Zenith (LG) DTT900 CECB - Page 85 - AVS | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #2521 of 2538 Unread 05-25-2015, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by seatacboy View Post
The Zenith DTT 900 and 901 converter boxes came on the market several years after Zenith Radio Corporation was acquired by LG Electronics. In their heyday, Zenith's televisions were rather expensive but became very well known among technicians as being very high-quality designs with superior reliability and lifespan.
Until the solid state era and foreign companies started selling here. The "American" companies couldn't come close to the performance and reliability of their Asian counterparts. (the last tube-type TV was built in 1976 AFIK it was a Zenith hybrid tube/transistor set)
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Perhaps that is why it's a bit disappointing that these Zenith-brand CECBs, which were built to meet a very modest price point ($60 MSRP)
At $60 they were overpriced for the cost of manufacturing and components. They could jack the price that high because most purchases were accompanied with discount vouchers.

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do eventually stop working due to "built to a price point" capacitors and parts.
The caps and parts are no-lead and biodegradable by mandate. Many products have short lifespans as a result. Manufacturers really believe that you want to upgrade every 3 or 4 years and design accordingly. This actually seems to be true elsewhere in the world. Only us "crazy Americans" expect electronic products to last 10 years or more. A major company was astounded that service companies wanted to order parts for 10 year old TVs; and another routinely scrapped parts inventory at 5 years because those parts were "obsolete".
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post #2522 of 2538 Unread 05-25-2015, 02:26 PM
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I would have to see an economic breakdown to agree they were overpriced. I mean consider the R&D required for a very limited production product with lots of competition, with many of the competitors selling at coupon. And these units have built-in power supplies rather than the more economical wall-warts. I have a first edition Motorola HD tuner that MSRPed for around $500. And 'I think' the gov't worked with mfgers to determine a price point that the masses could afford since they the gov't were responsible for us needing these things in the first place.

If no-lead, which I suspect is the norm now, is a big quality problem then stuff would be dying right and left. Safety? Planes, trains, and automobiles to name a few.

Biodegradable, huh?
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post #2523 of 2538 Unread 05-25-2015, 06:10 PM
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Generally speaking, I don't recall the Insignia boxes costing more than $10 over the CECB coupon. Worth it for me.

Both boxes are still working fine for me in 2015. One of them is in daily use. Knock on virtual wood, no capacitor problems.
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post #2524 of 2538 Unread 05-25-2015, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Inundated View Post
Generally speaking, I don't recall the Insignia boxes costing more than $10 over the CECB coupon. Worth it for me.

Both boxes are still working fine for me in 2015. One of them is in daily use. Knock on virtual wood, no capacitor problems.
All Zeinth CECBs still work since mid-2008.
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post #2525 of 2538 Unread 05-26-2015, 06:37 AM
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I would have to see an economic breakdown to agree they were overpriced. I mean consider the R&D required for a very limited production product with lots of competition, with many of the competitors selling at coupon. And these units have built-in power supplies rather than the more economical wall-warts.
Not much R&D. Commodity tuner found in every TV on the market from a vendor on bid. SW-Mode power supply - probably cheaper than a wall-wart and with fewer safety features, often off the main board = vendor. Single decoder chip, again borrowed from TV production and a vendor item. Basically built from leftover production parts. The only R&D was on the User Interface. And that limited market was also a captive market and it was considered limited because major manufacturers argued before congress that people would probably buy new TVs rather than hook up a box. When I read that I did "write my congressman" and he replied that their theories trumped empirical data.
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I have a first edition Motorola HD tuner that MSRPed for around $500. And 'I think' the gov't worked with mfgers to determine a price point that the masses could afford since they the gov't were responsible for us needing these things in the first place.
First gen units were built in-house, from scratch using a lot of discrete components, hence the prices.
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If no-lead, which I suspect is the norm now, is a big quality problem then stuff would be dying right and left. Safety? Planes, trains, and automobiles to name a few.
Consumer products were dying left and right. I made my living fixing them. When you upgrade every 5 years, a lot of the problems become invisible. Many sectors were/are exempt from the ecological rules, like Military and Aviation. They use special versions (non-ROHS) of many components. Ever wonder why the computer module in your car failed? Leaky capacitors.
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Biodegradable, huh?
Yep. The failing capacitors use an organic, biodegradable electrolyte. (fish oil) I think this was a reaction to PCBs.
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post #2526 of 2538 Unread 05-26-2015, 11:33 AM
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Yeah I certainly don't know what I'm talking about as I'm just an ignorant former Motorola RF HW Design EE with an MSEE degree. They just slap 'em together and ship 'em out in one proto- pass. Those big ICs just plug and go, no supporting circuitry optimization required. Test&debug, DFM, ALT, certification, FCC, etc. who needs it? Not to mention wasting time on software debug&test-rinse&repeat, certification, etc. (I've typically observed SW taking longer than HW, plus we're dependent on them at some point in the process). A switch-mode power supply cheaper than a wall-wart? C'mon, compare the two. (anyone look to see what mfger info is stamped on the PS PCB?). Less safety features? (120 V AC vs. xx V DC). Leftover production parts? lol. Now admittedly the R is probably non-existent, I just used the term R&D generically, but I feel the D is significant.

No-lead had to make the same quality requirements as lead. Now I can see it being more problematic 'in process' but proper process quality controls will negate that issue (admittedly tougher with all the outsourcing).

Yeah I think the fish oil caps are the biggest issue, which appear to be a cheap short-cut/knock-off kind of issue (good ol' China). Not all electrolytics are fish oil, organic, or even non-solid.

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post #2527 of 2538 Unread 05-26-2015, 10:44 PM
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I appreciate your experience and always value your comments. I'm not trying to start a flame war.I just come at things from a different direction. I have been taking things apart and fixing them for over 40 years. With factory training and lots of hands-on experience.

I see the same chips under the heat sinks as found in TVs, DVD players, etc. I see Mitsumi on power supply boards, not Sony or Panasonic or LG or Samsung. I see the same components inside a walwart as on a PCB. A walwart generally has overcurrent and overtemperature protection. An internal pcb power supply usually lacks the overtemp protection. A SIGMA decoder chip comes with a supporting schematic. I've seen some circuit boards in the CECBs that I could reproduce in my garage with an etching solution.

Looking at the internals of a CECB, comparing that with TVs, VCRs, DVDs, Camcorders, and other electronics of the same era, I think that this particular product was literally slapped together with standard production parts. Leftover may have been an exaggeration but maybe not. Even the lowly VCR at the end of it's life cycle was a better built and designed product - and it sold for $50.

The other capacitor problem is poor voltage rating selection. A 5vdc supply circuit with a cap rated at 6vdc will fail as soon as the cap starts to go out of tolerance. The P-P (ripple + DC) will exceed the voltage rating.

And as for no-lead, We can have a long discussion about "tin whiskers" and intermittent BGA chips if you like.
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post #2528 of 2538 Unread 05-27-2015, 04:03 PM
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Gotcha. Sorry, I went a little overboard.

Sounds like you're a tech, so if that's the case, in a funny light I'd say everything that comes to you is broken (i.e. every modern thing breaks). Of course that's a simplification and you have many years of experience - seeing trends, etc.

Oh yeah no doubt many of the chips are common but that doesn't make the design a piece of cake. They also have to evaluate up to a dozen of each chip to determine which one to use (there was a site that showed the major chips each model used, even some models from the same brand used different chips).

I dunno, I just look at one of these tiny wall-warts which one can buy cheaply on Amazon, etc. These internal power supplies just dwarf them in comparison (size, parts, etc.).

Standard production parts is the way to go. I dreaded having to qualify a new part and deal with QE, etc. We saved lots of money both R&D and Mfg by standardizing. And a long life-cycle can really drive the cost down (MOL).

Admittedly I don't know what the inside of one of these looks like. I was impressed with the ones I have (ChannelMaster, Zinwell, and Artec). The Artec, which appears to be a Zenith clone, looks like something we made at Motorola.

Yeah that's sad if they're doing this with cap voltages. Seems to be a lot of cap issues these days. We had EMFs attempt to sub with 'their' caps when they would run out of stock. Another problem could be some of the companies outsourcing the designs, I remember many of the EMFs would claim they could design it...

Oh man, BGAs, get out the X-ray machine. And the poor techs trying to resolder those things successfully. Made me glad to be RF, well at least 'then' there were no RF BGA ICs.
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post #2529 of 2538 Unread 05-27-2015, 07:44 PM
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I've taken some of those walwarts apart and they use pretty much the same parts, just folded and crammed inside - with the same leaky caps!! The biggest difference is that the wart has a single voltage output with the various regulators in the device while the internal PS has the regulators on it rather than the main board. It uses the same transformers and converters for the rectification and DC-DC conversion. Sometimes you will see a main board with silk screened chips with jumpers added so they could accommodate either power supply type.

RE: same model - different parts. LCD TVs are the worst. A given model might have 10-15 different versions all using different panels, drivers, and circuit boards. When one board runs out of parts stock, you might have to change 3 to fix the set, or it might be unrepairable. Imagine telling a customer that their $4000 PLASMA was trash because the driver panel was unavailable (after 3 years!) . I had an HTIB (home theater in a box) that a laser failure required a new optic block, driver board and main board.

RE: Everything we see is broken. Very true. That's why I would always hesitate to say which set was best when asked. I usually went with the one that had trivial problems with improved parts available for repair. Of course we got to see what failed after 3 or 4 years while the manufacturers only had warranty data to go on. They never collected any data on out-of-warranty failures. They couldn't even use repair parts purchased info since service parts were usually purchased generically from independent suppliers.

RE: BGA There were an amazing number of trade journals devoted to them. One of them sold a $100k setup for service but also mentioned that a circuit board had to have been specifically designed to even allow reflow/repair. Ovens, low level x-ray, vapor flux chambers, clean rooms. The manufacturing process is supposed to be almost magical in it's execution, however.
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post #2530 of 2538 Unread 05-28-2015, 02:28 PM
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Well I certainly know who to ask if I look to buy something 'newer' (I'm surrounded by CRTs).
Man that's nuts with all the versions. Opposite of how I was 'raised.' We might have had some small changes as time went on, usually due to some part having to be changed out. Multiple versions waste lots of money in inventory, procurement, and mfging, not to mention all the different design costs. Maybe they're forced to do it because of part procurement issues.

That was fun watching the PCB designers try to squeeze all those traces between the BGA balls.
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post #2531 of 2538 Unread 05-28-2015, 09:20 PM
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One major brand, top of the line, most expensive LCD in the market, used the same panel as the cheapest no-name set. The only circuit board they built themselves was the controller board with the OSD and UI. Everything else was outsourced. When the production line ran out of panel "A", they switched to "B". (which required a different T-Con PCB and backlight PS and main power supply) Of course, I don't know it it meant that the name brand was a rip-off or if the no-name was a great bargain?

And as for panels, small panels are often big panels that failed QC and got cut own into several smaller panels.

I got a laugh when one company started "Manufacturing" TVs in the USA - and showed a video. There was a front cabinet, a panel assembly, a circuit board, and a cabinet back. Oh, and a stand and a remote control. All those assemblies were imported. Not a single drop of solder was heated in the USA. The packaging had more manufacturing than the TV.

In the "old days" a transistor was a part; now, a panel assembly is a part. And it comes from whoever has the best price this week.

I was never a fan of BGAs. Fiberglass boards flex with temperature, chip carriers don't Eventually the chip will break loose. Low lead solder is generally not flexible enough to compensate.

Generic parts are still available to fix those old CRTs but custom parts are not. Converter transistor - yes. Converter transformer - no.

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post #2532 of 2538 Unread 05-29-2015, 12:35 PM
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Doesn't completely surprise me if the panels are generic in performance. Are the brains behind the panel what really make the difference? Might be how many a CRT were, where it was more economical to make one really good tube and let the other stuff make the difference.

That panel trimming doesn't surprise me given an array of LCDs, reminds me of semiconductor substrates. I take it the LCD elements along the edge are most vulnerable to forming improperly?

Yeah our mfging is just a bunch of assembly. Cars and other stuff too. But keeps the hillbillies employed. Of course a lot of stuff is robotic now (that's one good thing - I saw a show about it producing a technology shift back to the states).

My neighbor gave me an Onkyo AVR that quit outputting sound (some other functions still work), they had it in a cabinet and I think rarely turned off so I suspect heat. Some searching shows this model [and others] had a problem with a main board audio processor BGA, folks claimed they were able to heat it up in 'isolation' to re-reflow and they got it working again. I may try it someday.

They also gave me a Vizio soundbar that quit outputting sound. Just one 'brain' PCB to deal with but I can't find jack on it doing searches. Could buy a new board but I suspect not worth it. Probably just rewire it as an externally-amped speaker bar as it does have some nice drivers&cross-overs, looks, etc. (a better model they paid a few hundred bucks for). Would miss that little remote though. Since it still powers up I thought I could at least get the amp to work without the audio processing, but it looks like that is too controlled by the brain to figure out without a schematic, etc.

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post #2533 of 2538 Unread 05-29-2015, 04:02 PM
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Doesn't completely surprise me if the panels are generic in performance. Are the brains behind the panel what really make the difference? Might be how many a CRT were, where it was more economical to make one really good tube and let the other stuff make the difference.
The differences are in the video processing circuitry. Mostly the analog to digital step. Deinterlacing and Scaling the video to the native resolution of the panel is also. Faroujda and Pixelworks were two of the best at that. Big "names" sometimes do it themselves, smaller ones license the tech. Ever notice the tiny Faroujda label on the Sony camcorders?

Of course all the processing is moot if you can feed the panel it's native resolution from a digital source. Turning off all enhancements is then the preferred viewing choice and the cheapest set will match the best. But if you built your cheap set with a cast off / cut down panel, then you probably have the wrong number or sized pixels to do that.

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That panel trimming doesn't surprise me given an array of LCDs, reminds me of semiconductor substrates. I take it the LCD elements along the edge are most vulnerable to forming improperly?
They just cut off the edges to bond the mylar which has driver chips bonded to it. Imperfections are probably in the form of too many missing elements. (some are OK) or glass surface problems. (cloudy or not flat)

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.... Of course a lot of stuff is robotic now (that's one good thing - I saw a show about it producing a technology shift back to the states).
Circuit boards are robotic also but it would take huge incentives to move them and EPA rules could kill it here too.

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My neighbor gave me an Onkyo AVR that quit outputting sound (some other functions still work), they had it in a cabinet and I think rarely turned off so I suspect heat. Some searching shows this model [and others] had a problem with a main board audio processor BGA, folks claimed they were able to heat it up in 'isolation' to re-reflow and they got it working again. I may try it someday.
Once they put digital processing in them they became fairly non-repirable in the field. Circuit boards are needed for field service but most manufacturers won't release them to parts distributors.

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They also gave me a Vizio soundbar that quit outputting sound. Just one 'brain' PCB to deal with but I can't find jack on it doing searches. Could buy a new board but I suspect not worth it. Probably just rewire it as an externally-amped speaker bar as it does have some nice drivers&cross-overs, looks, etc. (a better model they paid a few hundred bucks for). Would miss that little remote though. Since it still powers up I thought I could at least get the amp to work without the audio processing, but it looks like that is too controlled by the brain to figure out without a schematic, etc.
You might look for the amp IC. Generally a "linear" IC. Might be worth a $5 gamble. Common failure in sub-woofer modules too but you can buy complete sub modules on the cheap. Processor failure and you're into alternative solutions. HDMI/Toslink to analog converters are small and available. Paired with a small stereo amp and you're up and running if the source has volume control capabilities. Various options may present themselves.
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post #2534 of 2538 Unread 05-30-2015, 02:14 PM
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Interesting stuff.

No I haven't had anything to do with camcorders.

Native res. requirement bugs me about flat panels. I'm willing to bet that all their processing still won't deliver the quality of my HD CRT below 1080p for a 1080p panel, although my CRT is limited to 1080i and this model can't take 720p (that would be nice for FOX sports). Of course biggest issue is 480i broadcasts, so I switch the source accordingly. DVD upscaling isn't as bad but many look better 480i or even 480p (which allows my TV to go in ED mode in component, i.e. the pic settings work better); the higher I go the fuzzier it gets. Now I wonder with say a 1080p flat panel, does it look worse on broadcast HD TV? (i.e. 720p or 1080i limitation).

Yeah that's the impression I got when I opened up that AVR - it's a board replacement machine for the most part.

The soundbar operation made me think it's the brain or some control circuitry since the display LED power-up status sequence is messed up. If I recall correctly I think it turned itself off but some tiny red PCB LEDs remained lit (it's been awhile since I messed with it). Oh yeah speaking of sub-woofer, it has a wireless one which I think works; it was wrapped in plastic so they may not have ever used it. All the stuff 'looks' in mint condition.

He also gave me a Bose Acoustimass 15 system when the AVR failed, didn't want to mess with AVRs anymore and just wanted the simpler sound of a soundbar (and hence later on I get a broken soundbar ). I couldn't ask for a better neighbor with all their upgrading then hand-me-down. I haven't bought a PC in a decade; getting slow, needs to be cleaned up - aw just buy a new one! Cartridges of fancy printer need too much cleaning - buy a new printer! (and thanks for the $100+ of cartridges!). Blu-ray player getting too slow to start up - buy a new one! VCR and dual cassette deck - who needs them anymore?! Tired of pool so filled it in - hundreds of dollars of fancy pool floats, chemicals, cleaning attachments, etc. (I bought his giant filter&valve for $200). And he hates clutter so there's all kinds of misc. stuff. All top of the line stuff, they're real clean, and usually in great shape even the stuff that's broken.

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post #2535 of 2538 Unread 05-30-2015, 05:35 PM
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Interesting stuff.
... DVD upscaling isn't as bad but many look better 480i or even 480p (which allows my TV to go in ED mode in component, i.e. the pic settings work better); the higher I go the fuzzier it gets. Now I wonder with say a 1080p flat panel, does it look worse on broadcast HD TV? (i.e. 720p or 1080i limitation).
Well, DVDs are native 480i so picture quality depends on which device has the best deinterlacing and scaling circuits. Also many manufacturers only put their "good stuff" in the 50" and up TVs. There are many 1080p panels that don't even take 1080p directly. First they drop to 1080i then back up to 1080p. Finding out what circuitry a set uses is almost impossible. The chips are also covered with heat sinks so visual won't work and sometimes they grind the name off the carrier and use an internal number.

In general analog sources look poor on flat panels unless they use top of the line third party processing, like Faroudja. An old VCR may not even display because the tracking errors confuse the TV.

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I couldn't ask for a better neighbor with all their upgrading then hand-me-down. ...And he hates clutter so there's all kinds of misc. stuff. All top of the line stuff, they're real clean, and usually in great shape even the stuff that's broken.
I race bicycles and have a similar friend.
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post #2536 of 2538 Unread 05-31-2015, 09:08 PM
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"There are many 1080p panels that don't even take 1080p directly. First they drop to 1080i then back up to 1080p."

That's disgusting . But maybe it works out better on all those 1080i broadcasts.

So I take it it's really best to stick with HDMI inputs (vs. analog inputs). Although I don't see where it would make a difference for DTV (internal ATSC tuner or external tuner via HDMI).

Yeah I have an RCA CRT HDTV that the screen rolls on play FFD or RW of a VCR. Walmart special but it was free so I can't complain too much.

Cool (race bicycles) and nice to have those kind of friends.

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....So I take it it's really best to stick with HDMI inputs (vs. analog inputs). Although I don't see where it would make a difference for DTV (internal ATSC tuner or external tuner via HDMI).
.....
Actually a tough choice. Lots of "howevers".
The internal tuner should display better unless it's an early generation. Internal tuners are usually 2 generations behind external boxes (that's part of the reason the CECBs performed so well - short production cycle) because of procurement methods. (ie Less sensitive and poorer noise and multipath rejection) The inside of a TV is an electrically noisy environment which limits sensitivity compared to external boxes. Also external boxes usually can be locked to a single output resolution. Some TVs blank out when they shift between 480i, 720p, and 1080i. (3 common broadcast standards)

Analog vs Digital input? Depends on which device has the better deinterlacing and scaling circuitry. In the past it was
Japanese TV design -> send native analog and let TV process.
Korean TV design -> send scaled digital that matches the TV's native resolution and let player process.
Chinese TV design -> depends on who they copied.

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Well in that one it was in regard to analog vs. digital from an input perspective; that it wouldn't have that difference with DTV since both an external tuner (using HDMI) and the TV's internal tuner would result in a digital input to the TV. Now I'm assuming the TV's internal tuner wouldn't spit out an analog signal only to be converted back to digital.

Yeah that RCA HD CRT is a real dog when it comes to changing channels (internal DTV tuner). I'll have to see if it's any faster between common resolutions; it may be just so slow by design that that part of it is insignificant, plus most of the HD channels (and those are pretty much all I save to its favorite memory) are 1080i. One thing I think dogs it is it initially defaults to a stretched aspect, so each time I change a channel it has to adjust to an aspect that is actually useful (4:3 or 16:9). I think it has a really slow processor by today's standards too as it starts up slow, sort of like a PC (displays "Starting Up"); probably a Motorola 68k. And the channel up sometimes gets stuck, might be an RF band jump issue. Goofy design but hey it's an economy Walmart special. Great high-res pic though, must have a good tube albeit only a 27" 4:3. And really good HD thru its component input, and oddly enough supports 720p inputs (not many HD CRTs do); I suspect it converts to 1080i as I just don't see them putting in the power requirements for 720p (in fact I don't of any HD CRT TVs that actually 'physically' display 720p due to the power requirements that go way up with tube size). Just wish I could adjust the geometry but can't find jack on service menu info for it; faces are a touch stretched and one corner pulls down.

"Chinese TV design -> depends on who they copied."
phildaant likes this.

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