT supported, you end up spending a lot of time resetting the zoom ratio when switching channels. (this is avoided on the Pal and CM7000 because 480i always displays un-zoomed regardless of how you have the zoom setting configured for 16:9 HD content)

Construction Quality
All three boxes are reasonably well made, but I think that to be fair, I would have to give the nod to the STB-T8 as being the most solidly constructed. There have been several complaints in this forum about the buttons on the CM7000 front panel being flaky and breaking (the DTV Pal Plus dodges this by not offering front panel controls of any sort). The Tivax STB-T8 does offer front panel channel select and power buttons, but they seem to be pretty solid by comparison to the CM7000, and I have had zero problems with them. Some have commented that the DTV Pal Plus plastic case does not have ventilation slots, and consequently runs a little hot. I don't see this as an issue, because I have simply flipped my DTV Pal Plus up on edge (90 degrees rotated with the antenna input on the bottom). This position promotes much better air flow, and it runs fine and barely even gets warm.

Other Features
The Tivax STB-T8 is the only one of the three to support a smart antenna, and an RS232 port for remote control and software upgrades (though none are available at this time). The Tivax also has a very wide range ‘universal’ input power spec (from 110 all the way up to 220 volts!) so it should be safe to run it on a low cost 12VDC-to-120AC inverter. I have run my STB-T8 on such an inverter several times, and it seems to work perfectly, with no noise in the video, and no noticeable extra heat whatsoever (Power draw on the 12V side is only about 1 Amp). This combination makes the STB-T8 a possible choice vs. a battery or DC operated DTV tuner in a mobile home or RV application.

The DTV Pal Plus is the only one with an extended program guide and multi-channel programmable timer support (for recording multiple programs on different channels at different times).

The CM7000 is the only one of the three boxes with S-Video output capability. S-Video does offer a slight improvement over composite on the CM7000 but, as I noted above, I have found that the Tivax STB-T8 looks slightly sharper than my CM7000 (even though the STB-T8 is limited to composite video).

Edit: I wanted to follow up by answering a simple question that some might want to ask, "Now that you have seen all three boxes, which one would you pick?" My answer is that I am very happy I picked all three of them, and would not trade any one of them for a second copy of one of the others. All three of these boxes are good solid performers, and I haven't really found a major issue with any of them, so if I had to buy another box tomorrow for some reason, all three boxes would be in the running depending on the features that I needed. On my large screen set with S-Video (where the small guide fonts are not an issue), the CM7000 is a real solid performer especially with weak signals. I am using the Tivax STB-T8 with my DVR, where it gives very sharp clear recordings and the zoom ratios it provides let me get perfectly cropped recordings without any garbage lines or other artifacts in the video (and if I want to try a smart antenna later, the T8 will support that). The DTV Pal Plus has the best Electronic Program Guide by far, and it offers sophisticated features like EPG search capabilities and recording timer support that I really like. In a perfect world, a single box would have ALL these features, but if such a box exists I haven't found it (and if it did exist it would probably cost more than I would want to pay), so overall I am happy with the mix of features that these three boxes provide.

-Delphin
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

All your other reasons are valid enough, but I wouldn't use that one as a deciding factor. You can get a new Dish remote with the same button layout, and which will work it exactly the same way from ebay or Amazon for only a few bucks.

Also, they're universal, so it might even work your TV, too.

Thanks for the suggestion. I never thought that such a replacement would be available there at a reasonable price, let alone a universal model. I did look at some offered, and thought it odd that there is no mention that they would work for a dish converter box for digital to analog (the references are mostly for the DVD and satellite units).

It is interesting that the layout of the buttons is very similar, albeit with extra buttons. When it was said that dish designed its converter box modeled after the satellite setup, I can see the resemblance.

Whereas many products simplify, or take the path of least resistance, I credit Dish for doing the opposite - making a product that gives the consumer MORE options to "play with" when using the converter box whose purpose is mainly used to convert an analog signal to digital, not to view an enhanced EPG or search for times of programs which match key word searches. In that regard, the product deserves a higher price, which it does sell at. For that, I am very willing to pay an extra $10 for the Pal Plus. (Come to think of it, the Insignia was just a few dollars less expensive, the Zinwell 950-A $12 less.)

(I have yet to see an extended program listing for most stations on this grid EPG beyond the 7 to 12 hour period. One or two stations go out 24 to 48 hours, but most do not. I am hoping that come June
12th, stations will make an effort to give us more extended listings. I'd rather see this information on screen when I pull up the EPG than have to search through zap2it, which is more reliable than my newpaper tv listings.)
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Old 05-09-2009, 02:45 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Delphin View Post

[IMG]http://www.******************/storage/411.jpg[/IMG]I have the CM7000, DTV-Pal Plus, and Tivax STB-T8, and can contrast their features so you can make a decision about whether you want to try the Tivax STB-T8 or duplicate one of your other boxes.

Tuner Performance
Overall, I would say that the Tivax STB-T8 rates very good on sensitivity, roughly on a par with most other top performing boxes, but the CM7000 does seem to have somewhat better sensitivity for very marginal stations. For example, on one of my weaker stations, It took a little fiddling to get the Tivax STB-T8 to lock in with a solid 100% signal, but this isn’t too bad considering that, on the same antenna and station, I have never seen my DTV Pal Plus report a perfect 100% signal lock for more than a few seconds. This may in part be due to differences in the calibration of the signal quality readout on each box, because, in practical terms, I don’t find the difference in performance to be noticeable unless the signal is right on the ragged edge. For example, as long as the signal quality is hovering in the 80% to 95% range, the DTV Pal or Tivax STB-T8 will display perfectly clean video for hours on end. Under the same conditions, the CM7000 tends to report 100% quality, but gets choppy on video if it’s signal quality drops even a slight amount from that level.

GUI and Screen Fonts
The Tivax STB-T8 has reasonably sized fonts that have good readability for all on-screen menus, and the CC text fonts can also be changed to a larger size (it does not suffer from the ultra tiny fonts that the CM7000 uses). Several users of the STB-T8 have commented that they didn’t like the dark blue color scheme, so I would have to give the nod for overall esthetics and readability to the DTV Pal Plus, but the Tivax gets high marks for simplicity and usability.

Remote
The Tivax STB-T8 has the simplest, best laid out remote of the three, but it gets a slight downcheck for not complying with the NTIA CECB requirement that the box work with existing universal remotes. Tivax claims they support universal remotes, but when you look closer, you see that they are only talking about an IR learning type that can make up for Tivax’s lack of standard codes by learning all the specialized proprietary Tivax codes directly from the Tivax remote. The CM7000 is a bit better in this regard, because you can at least turn the box on and off and control channel selection and volume using standard Pioneer Cable Box codes (even though you will still need an IR learning remote to custom learn some of the other keys, this does technically meet the minimal NTIA requirements). The DTV Pal was the best of the three by far for working right out of the box with my existing universal remote. Once I set my RCA 850 universal remote to use the recommended echostar satellite box codes, I found that even such specialized keys as guide, info, menu, etc. were all supported on the DTV Pal Plus using the universal remote with no custom key programming required.

Electronic Program Guide
All three boxes have EPG support with channel guides that can look forward at least several hours, but the Tivax STB-T8 EPG is the most basic of the three. On the Tivax, when you bring up the EPG, you get only a simple now/next banner display with two events visible at a time; with full details available only for the one of the two that is selected. You then have to scroll ahead through the guide using the left right buttons on the remote. All three of these CECB boxes limit the length of the detailed program description text, but the Tivax STB-T8 was the worst offender here, chopping off the detailed program description text after only four lines. The CM7000 displays EPG title info several hours ahead on a single screen, which is an improvement over the limited info shown by the Tivax, but the CM7000 gets downchecked badly in my book due to it’s micro sized fonts. As several folks have already noted, when it comes to the Electronic Program Guide feature, the DTV Pal Plus is the clear winner. Not only is the information displayed with large fonts in a nice clean format, but the DTV Pal Plus can display guide info several days in advance if your stations broadcast data this far ahead. Even if only 12 hours of info is available, the Pal Plus also has extra memory to cache the guide info for the channels you are not currently viewing, so you can display a full cable-box style EPG for all channels at the same time, without having to tune to each channel.

Video Quality
As far as video quality goes, my Tivax STB-T8 is slightly sharper than either my CM7000 or DTV Pal Plus. None of the CECB boxes I have seen are as close to DVD quality as I would like when it comes to sharpness, but the STB-T8 came the closest. The STB-T8 is also the only box that allows full zoom settings to work with 480i SD video content. This may be important to you if you want to center-crop video that was intentionally letterboxed inside the 704x480 window. CM7000 and Pal Plus use the same chip set, and do not seem to support zoom settings for 480i. On the down side, because 480i zooming IS supported on the STB-T8, but auto-aspect setting is NOT supported, you end up spending a lot of time resetting the zoom ratio when switching channels. (this is avoided on the Pal and CM7000 because 480i always displays un-zoomed regardless of how you have the zoom setting configured for 16:9 HD content)

Construction Quality
All three boxes are reasonably well made, but I think that to be fair, I would have to give the nod to the STB-T8 as being the most solidly constructed. There have been several complaints in this forum about the buttons on the CM7000 front panel being flaky and breaking (the DTV Pal Plus dodges this by not offering front panel controls of any sort). The Tivax STB-T8 does offer front panel channel select and power buttons, but they seem to be pretty solid by comparison to the CM7000, and I have had zero problems with them. Some have commented that the DTV Pal Plus plastic case does not have ventilation slots, and consequently runs a little hot. I don't see this as an issue, because I have simply flipped my DTV Pal Plus up on edge (90 degrees rotated with the antenna input on the bottom). This position promotes much better air flow, and it runs fine and barely even gets warm.

Other Features
The Tivax STB-T8 is the only one of the three to support a smart antenna, and an RS232 port for remote control and software upgrades (though none are available at this time). The Tivax also has a very wide range ‘universal’ input power spec (from 110 all the way up to 220 volts!) so it should be safe to run it on a low cost 12VDC-to-120AC inverter. I have run my STB-T8 on such an inverter several times, and it seems to work perfectly, with no noise in the video, and no noticeable extra heat whatsoever (Power draw on the 12V side is only about 1 Amp). This combination makes the STB-T8 a possible choice vs. a battery or DC operated DTV tuner in a mobile home or RV application.

The DTV Pal Plus is the only one with an extended program guide and multi-channel programmable timer support (for recording multiple programs on different channels at different times).

The CM7000 is the only one of the three boxes with S-Video output capability. S-Video does offer a slight improvement over composite on the CM7000 but, as I noted above, I have found that the Tivax STB-T8 looks slightly sharper than my CM7000 (even though the STB-T8 is limited to composite video).

-Delphin

Thanks for a nice review.
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Old 05-14-2009, 10:35 PM - Thread Starter
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After hooking up the TR-40 to get the firmware version, I decided to leave it hooked up as the primary CECB, in place of a Zenith 901.

The wife and I decided these are the differences:

Pros:
Nice feeling remote
Nice graphics
Good picture, maybe even better than the Zenith

Cons:
When entering channels it does not pop up a list of matches like the Zenith
No TV power on remote
Viewing the guide stops audio/video*
Would sometimes say "signal has been lost" when I knew that was not the case
Captioning only works some of the time. Can't easily switch, or even select the "Text" option found on the Zenith.

I'm plugging the Zenith back in.

*This is silly, since if you are looking at the menu, the TR-40 can display a small PIP of the current channel, do the same for the guide.

PS - I still have no idea what CECB to use my last coupon on, I might just get a duplicate box.
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Old 05-15-2009, 09:02 PM
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Regarding Delphin's comment about repositioning the Pal Plus on its side to allow it to run cooler ...

I would like the PP I have to last as long as possible, and I have noticed it is much warmer (not hot, mind you) than the boxes for Insignia and the Zinwell. I do have most of my CECBs resting on top of either a VCR or a wooden stand. The wood gets warm, absorbs the heat, and I would guess, transfers some of that heat back to the bottom surface of the box. My VCRs don't get that warm, but I thought that the conduction of whatever heat there is might not help matters either, so I got a brainstorm last night ....

I placed two pens (round bic) under each box, on each side, which elevates the box away from the surface of the material it was previously sitting on. This may not extend the life at all, but I thought this marvel of engineering design MIGHT help. Delphin - I'd be interested if this maneuver is as effective as your placing the PP box on its side.

oldsyd - good points! Yes, I, too, like the way the Insignia pulls up similar channels that match part of the keyed-in number, allowing the user to quickly select a different channel. (With the Zinwell, if you set up selected channels in the "favorites group," you can search within your own listing of channels. The Zinwell software is setup so that you must select a different favorites group, such as "all" to get out of your restricted list.)

I have noticed that the program description is more lengthy on the Insignia than the Zinwell, and moreso than the Pal Plus, which sometimes lists NO program description, even though it is listed on the Insignia "display" of information.

I assume the TR-40 is similar to the PP. I, too, have noticed "no signal" displayed, when in fact, the picture can be displayed fine if waiting for another second or two. The Zinwell has a really annoying and intrusive large display in the center of the screen when a signal is lost momentarily (even though the picture can be viewed). At worst, the Insignia either pixillates or momentarily freezes the picture. If a signal is really weak, it will not display any visual.

I went to BestBuy today and noticed the only brand of CECBs was APEX - most were model 250, there were no more than about three 502's. The box labeling looked identical. Even the sales clerk had no idea of the pros and cons of the APEX, let alone the particulars of other boxes. Unless a shopper has done research, there is little way for him/her to understand what they are buying by looking at the box or speaking to one of the sales clerks.

At least the boxes for the PP and Zinwell show to a good degree the contents (the look of the remote and the box design), and the layout of the EPG (this the PP does very clearly). But, even the Zinwell and PP say nothing about multi-event/channel programming.

I have no idea why these companies (I am referring to every CECB manufacture I have seen (RCA, AccessHD, Craig, Insignia, Magnavox, Digital Stream, etc.) provide on the box labeling only a standard description of the box's capabilities, when in fact, they can do much more, and that the ill-informed consumer has little idea of how each box is different from each other.

I noticed that the APEX 250 has ventilation holes on the bottom only. There were not display models for the 502, so I don't know where the repositioned ventilation holes are. What I did notice is that the box ONLY had a power button - no channel select buttons on the box. Not having channel select buttons is almost as lame as not having any buttons on the box at all - if you can't find your remote or if it breaks, you are helpless, unless you have programmed a learning remote to do the job.

One post referred to the APEX displaying only up to the next three hours of programming. I had thought it was more extended like the CM or Digital Stream. If the font is that small on the EPG for the CM, would the font not be unreadable on a smaller tv set?

When signals are transmitted from different locations as of June 12, some of those signals may be coming from the same source as other stations now broadcast from, so I don't know how much "improvement" there will be, in the sense that if those other signals come in with average strength, the changeover shouldn't be a huge improvement, but rather be of similar strength as the other channels.

In my area, two stations will change their digital numbers on June 12 to an area within the VHF range (2-13). These are major stations in my area, so I thought it strange that they have chosen that broadcast number, although their new number will match the number of the actual channel ID numbers.
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