Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: No Man's Land Bet. Des Moines & Iowa City
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Picked up one of these at Wally World a couple nights ago. I haven't even ordered my coupons yet (trying to time their arrival to coincide with the possible, projected, hoped-for late-summer debut of the EchoStar TR-40), so I paid the full freight--$49.95 + tax. I was surprised that the checkout clerk actually asked me if I had my $40 coupon.
The unit is what it's supposed to be: a very simple, no frills "converter" to keep your older, non-HDTV operational post-2/17/09. Set up was dead-nuts simple; it found all but one of my local stations, and that one failure was probably due to antenna orientation. But an annoying glitch is that when I re-oriented the antenna and keyed in the channel number, the TB100 *still* couldn't "find" the channel. Apparently, I have to completely re-scan, even though the manual promises otherwise--an annoyance. PQ was adequate--WAY better than the analog versions of the channels--though not up to the SD output from my Samgsung 260 tuner. I also detected a very slight greenish cast to the picture on my 20" Sony Wega CRT that I don't see on any other source. Another annoyance not having a button on the remote to change the aspect ratio; you have to drill down through the setup menus to do it--a pain because some of my local stations are still 4:3 and some are 16:9. Further, some of the 16:9 channels sometimes run programs that come out letterboxed and pillarboxed, and one-touch zooming to full screen would be a big help. On the up side, when a station is 4:3 and the unit is set to letterbox, it still comes out full screen; the Samsung DTB-H260F squashes and stretches the image and so requires you to manually adjust the ratio.
Your only interface with the box is through that remote--no controls on the box itself aside from the master power switch on the right-hand side panel--and though I normally don't get torqued off about remote ergonomics, I hafta say this one is pretty lame. Buttons are mushy and don't make positive contact. Hit one off-center or don't push deeply enough, and you're staring at the screen waiting for something to happen that isn't. At the center of the remote are four large directional buttons for navigating the menus--exactly where the hand wants the channel-changer buttons to be. Instead, those are two small blue buttons at the upper right of the remote--inconveniently placed and nearly impossible to hit without changing your grip on the remote. Overall, the remote seems like it was designed for some other purpose and button assignments were made willy nilly to accommodate the TB100.
When you change channels, there is some lag before the tuner locks onto the new channel, but all digital tuners seems to do that, and it's not an excessive time--seems to vary based on signal strength of the individual channel. The EPG data loaded up within minutes of scanning in the channels, but I find OTA DTV EPGs pretty useless except for telling you what you're watching at the moment. So don't cancel that TV Guide subscription right yet. One nice thing: the info screen for the channel you're watching also contains a signal strength bar. You have to drill down through the menus to get the same with the Samsung 260.
I mainly need the STB to keep my Panasonic DMR-E85 and other analog-tunered DVDRs viable, and of course, the TB100 is only a partial solution to that because it won't let you record multiple events on different channels. Not an utter deal-breaker, since I rarely record more than one program a night.
Most, if not all, of these boxes have an auto shutoff feature, and the TB100 comes with a default setting of 4 hours--another annoyance. Last night I was too busy to watch Madama Butterfly from New York City opera, so I tuned it in on the TB100, ran the box's output to the front inputs on the E85, and time-shifted the program..until the 4 hour limit was up and the TB100 shut off in the middle of Act III while I was busy in another room. Note to Self: Disable auto-shutoff function IMMEDIATELY upon setting up new tuner/DVDR/etc.
The other thing I'm concerned about is sound quality--i.e., is it stereo? I couldn't be sure because even if the station is broadcasting a stereo signal, the program itself may be mono or stereo with poor separation. The NTIA requirements for DTV "converter" boxes seem to require stereo output, but there's nominal stereo and then there's good, high-fidelity stereo with a full dynamic range. Subjectively, I will say the Madama Butterfly broadcast was adequate.
After careful comparison of features and reviews, the Zenith/Insignia unit appears to more in line with what I need/want, and in fact, I ordered one at my local Radio Shack last night (not in stock at my store, so they're shipping one out to me). I've saved the receipt for the Maggie, and it'll probably go back to WW. The Magnavox TB100 is what it is: if you want to keep that vintage Dumont in the den or the Philco in the family room running to watch Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy re-runs, this'll do it fer ya.