6 CECB Showdown - Apex/ChannelMaster/Tivax/DTVPal/Zenith/Digital Stream - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 111 Old 05-09-2009, 04:56 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm creating this thread to try to help anyone who might be a potential buyer. I don't work for any of these companies, and I'm not getting paid to do this.

When I killed off cable (saving $90/month), I knew I'd need some converter boxes. These forums helped me decide which ones, as well as the antenna I'm using to pick up the signal. I had several choices - do I get 6 of a certain one, 3 sets of 2, etc. Because these boxes are used on different TV's with different needs, I chose to go for six different boxes. Here's my setups, in order of usage (parenthesis = the box I'm currently using):

1. Family Room - box is outputting video to projector (Epson 1080ub) and a 5.1 receiver (Denon AVR-988). Obviously, picture quality is paramount here. (ChannelMaster CM-7000)

2. Master Bedroom - box outputting to a 27" TV. (DigitalStream)

3. Living Room - box outputting to a 63" rear projection TV. (Apex)

4. Guest Bedroom #2 - Box outputting to a 19" TV. (DTVPal)

5. Guest Bedroom #1 - Box outputting to a 13" TV. (Tivax)

6. Basement/Workout - Box outputting to a 19" TV/VCR combo. (Zenith)

As you can see, I have a diverse set of needs. Here are the converter boxes I purchased:

DigitalStream (RadioShack)
Apex502a (Target)
ZenithDTT901 (K-Mart)
Dish DTVpal+ (K-Mart)
ChannelMaster CM-7000 (Amazon)
Tivax T8 (Amazon)

Here's my conclusions about each one:

---DigitalStream -
The Good: What makes this box great is the fact that its remote can be configured to control the TV. While others have this ability (the Zenith), what makes this superior is that it can control TV volume as well as TV input. This makes it the perfect box for use in a bedroom. It's also great for someone who doesn't like to use multiple remotes.

The Bad: The box looks rather cheap, with the old-fashioned red light for on/off. I have also found that the signal meter isn't the greatest. The EPG sucks, too.

---Apex -
The Good: I have found the Apex's video quality is quite good. Therefore, it worked well with my projector. I liked the fact that it uses s-video for an interface. Also, the EPG was quite nice, showing the next 3 programs. This makes the Apex the perfect companion for my old 63" rear projection TV.

The Bad: The remote is somewhat confusing to use. Some buttons are setup as if they were + or - buttons (volume/channel up or down). I could see someone easily getting confused and frustrated. My main beef - sensitivity to remote doesn't work that well. My family room a/v setup is off to a wall on the right, so when I go to change channels, I had to make sure the remote was in front of the box. This often meant contorting myself to odd angles in order for it to work. Frustrating!

---Zenith -
The Good: I read a lot of people really liked this unit. I thought it was decent in some areas, but not in others. The greatest advantage to this unit is the menu system. It seems easy to navigate, and most text is easy to read. Also, the remote can operate a TV (on or off only). It looks nice, too - that blue light is spiffy! The EPG is nice, but it didn't make me go "wow!" I also liked how the box's signal meter also makes a loud beeping noise which can be used to determine signal quality. As I'm up in the attic, if I hear a faster rhythm, I know it's getting better. Sometimes it's easier to use this than the wife

The Bad: Honestly, this wasn't too bad. Perhaps what makes this unit so loved is the fact that while it doesn't have any specialties, it does rather well in each area.

---Dish DTVPal+ -
The Good: The EPG is great. I really like how it looks just like Dish Networks' setup. Makes me feel like I have cable again! Since I have parents who like to come visit, this makes the ideal box for them to use. Therefore, it sits in Guest Bedroom #2.

The Bad: LAG! Often, it takes a few attempts to turn the damn thing on. I've found the remote to be a little clumsy. If the unit is unplugged for a while, it takes a while for it to start up.

---ChannelMaster CM-7000 -
The Good: Everyone says greatest picture quality. I have to agree, though I didn't see a ton of a difference between the Apex and this. Again, s-video output is nice. The greatest thing about this unit - the range in which it picks up remote signals is INCREDIBLE! I can be almost 90 degrees horizontal (left and right) or vertical (up and down) of the box and it gets the signal. No more twists and contortions to change the channel! I also like how it displays the channel readouts - the broadcast resolution, signal strength, etc. This box also picked up a channel or two that I never knew existed! I've also found that browsing through the channels w/the EPG on is quite nice - you still get the audio feed and some video in the background. Detailed info is automatically displayed next to the program (I found some other boxes require you to hit a button on the remote to bring up detail).

The Bad: It looks somewhat cheap! The rear has one (maybe two) ports that are completely useless! One is under the video port, and even says "not used" So why the ____ did they bother to even put it there in the first place?! My guess is it's to cut down production costs. The remote control also has a useless button. WHY?!!!! I REALLY dislike the remote's setup, too. The buttons aren't laid out too well - particularly the FAV button - it's right below the power button, meaning you might change the channel by accident instead of turn the unit off! Fortunately, I have a Logitech Harmony, so I'm using that instead Updates: I've also noticed that changing the channel brings up the info bar which stays on until removed using the remote. Annoying! From creakndale: "The physical buttons on the box are not properly debounced. So turning the box on/off and changing channels with those push buttons is a crap shoot. Also, the Closed Caption font size is way too small even at the largest setting."


---Tivax -
The Good:
I also read a lot of positive reviews of this unit. What do I like the most? Its zoom function. The "Cinema" zoom is perfect for when programs are broadcast in "postage stamp" size - aka there are black bars on top, on the side, and a 2nd set is on top. This also makes the unit perfect for a smaller TV. You'll lose some on the outside, but you get to see things easier at the same time. I also like the signal meter - very precise, it seemed. The tuner also picked up a channel I never had before.

The Bad: Since I just got this, I haven't messed around with it TOO much. I'd say this is similar to the Zenith in that it doesn't have many negatives.

================================================

Hope this helped! In layman's terms, here's what I'd recommend for each type of user:

Techie/Home Theater - ChannelMaster by FAR. Second place - Apex.

Guest/people who like to browse - DTVPal (Guide); DigitalStream (Remote)

Average - Zenith (better appearance/basic TV controls)); Tivax (zoom/signal meter)

================================================

Any thoughts are welcome. Please feel free to ask questions and I can try to get back to you for any of these.

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post #2 of 111 Old 05-09-2009, 05:40 PM
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Thanks, this is very interesting stuff. I am interested in buying a CECB but it's hard to decide on which one. Of course if there was a single box with an event timer, S-video port, great tuner sensitivity and a good remote then the choice would be easy. But it seems no one CECB has all the goodies.

But from your list of CECBs, can you please make two lists and rank the CECBs in order of:

- picture quality
- tuner sensitivity
?

Right now for me tuner sensitivity is of somewhat greater importance than picture quality. Things like EPG are of little importance.


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post #3 of 111 Old 05-09-2009, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Sure. Just note that I haven't messed around with timers, so I'm not sure there. Also, I haven't plugged each box into the same TV, so it might be tough for me to comment on picture quality vs each other. So you may want to take it with a grain of salt...

Tuner sensitivity
1. ChannelMaster
2. Tivax
3. DTVPal
4. Apex
5. Zenith
6. DigitalStream

Picture Quality
1. ChannelMaster
2. Apex
3. Tivax
4. Zenith
5. DigitalStream
6. DTVPal

If you like, I can try out the timers on these and see how they work. I doubt I'll have the time to disconnect all of them and try them out on the same TV this month, however!

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post #4 of 111 Old 05-09-2009, 06:30 PM
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Thanks for the fast response. Yep, it seems the Channel Master is the best of the bunch. I just need to decide if it is worth the extra money.

No worries about timers. The only unit you have with a timer is the DTVPal. Unfortunately they seem to be quite scarce nowadays. Zinwell CECBs are the only other CECBs with event timers. However I am shying away from those units because it seems their tuners are not particularly sensitive.


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post #5 of 111 Old 05-11-2009, 03:25 PM
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Lord_Zath,
I have the Zenith, Channel Master and Digital Stream converters you reviewed. I would agree with your review of each of these boxes. However, I would add to "The Bad:" section for the Channnel Master. The physical buttons on the box are not properly debounced. So turning the box on/off and changing channels with those push buttons is a crap shoot. Also, the Closed Caption font size is way too small even at the largest setting.

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post #6 of 111 Old 05-11-2009, 03:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks - I'll add that as well.

Did you notice how the info bar is displayed every time you change channels and it has to be removed by hitting info twice? Very annoying!

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post #7 of 111 Old 05-11-2009, 03:58 PM
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Thanks for the compressive OP, I have or have had the CM, DS, Zenith and Apex and agree with you on all points.
creakndale has a very good point about the CM front panel buttons and I agree with you about the CM remote, quite clunky. AFA the "not used" jack and unused remote buttons I also agree but I think they were just trying to rush the boxes out the door ASAP and just haven't spent the time/money to remove some of the prototype mistakes. My guess is CM isn't going to spend anymore money on the box other than actually making them. I think CECBs are going to be just a blip in the radar, once people have bought one or replaced there TV there won't be a use for this type of product anymore.
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post #8 of 111 Old 05-11-2009, 04:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Agreed. I'd bet if we didn't have the $40 gov't coupons to subsidize this, half of the CECB's wouldn't even be on the market!

I haven't really messed around with the buttons on the front of the CM, since I'm using my Harmony and its IR sensor is so freaking awesome compared to the others. I'll try to mess around with it in the future and see if I get similar results.

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post #9 of 111 Old 05-11-2009, 07:15 PM
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Lord_Zath,
When changing channels on the Channel Master, the information bar should go away after 10 seconds. If it doesn't automatically go away, turn off the box, unplug it for 60 seconds then plug it back in.

My CM-7000 has done the same thing with the information bar staying on screen. Resetting the box, as described, solves that problem.

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post #10 of 111 Old 05-11-2009, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
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hmm good to know!

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post #11 of 111 Old 05-11-2009, 11:38 PM
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This is a useful topic to be put on one thread, but I do encourage readers to go to the other threads/topics to get other reviews.

Keep in mind that both the Zinwell and Dish have had at least two different versions of their products - the Zinwell used two different kinds of tuners in its 970 and 950 models, and the Dish Pal's newer version Pal Plus uses a different tuner. Even its Pal Plus boxes describe on its boxes different information regarding its tuner - one Pal Plus box has the "normal" description of its contents, while another box looks almost identical except with the additional words, "new enhanced digital tuner."

For a person who uses a vcr which requires different stations to be accessed when the user is away, there is little choice - it is between the Zinwell and the Pal Plus. I can make arguements for either.

If a user requires a more extended EPG, the choices are few - Pal Plus offers the easiest to decipher display, while several other CECBs offer extended EPGs albeit in a vertical array by station or by time.
(I have noticed that the Insignia offers program description more than what I have noticed on the PP. I think APEX also lists a more consistent content description.)

For a user who requires a user friendly remote, from what I have seen, I think the PP, RCA, and Digital Stream remotes are friendly.
Criteria I use includes ergonomic design and feel (button size, positioning), usefulness of buttons, response. While the remotes I have for Insignia and the Zinwell have been problem-free, I find that I have to "hunt" for buttons much more so than buttons on the remote for the PP.

For receptivity and the ability to hold a station, I have found the Insignia has been better than that of the PP and Zinwell.

For options to use in modifying action/control, the PP and Zinwell offer more than the Insignia. For ease of use, the Insignia is simpler than the PP and Zinwell, while offering the most needed functions. Yes, it is very helpul to have an extended EPG. Also to have some control over the appearance of closed caption and opacity of displayed onscreen text, which are available to some degree on the PP (cc appearance) and opacity (of OSD by the Zinwell).

You also want to consider the hassle-free aspect. Some set do quirky things. In this regard, I'd rate the Insignia over the Zinwell and PP, in that order.

The only quirky thing I have seen my Insignia do, is when I punch in the wrong station number, the onscreen EPG now and next displays numbers that don't exist. It takes another selection of station numbers for it to "right itself."

My Zinwell remote has to be immediately in front of the box for the button commands to be recognized by the box, especially powering the box on and off. Sometimes the favorite group commands on the remote don't work right.

I can enumerate at least several quirky things the PP has done that are problemsome - the initial download of the program guide never completed and required me "killing" the operation. On next restart, the box downloaded without problem. Sometimes the box turns on by itself and cannot be shutoff. Until the days of analog end, this turning on while watching analog tv kills the reception. The process only lasts for about 10 to 30 seconds, but not having control over this leaves the user vulnerable to whenever the box decides to turn itself on. When a station has an unstable signal, the picture strength on the PP can go from stable to unstable in a second resulting in a loss of picture momentarily. With the Zinwell, the result is more freezing of the picture.

The tuner questions are more relevant to people who reside in marginal areas vs. being closer to broadcast signal transmissions. I live in an area where a few stations come in very strong, a few are subject to unstable signals, and two stations require perfect antenna positioning and optimum placement in my residence.

Would I buy all three different kind of boxes again? Yes. Even with the problems, due to each box having its own pros and cons.
I find the information that the Zinwell provides when a station is changed helpful, and its event timing format is easy to navigate through. The favorites grouping is helpful, and I really like the ability to modify OSD opacity.

The EPG format on the PP is invaluable, making the search for what's on tv much much easier to do than any other EPG on other CECBs that I am aware of. Several actions can be done in multiple ways, and there are more menu screens to go through to perform various tasks. In this regard, I find both the Zinwell and PP are more suitable for users who are more comfortable with navigating through various menu screens and who like to "tweek" settings.

And yes - if you want buttons on your box, the PP is definitely not for you. There are none. You have to have your remote to do anything. I think the Magnavox doesn't have any buttons either. Some posters complain about the position of buttons for the Digital Stream being on the top of the box. The usefulness of the positon depends on the position of the user in relation to the box. Given that every box I have is below my eye level, that positioning is preferred for my use.

If you want a stylish box, the light appearance of the Insignia is elegant, but mind you, it is also much larger than the light size of many other boxes. The Zinwell has either a very small round red or green light, and the PP has a small bright green light, which turns off when the box is turned off. The box for the Insignia and Channel Master are considerably larger than that of the Zinwell and the PP, whose box size is that of a small paperback book (no kidding). While the text of the PP is clear on a 20 inch set, I discovered that text from its own software is not that clear/sharp on a small portable set, and is less clear than that of the text from the Insignia.

I am still exploring the appearance of closed captioning of these various boxes, and so far, the cc from the Insignia impresses me as being more readable than that from other boxes. (I have not explored the Zinwell that much.) I think cc from the Insignia extends further widthwise than that from the PP.
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post #12 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 06:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr100watt View Post

I can enumerate at least several quirky things the PP has done that are problemsome - ..... Sometimes the box turns on by itself and cannot be shutoff. Until the days of analog end, this turning on while watching analog tv kills the reception. The process only lasts for about 10 to 30 seconds, but not having control over this leaves the user vulnerable to whenever the box decides to turn itself on.

If you want to watch analog pass through without interruption, put the unit in APT with the button on the remote, rather than just powering it off.

Then it is powered on and can't enter maintenance mode.
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post #13 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 09:16 AM
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---Apex -
The Good: I have found the Apex's video quality is quite good. Therefore, it worked well with my projector. I liked the fact that it uses s-video for an interface. Also, the EPG was quite nice, showing the next 3 programs. This makes the Apex the perfect companion for my old 63" rear projection TV.

The Bad: The remote is somewhat confusing to use. Some buttons are setup as if they were + or - buttons (volume/channel up or down). I could see someone easily getting confused and frustrated. My main beef - sensitivity to remote doesn't work that well. My family room a/v setup is off to a wall on the right, so when I go to change channels, I had to make sure the remote was in front of the box. This often meant contorting myself to odd angles in order for it to work. Frustrating!

If you use the bottom arrow key of the direction keys, you can cycle through all programs available from the EPG (up to 2+ weeks).

As for sensitivity, I've found several remotes are being designed so that you need to point the remote above the device (you're trying to control) to work correctly.

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post #14 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazza View Post

No worries about timers. The only unit you have with a timer is the DTVPal. Unfortunately they seem to be quite scarce nowadays. Zinwell CECBs are the only other CECBs with event timers.

The APEX DT502 has the ability to change channels for unattended recording, using the "reminder" feature of the "Simple Guide." It's a One-Shot function.

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Keep in mind that both the Zinwell and Dish have had at least two different versions of their products - the Zinwell used two different kinds of tuners in its 970 and 950 models, and the Dish Pal's newer version Pal Plus uses a different tuner.

The 970 models use a "Can" tuner, while the 950A model uses a "Silicon" tuner. The DTVPal and DTVPal Plus has the same difference.

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post #16 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 09:42 AM
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For a person who uses a vcr which requires different stations to be accessed when the user is away, there is little choice - it is between the Zinwell and the Pal Plus.

As I posted above, the APEX DT502 can also be used for unattended recording and it's easier to set.

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post #17 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 10:23 AM
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Also to have some control over the appearance of closed caption and opacity of displayed onscreen text, which are available to some degree on the PP (cc appearance) and opacity (of OSD by the Zinwell).

I did a comparison chart of my CECB's CC options at the following post. http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...4#post15699694

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post #18 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 11:06 AM
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Well I only have used the Channel Master and DTV Pal+. But the picture just sucks on the DTV Pal+. I wouldn't advise using the DTV Pal on anything larger that 19" CRT. Plus occasionally while it's off it just locks up. The power light comes on and I think it maybe downloading TV listings. But who knows... try explaining that to "she, who shall be obeyed".
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post #19 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr100watt View Post

For a person who uses a recorder which requires different stations to be accessed when the user is away, there is little choice - it is between the Zinwell and the Pal Plus.

I fixed that for you - since a lot of us aren't still living in the 80's.
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post #20 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by dotheDVDeed View Post

Well I only have used the Channel Master and DTV Pal+. But the picture just sucks on the DTV Pal+. I wouldn't advise using the DTV Pal on anything larger that 19" CRT. Plus occasionally while it's off it just locks up. The power light comes on and I think it maybe downloading TV listings. But who knows... try explaining that to "she, who shall be obeyed".

People take heed - he speaketh the truth.

(I've also had it start downloading listings while watching it.)
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post #21 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

People take heed - he speaketh the truth.

(I've also had it start downloading listings while watching it.)

You got the "Downloading Guide" screen while watching it, after it had been on awhile?

It should download listings (in the background) while you are watching.
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post #22 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeper View Post

If you want to watch analog pass through without interruption, put the unit in APT with the button on the remote, rather than just powering it off.

Then it is powered on and can't enter maintenance mode.

Thanks for that suggestion. Using the PP requires a different thinking mode for obvious reasons - the relationships between parts is more complicated than the other CECBs.

I did notice that when I used the APT button on the remote, that the box stayed on, and I couldn't figure out why it would stay on. (I think another CECB, could be that of Digital Steam, not sure, has an APT button on the remote, which turns off the box, allowing the user to immediately watch analog.) Your description of the purpose of the box staying on, as it relates to preventing the turning on of the maintenance mode, makes perfect sense. This is something I will want to do until June 12, if I am watching a program on analog that I cannot risk missing a short segment of.

I have noticed that the EPG of the PP requires that a station be "received" for a second or two before any programming content is listed. The station may appear on the EPG, but if the antenna is not pointed in a direction to "pick up" that station, the EPG for that station's content will be listed as "not available." I had to turn to a station, watch it for a few seconds, and then go back to the EPG, to see that the box did, in fact, update its listing. I had assumed that whatever download of the guide that had taken place was done so from one source, and that the source didn't need the box to be receiving a current strong signal for that station to list its future program content.

My comment about the Zinwell and the PP doing event timing for different stations for users who use recorders related to the recording of at least two different stations. The turning on of one different station is useful fo Apex users, but if you need to record from TWO different stations at different times, to the best of my knowledge, the only two CECBs that do that are the Zinwell and the PP.

It's fun programming on both the Zinwell and the PP. The different formats each use are fun to work with, too. The PP is designed in a more advanced way in this regard, while the Zinwell requires you to enter data in dedicated field boxes. I was surprised that the event timing boxes keep in their memory the last recorded entry - I would have thought it would have been possible for the software to recognize the current time and station the user is tuned to when doing the event programming. When I saw what is possible by way of the software in the PP CECB, it was like the programmers had taken an advanced course in allowing the software to recognize the user's intention.

A post had mentioned that the PP's picture quality is not good on a set larger than a 19 inch screen (mine is 20 inches and the picture quality is as good as that of the Insignia, or at least close to it). My problem is with the text quality on a smaller set for that provided by the software (the EPG, instructions, etc.).

I do believe that of the tuners between the Insignia, PP, and the Zinwell, the Insignia is the best.

As of June 12th, as other posts have stated, stations broadcasting in the range of 52 to 69, will have to broadcast on lower numbers, and some stations may change the location from which they broadcast, as well as changing the intensity of their signal. So ... much of what we have commented on regarding signal strength may be moot after that date.

I am hoping that the "weak" stations I try to watch will have improved signals, allowing my Zinwell and PP to receive and hold stations better, and that the strong stations stay strong.

It will be interesting to see what happens, when we are forced to "rescan" to adjust to the new settings.
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post #23 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 10:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeper View Post

You got the "Downloading Guide" screen while watching it, after it had been on awhile?

Yep. Pal - F105.

It's happened at least a couple of times.
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post #24 of 111 Old 05-12-2009, 11:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dotheDVDeed View Post

Well I only have used the Channel Master and DTV Pal+. But the picture just sucks on the DTV Pal+. ... Plus occasionally while it's off it just locks up. The power light comes on and I think it maybe downloading TV listings. But who knows... try explaining that to "she, who shall be obeyed".

As an engineer, am getting just a little weary of hearing the PAL kicked around for what is essentially a superior more sophisticated design. The PAL caches the channel guide info for all channels in memory, where other boxes just grab the data for one channel when it is requested. This is a lot of work, and they had to actually use a more powerful CPU with more memory to do this, but it's worth it, because it not only allows faster access to the EPG, but also makes it possible to provide a true cable/satellite box style EPG which displays several days of info for all channels at the same time. It also allows advanced features like EPG search.

The down side is that the box needs to keep the cached copy of the guide updated, but so far as I know, it limits this to turning on for a few minutes at a time several times a day which is harmless as long as it works properly. The box only draws about 8 watts, and only turns on for a few minutes at a time, so this shouldn't be a problem, in and of itself.

My DTV PAL has NEVER interrupted programming to do this, and (so far at least) I have been lucky and have never seen any lockups. (F106TCHH-N firmware)

On one occasion with the DTV PAL, the box did do an unexpected shutdown, and after reading this forum, I was all paranoid that the Pal had turned itself off in order to do its guide update, but I was mistaken. It turns out that what had happened was that the PAL had simply been tuned to the same channel for 4 hours with no commands from the remote, so the power save timer kicked in and shut it down. This power save feature was required by the NTIA CECB box requirements, and you can disable the shutdown timer if you don't want it to happen.

As far as the video quality goes, when I do an apples to apples comparison with both the CM7000 and DTV Pal Plus using composite inputs, I can't see any difference.

This is what I would expect, because so far as I can tell, the CM7000 and DTV Pal Plus use the same ST chipset for video processing.

So I'm guessing that the main difference you are seeing is probably because of the difference in S-Video and Composite video inputs on your set.

Some sets look great with S-Video but have crappy composite inputs. This seems to be fairly common, perhaps because they figure that you are only going to hook up a cheap VCR with composite, but the S-Video inputs were intended for hi-res SVHS or DVD use.

On my 27 inch Sony, which has high quality comb filters on the composite inputs, the DTV Pal Plus and CM7000 are so close that you have to look VERY VERY closely to see any difference at all (even then, several of my friends couldn't do better than chance odds of 50/50).

This is not only true for the composite to composite comparison I mentioned above, but surprisingly, also for S-Video to Composite comparisons.

This is not because my Trinitron is fuzzy on S-Video; as every DVD player I have ever connected to the set has looked razor sharp; the CM7000 simply does not seem to take full advantage of the sharpness possible with the S-Video interface (though it does look a little better than it does on composite).

I should qualify this by saying that my Trinitron set has individual color, contrast, and sharpness settings for each input, and I have the sharpness peaked up for optimum picture on each unit. I found that I could make the CM7000 a bit sharper by tweaking up the sharpness control, but then the channel guide text had really nasty ringing artifacts and was unreadable.

The DTV Pal Plus uses much more reasonable sized screen fonts that don't suffer from ringing artifact problems, so I can set the sharpness a little higher, and that helps close the gap and equalize the Pal's video with the CM7000.

With the best settings used on each box (Trinitron's sharpness for each input set as high as reasonably possible without artifacts) I find that the two are much much much closer than the comments I am seeing here on the forum would indicate.

I have tried three different CECB options (Tivax STB-T8, CM7000, DTV Pal Plus) and was disappointed to find that NONE of them was quite as sharp as DVD video. Even Standard definition DTV video is broadcast at 704 x 480, which is essentially DVD resolution, and HD video is several times this resolution, so this was a little disappointing to say the least, but I think that singling out the DTV Pal Plus is a little unfair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dotheDVDeed View Post

I wouldn't advise using the DTV Pal on anything larger that 19" CRT.

Based on my testing, I agree that the CM7000 does indeed have (just marginally) the best video on large screen sets equipped with S-Video inputs, but the tradeoff is that it absolutely sucks on most smaller screens, especially when using the RF Tuner ch3/ch4 input (because the tiny CM7000 channel guide text will become unreadable).

So, on smaller screen sets, the DTV Pal is probably a better choice.

But I hate to phrase either of these comments as absolute rules, because if your set has high quality composite video inputs (with sharpening adjustments and comb filters as my Trinitron has), then I know you can get quite nice video out of the DTV Pal.

And conversely, if you get a lucky bounce on your smaller screen set, you may find the CM7000 channel guide text looks acceptable even when using the RF channel inputs (though I haven't found one yet).

- Delphin
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post #25 of 111 Old 05-13-2009, 12:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rammitinski View Post

People take heed - he speaketh the truth.

(I've also had it start downloading listings while watching it.)

I have seen this also, but it seems to have been caused by the DTV Pal box getting nailed by its built in auto-shutdown timer, and then deciding to update the guide as part of its shutdown sequence (to avoid having to turn on again right away in update mode).

Keep in mind that keeping the guide updated is a little tricky, because I don't think that the DTV PAL has a duplicate tuner, and therefore it can't see other channels 'in the background' while you are watching something else. It can only sneak peeks at the guide info on each channel and then update the guide cache as you channel surf.

So, if you use the box several hours a day, and include a reasonable amount of channel surfing, in your viewing, the guide is kept updated automatically, but other than that, it will also try to sneak peeks and update the guide cache whenever it has a chance, such as when powering up, or shutting down.

let's say you are tuned to a single channel for several hours without any channel changes or other remote commands.

In this case, two things will happen by default:

1. After 4 hours the shutdown timer kicks off and initiates a shutdown sequence (don't blaim Dish, if not disabled, this timer is set by default as a power saving feature, and is a requirement on all CECB's)

2. The guide handling sub-system tells the shutdown routine to hold off, while it switches to guide-update mode.

So, this is NOT a case of the Pal deciding that updating the guide takes precedence over your viewing (though the message kind of makes it look that way), the auto power down is what takes precedence, the guide update is just done because the guide cache is aways updated at power up and shutdown.

What's really happening is that the DTV Pal figures, "Ok, so I've hit the time limit for auto power off and have to shut down power anyway, so why not get this pesky guide update out of the way so I won't have to just power right back up background mode and do it anyway?"

The DTV Pal has developed a [mostly] undeserved reputation as having flaky firmware, because people just don't have a clue how it works.

I think that there may be legitimate issues, such as outright lockups, but it's hard to sort these out because so many problems are caused by frustrated users screwing up their Pal by fighting with the box when it is trying to perform essential background operations.

What really worried folks is the idea that the box has flaky software and eventually will just start randomly crashing in the middle of their favorite shows (or when set up for recording), but when you understand what's going on, and realize that you can just disable the shutdown timer to stop this, it's not really an issue at all.

- Delphin
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post #26 of 111 Old 05-13-2009, 05:46 AM
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What are your experiences with these CECBs using RF output (channel 3/4)? I tried it out on my Zenith and I was surprised. I knew the audio would be mono, which is fine, but the picture looked strange. The overall picture quality looked reasonable but the coloring was completely out of whack. All the coloring was super-saturated. Adjusting the color controls on the television could have probably helped a lot but overall I think RF output on the Zenith is fairly crummy. Composite video output produces the same screen that the television, a modern LCD, produces itself when it uses its own ASTC tuner.

Otherwise I am more impressed with the Zenith as I spend time with it. Perhaps it is not a standout in any one area but nonetheless I would recommend it without reservation (well, aside from its RF output).


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post #27 of 111 Old 05-13-2009, 07:24 AM
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The Zenith DTT901 does have a big difference between RF and composite.

The RF is to dark (hiding detail) and colors are over saturated.
Many people like that (pop) look and I think that is one reason there are comments that it has a better picture.
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post #28 of 111 Old 05-13-2009, 07:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by creakndale View Post

Lord_Zath,
When changing channels on the Channel Master, the information bar should go away after 10 seconds. If it doesn't automatically go away, turn off the box, unplug it for 60 seconds then plug it back in.

My CM-7000 has done the same thing with the information bar staying on screen. Resetting the box, as described, solves that problem.

creakndale

I'm glad you mentioned this, since it gave me the incentive to try the unplugging trick again. My CM info bar worked when new, then stuck occasionally, and eventually all the time. This was true for both original remote and the learning remote I used.

Now I have a new LR (retired the old one to the bedroom TV, which doesn't have a universal remote code). The old LR was programmed before the sticky problem; the new LR was programmed after the problem, so it's been sticky from the start. I tried the unplugging trick shortly after I got the new remote, and it didn't fix it. I tried again last night, then tried overnight, still didn't work. But then I grabbed the original remote, and it was working! After I reprogrammed the channel keys, the new LR worked. So then I tested with my old LR, the one I'd programmed before the sticking started. It worked without reprogramming. I'm passing this along for people who might be trying the unplugging trick with their LR. Be sure to test with your original remote, and when you know the sticky bar is fixed, then test the LR. If it isn't unstuck, reprogram the channel keys.
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post #29 of 111 Old 05-13-2009, 11:54 AM
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The DTV Pal's reputation for it's inferior picture quality and general bugginess is not undeserved.

If what you read here isn't enough, look all over the internet. Almost every review out there puts the PQ in the "mediocre" category, and the reports of it's bugginess are legendary.
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post #30 of 111 Old 05-13-2009, 11:55 AM
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I don't mean to nit pick, but, for those like me who haven't used either a DTV Pal or a Pal Plus, please always clarify when you are relating your experiences with them which model you are talking about.

I know there are some commonalities, along with the differences, for those two models. But, it is very confusing to us readers when one person counters an observation about the newer version with their observation about the older version.

Just try to make sure we know when you are referring to the Pal and when you are referring to the Pal Plus - or, if your observations apply to both. Please guys?

I know some of you are already careful about making this distinction. And the same confusion crops up with the old and new Zenith, the DS models, the Apexes, the Zeniths...

Sorry for the rant.
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