All BS aside, what is the "Best" converter box? All BS aside, there is no best. - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
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OK, what is the absolute best Digital Converter box out there as of now?
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post #2 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 09:43 AM
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There is no absolute best CECB. "Best" depends on what's important to you.
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post #3 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 09:46 AM
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NONE of them are perfect. Pick the set of flaws/features you can live with/want.

For BASIC TV watching, they will all function just fine with an adequate antenna for your location / situation.

You CAN put antennas on your owned and/or controlled property...
http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html

Being A Beacon of Knowledge in the darkness of FUD
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post #4 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 09:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hooterville View Post

OK, what is the absolute best Digital Converter box out there as of now?

The one I own.

There is no one best box.

If you have good quality signals many boxes will perform OK.

Some boxes are outstanding in a feature or two. Though there are many reports of flaws in the boxes that have one outstanding feature.

So much varies in a person's particular situation that can make almost any box good or bad.

What are you looking for: sensitivity, multipath rejection, EPG, remote functions, menu, S video, battery operation, other?
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post #5 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 09:50 AM
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The few friends that I have that own one, all different models, have all complained about one thing or the other. And setup was never a "breeze" by any stretch. Now is that because they are tech challenged? Maybe, but no one I know is even remotely happy with any of it.

Mike
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post #6 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 10:20 AM
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For me it may be summed up as "Z machines."
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post #7 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 11:26 AM
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In addition to what the others said, availability is becoming an issue too. So, depends on what's important to you, and what is available at the time you are ready to purchase.
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post #8 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 12:30 PM
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What DigaDo said.

Zenith DTT901. Very simple setup menu and one of the best tuners for pulling in marginal channels that other converter boxes can't lock onto. It also lets you store the zoom/crop/letterbox option for each 720p or 1080i channel. If you need to rotate your antenna and look for additional channels in a different direction, just bring up the EZ-ADD option to add newly found channels to the existing channel list.

Downside is a smallish remote and limited Electronic Program Guide info, compared to some other boxes.

If you can't find them locally, look on eBay.
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post #9 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 12:40 PM
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I voted for the Zenith as the #1 recommended box in the "Best" sticky thread here.

Doesn't necessarily make it the "best" for everybody, though. But it does probably have the best overall mixture of high-level features and performance.
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post #10 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 01:43 PM
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I agree with the others. If you simply want an ASTC tuner of good quality that is easy to use then the Zenith DTT901 is perhaps the best out there. It might be plain vanilla, but it is damn good vanilla. Hopefully you can find one at your local Kmart or Sears.

However if you start thinking about extra features (EPG, event timers, S-video support) then it becomes a complicated picture. You will have to compromise because no one CECB has it all.


_Lazza


PS - there are definitely CECBs out there you should avoid at all cost. If you stick with the Zenith you will likely be a satisfied consumer.
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post #11 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 04:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazza View Post


PS - there are definitely CECBs out there you should avoid at all cost. If you stick with the Zenith you will likely be a satisfied consumer.

I totally agree. The Zenith was the first one I used, because it was so recommended. I've since tried others and they don't come close. My local Kmarts still have it in stock.
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post #12 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 10:00 PM
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I have tried five CECBs (mine - Insignia, Pal Plus, Zinwell 950-A, Channel Master, friend - Apex 250).

Although I rely on the Insignia for the most stability and reliability, for pure fun and access to knowing what's on tv for a 24 hour period, I heartily recommend the Pal Plus. Its EPG has been invaluable to me for knowing what to tape later on in the day or the next day. Its ability to customize the appearance of cc is fun to play with.

The Zinwell's "favorites" grouping of stations is very helpful for viewers who have many stations to sift through and who would like to organize those stations into categories to choose from.

I have my Channel Master in storage as a backup unit. What I liked about it was its display of cc options as I chose them in the edit page before I exited that page. I think the CM is good for people who do not do alot of "customizing" (other than for the cc appearance) and who do not need to deal with stations broadcasting in the VHF frequency.

For ease of use of all these sets, I could make a case for either the Insignia/Zenith or Pal Plus. (Pressing the "favorites" button on the remote for the Insignia/Zenith allows the user to quickly move up and down stations. The PP's remote doesn't have a favorites button, something that would be very helpful with moving between various stations.)

I've talked to many people who have no idea of the capability of the Pal Plus and Zinwell (ability to change stations for programming, displaying an extended EPG, and customizing cc).

As has been said before, if what a user values most is picture quality, features other than that don't have the same weight of importance. So it all boils down to which box satisfies needs a user has. As has been said, a few boxes have less than satisfactory quality, most satisfactory, and a few superior. But a few, like the Pal Plus include features that are highly useful, that work, and are easy to use. I find that I use the EPG on the PP all the time, and frequently use the timer event programming on the PP and the Zinwell when recording from multiple stations. But I do rely on the Insignia to validate reception quality or to get a recording with the most stability (and that's off a dipole only antenna!!)
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post #13 of 34 Old 06-30-2009, 10:01 PM
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Ditto for the Zen DTT901 for the best "daily driver" CECB...though I let mine "park" for now, and in it's place the CM-7000 (best overall PQ albeit archaic in design).

I like the Zenith for the balance of user friendly on screen menus/remote design/very good PQ (exceptional with good low loss composite video cable = at/near CM-7000 PQ)/quick channel display/stable signal pickup/overall built quality.
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post #14 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 06:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arxaw View Post

What DigaDo said.

Zenith DTT901. Very simple setup menu and one of the best tuners for pulling in marginal channels that other converter boxes can't lock onto. It also lets you store the zoom/crop/letterbox option for each 720p or 1080i channel. If you need to rotate your antenna and look for additional channels in a different direction, just bring up the EZ-ADD option to add newly found channels to the existing channel list.

Downside is a smallish remote and limited Electronic Program Guide info, compared to some other boxes.

If you can't find them locally, look on eBay.

Is this the same as the Insignia? If it is I could go to BB instead of hunting around at Sears or Kmart?

Where to get the Pal Plus?

Thanks
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post #15 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 06:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aman74 View Post

Is this the same as the Insignia? If it is I could go to BB instead of hunting around at Sears or Kmart?

Where to get the Pal Plus?

Thanks

the zenith and insignia boxes are the same.

BB no longer has them listed as a product they carry.
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post #16 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 06:35 AM
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SolidSignal still has still has the Pal Plus at $60 plus shipping.
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post #17 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 06:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnpost View Post

the zenith and insignia boxes are the same.

BB no longer has them listed as a product they carry.

Thanks, I didn't know BB no longer had them. How much is the Zenith going for? I think at BB the Insignia was 60 bucks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snuffymcduffy View Post

SolidSignal still has still has the Pal Plus at $60 plus shipping.


Thanks. Are these available at any brick and mortar stores as well?
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post #18 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 06:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aman74 View Post

Thanks, I didn't know BB no longer had them. How much is the Zenith going for? I think at BB the Insignia was 60 bucks.

Thanks. Are these available at any brick and mortar stores as well?

The Zenith DTT901 is still readily available on eBay. Pick a buyer with a large sales history and excellent feedback.

DTVPal Plus is still available at http://dtvpal.com Our local Sears store carried the DTVPal for a while, but last time I was there, they were out of stock and didn't expect to get any more in.
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post #19 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 07:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arxaw View Post

The Zenith DTT901 is still readily available on eBay. Pick a buyer with a large sales history and excellent feedback.

DTVPal Plus is still available at http://dtvpal.com Our local Sears store carried the DTVPal for a while, but last time I was there, they were out of stock and didn't expect to get any more in.

Thanks, you folks are very helpful. These 2 boxes are the ones I will probably get. Just need to research a bit more.

Since I'm not in great need of them I may just go with what's available locally and cheaply.
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post #20 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 08:30 AM
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You can get the iNet SSR 1921 shipped free if you are using a government coupon from here http://www.ezdtv.com/gallery1.htm . They don't even require any credit card info.

It's a rebadged Tivax STB-T8. When I compared my T8 to a borrowed DTT900 (with LG tuner) it was able to tune in and hold all channels just as well as the Zenith. The PQ is excellent and the layout of the remote seems to be well liked.
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post #21 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 01:58 PM
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My local Kmart has been keeping both the Pal Plus and Zenith in stock for the most part (there are periods where they run out, but they get them back in pretty quickly). Others around here have reported the same. So I'd certainly check there first if you have any nearby.

IMO, the only things that make the Pal Plus preferable over the Zenith are the guide, and the event timers (which don't even always work right). Other than that, it doesn't compare in any way, and can act pretty strange and unpredictable at times. If you just want a "set it, sit back and enjoy it, and never have to worry about it" type of box, then the Zenith is it. The Pal really isn't. I certainly don't remember the Zenith ever shutting off in the middle of watching it the way the Pal has for me on occasion. And the picture quality doesn't even come close, IMO. I suppose if you're watching on a TV smaller than 27", that wouldn't matter so much, though. But at least in my case, you do give up a lot just for that guide.

I guess if you have two coupons to burn, it's no issue getting one of each. I basically did the same with the CM and the Pal - and I have a third one I'll most likely end up using on the Zenith, which I've already tried and liked a lot, before I even got my first coupons.

Like the above poster was saying, I've only heard mostly really good things about the Tivax (especially the PQ over composite - the online reviewers all seem to point that out, too), so I would certainly recommend that box, also. And of course, the Channel Master - which has the best PQ of all using s-video.
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post #22 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 02:36 PM
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If you are going to get 2 converter boxes then definitely, without question, make one of them the Zenith. If you have a coupon I would try to get it now rather than later because I fear Kmart/Sears will no longer stock them before long; my local Kmart no longer carries any CECBs. If you don't have a coupon then I would consider getting one, or perhaps its Insignia clone, through eBay or craigslist.

The Tivax does indeed have better PQ and remote than the Zenith, and is also well built, but for me its tuner sensitivity is identical (read: quite good). But the Zenith has such a nice user interface and clever touches (great manual channel scan) that it seems to always be the default CECB recommendation, ... especially since it has been generally available at retail outlets.


_Lazza
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post #23 of 34 Old 07-01-2009, 05:55 PM
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Good advice guys. I'll probably get the Zenith and not sure for my second box. I know only some allow recording of shows, is it just Zinwell, Apex502 and PalPlus that allow that and does the Apex allow you to do multiple shows on different channels? I saw mention that the timer may be limited.

I'm also looking at that Tivax since I could get it at a good price online.
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post #24 of 34 Old 07-02-2009, 05:36 AM
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Another factor to consider is how warm/hot the unit runs if you require it turned on over an extended period of time (, or turned on indefinitely). Some folks use CECBs to feed DVD recorders or VCRs. If you have something like a Zinwell you are in good shape because they will turn themselves on/off as programmed. Those units without an event timer will have to stay on. The Zenith DTT901 does not run hot at all; I should think you can safely have it on 24x7. And it also uses very little electricity. However the Tivax runs very warm. Certainly safe for a 3-4 hour period of television viewing, but I would not want to keep it on all the time ... in fear of having its insides fried in a matter of months.


_Lazza
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post #25 of 34 Old 07-03-2009, 01:26 PM
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The Zinwell ZAT-970A is completely free right now with a $40.00 coupon fromwww.amazon.com.
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post #26 of 34 Old 07-06-2009, 08:32 AM
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digital Stream boxes at Radio Shack are very good. I have two of them and are happy with them.
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post #27 of 34 Old 07-06-2009, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aman74 View Post

does the Apex allow you to do multiple shows on different channels? I saw mention that the timer may be limited.

The APEX DT502 has a reminder function (non-repeating), that requires a stable and valid EPG listing, for it to work properly. It has an unlimited channel changing capability and can be set as far out as the EPG information (that is being supplied) allows. It requires the unit to be "ON" all the time.
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post #28 of 34 Old 07-07-2009, 09:25 AM
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I looked into them a little before buying, but none of the so called "best" were available to me. I got a digital stream at radio shack and bought the radio shack extra warranty for 6 bucks more, about which the guy said "if anything goes wrong we give you a new one". I got the warranty because in the back of my head I was thinking "hmmmm made in China, nothing made in China is going to be too reliable". I don't know if it's the best, but it works for me and if it craps out the shack has me covered. I'm fairly happy with the DTX9950- here's my experience with it and DTV (from another thread):
Hombres, I went to the shack with my coupon about a week or two before 6/12/09 and got what they had (DTX9950). I already had an indoor rabbit ears w/ loop antenna from the shack. I live upper Connecticut avenue in Washinton DC, there are alot of towers about a mile west of me over on the hill by Fort reno, but not sure what any of them broadcast. I use an SD Sony KV24FS120 TV. I connected the box to the TV with coax. Here's my experience: I am getting more channels and in better picture quality than before (w/ analog). Many channels that didnt come in well or at all I now get. On programs that are HD broadcast I get DVD picture quality. Overall better PQ than with RCN cable service I used to have. The 9950 runs only very warm and is not a concern, since the magnavox box supplied by RCN cable ran way hotter. There is maybe a very small amount of color push on the the 9950, but I can compensate with the color adjustment on the TV. I get occaisonal sploching/drop outs but nothing seeming out of the norm from what I've read. Overall not a bad box. I am satisfied with the remote/functions/interface but I wonder if it can be outdone by others in the PQ department. Can anyone here tell me if a channel master CM 7000 would give any noticable PQ improvement with my Sony SD TV? Otherwise I see no reason to spring for a CM 7000. I have a CM 4040 Antenna on the way to fool around with (basically this looks like a silver sensor style antenna). I want to see how this one does relative to the radio shack antenna.
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post #29 of 34 Old 07-07-2009, 11:06 AM
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Don't know if you're still looking, but the CM7000 will definitely be an improvement in PQ when using s-video (and probably reception, too - those little break-ups you're occasionally having may even disappear altogether. If they're caused by multipath, though, the Zenith would be best for that).

I was watching mine on my 32" 480i analog set just last night, and I was amazed at the level of detail on closeups during the HD source I had on (Chicago Tonight, a local talk show on PBS-HD here). You could literally see the all the pores on their faces. Almost thought I was watching true HD. And this is just on a cheapo Sanyo - I'd imagine it would look even better on your Sony.
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post #30 of 34 Old 07-07-2009, 11:07 AM
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I own some DTX-9900s (but no 9950), some Zenith DTT-901s, and I've used the ChannelMaster CM7000.

The DTX-9900 has a bit softer picture (less sharp) than the Zenith and the ChannelMaster.

Now, if your Sony has S-video input, the CM7000 should give you a noticeably better picture on HD source programming. But, IMO, using just composite inputs, the differences are fairly subtle.

I like the user interfaces (menus, control options) of the Zenith and Digital Stream better than that of the ChannelMaster. But that sort of thing is partly a matter of personal taste.

The DS is the smallest of the three, which some folks may prefer.
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