OK - I have a really nice Sony HDTV (no DTV tuner) with many inputs, and nice Regan-era Sony standard TV, and a huge distaste for a $120 a month cable for Cox in AZ when all I am getting is re-runs, and the DVR is 'crappy'.
Disclosure - I have an EE degree from long ago; enough to be dangerous. GOAL: For now, OTA HDTV only.
Did all my research in June, 2009, when after telling Cox "F/U", my TV's stopped working. Bad planning, but nothing that Google and a credit card can not fix.
I looked EVERYWHERE. I would loved to buy a low cost brand named system with DVR, but not ready to spend that much, and availabilty is 'sketchy'. (?)
Research drove me to the Coby DTV-140 for a few reasons; HDTV tuner and outputs, and available on Amazon (which is reliable) for less than $80.
THEN - antennaweb.org showed that all my broadcast towers were in one place and 21 miles away. Most were UHF, but PBS, NBC, and FOX were still VHF at the time. PEOPLE NEED TO REALIZE THE DIFFERENCE, IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE IN RECEPTION AND ANTENNA!
I was LUCKY in 2 ways; I used to have Dish Network and the mounts and cable were still there but unconnected since chaning to Cox Cable. Given the co-location of broadcast towers (Thank you Antennaweb.org) - I could get a unidirectional antenna, but being an engineer I wanted to over engineer a solution. I went to Antennas Direct (via Amozon) and learned the difference / crossover between VHF and UHF. So, while my thoughts of a sexy "frisbee - like" indoor antenna were replaced by the same antenna Dad had on the roof in the 1960's, at least I had a mount and wiring and DIRECTION that were alll favorable. http://www.antennasdirect.com
was where my antenna came from (via Amazon), and I ordered a V21 which was overkill at about $80 at Amazon, and a $25 "Mast Extender" which raised in another three feet. Next time I would order direct from them, but no complaints using Amazon. OK - the V21 is HUGE - 11 feet across, but I think I got the Space Shuttle flushing noise the other day :-) Seriously - unless you are living close to the broadcast tower, invest in the ANTENNA first. BTW - you will finally get ALL the FM Radio stanions if you have not already.
The upstarairs TV (an old but good Sony 480i 19 inch analog TV) was more of a problem. There are 2 inputs: Antenna, and Composite Video/Audio. I THINK I MADE A MISTAKE HERE. The Coby has one input - antenna. Output - everything from composite video to DVI. OK, so the first 'input' to the old TV was composite video from the Colby tuner. The second input needed an anolog input from the antenna, but of course we know that's only possible using a device from the Carter years calld a 'modulator'. I swear that I have a small modulator somewhere, but it turns out I had two - but they are called "VCRs". Some of you may have read about them on Wikipedia. So - Composite Video output from DVD Player goes to the VCR, and then the output is ANTENNA OUT TO TV and you are set. Yes - HDTV - no. But I am just happy to get signal. I should have gotten a standard converter box.
The Colby DTV-140 is not a bad unit, especially for $70 from Amazon. It is a true HDTV-Tuner; component, DVI, SVGA, etc outputs. NO ANTENNA THROUGHPUT (see above). Small and un-readable and not supported by universal remote codes. Swiching modes is (480i to 720p, etc) is supposed to be automatic. Works great on my Sony HDTV, but my old Sony 19 has problems adjusting; I did do not think it is the tuner but the broadcast signal. Think about the market. If you were Sony - would you makproduct for a market that was about three years old before they mandadated dtv tuners?
REMOTE CONTROL: The remote for the Colby DTV is a joke; while performing mostly well, it occasionally gets confused, and without a flashlight and magnifying glass you are not sure which key you are hitting. Add to that the Universal remote I had for the Sony had no codes for the Colby DTV-140, and for that matter hours on Google had no answers. I broke down after discovering that a new Sony Universal LEARNING remote (RM-VL600) was about $25 and on the shelf at Best Buy! Works great and picked up the Sony TVs by default, entered codes for my Panasonic and Samsung DVDs, and 'learned' the extra keys for the units and accepted the entire Coby Remote Control set. Seriosly - I have two remotes that I use. The only problem is when the upstairs remote winds up downstairs :-)
1) The Colby DTV-140 is a good choce.
2) Go to antennaweb.org and get the biggest antenna you can; you will regret getting something small. It's like using dial-up vs. broadband for the Internet.
3) Get a new Universal Remote. For about $25 you can get the RM-VL600 that will operate anything (except your wireless BOSE systems).
4) Make sure you understand all your options on your TVs.
So - for about $260 I avoid a $120 monthly bill for cable in 2 rooms which I don't watch much since everything is re-runs, and I have 300 DVDs. You can spend more and get tuners with a recorder, and there are other good options from major Manufacturers, but this is my comprehensive, exhaustively tested, and overly long but comprehensive user experience! Dan