Well, I have finally given into the "dark side"...today I switched from DirectTV to Adelphia HD cable.
I already had digital cable in order to have the broadband cable-modem Internet access that I need for my computer business at home. We also had the high-level premium pack because my wife likes all of the movie channels, but that digital STB is hooked up to the TV in the family room.
Down in the Home Theater, I had DirectTV set up with the HDTV subscription. For local channels, like CBS, I was using a OTA antenna. My HDTV STB was a Panasonic HDS20. It's about 2 years old now, There hasn't been a whole lot of advancement in STB for DirectTV that I've seen. I didn't like the Panny box because it could not output S-Video at the same time as Component, so I couldn't hook up my ReplayTV to it. Also, switching between satellite channels like HDnet and OTA CBS took the box about 10-20 seconds to lock in. And I was really getting tired of trying to tune in Fox and the other local channels since every different HD format required the same long retuning time.
Given that Adelphia recently added HDnet, HDnetMovies, and ESPN-HD, I decided to investigate this more closely. They are charging me an extra $7.95 a month for the additional HD STB (because I still want the other digital box upstairs). By turning off the extra DirectTV services that I didn't need and even still sticking with my one-year committement (which still has 6 months before it runs out), I'm still saving money.
The tech came out today to install the Adelphia HD STB. Fortunately, I got someone who respected my knowledge of HD. He was blown away with my system...I guess he hasn't done many high-end installations in this area yet. I had to show him what HDTV was really meant to look like using HDnet as the test channel. Other than a problem with my digital audio cable being bad and having to swap cables, the install went *very* smoothly. I basically just pulled out the Panasonic box and put the Adelphia Motorola 5100 in it's place.
So, now I've got:
HD: INHD1, INHD2, CBS, ESPNHD, HBOHD, SHOHD, STARZHD, HDnet, HDnetMovies
Digital: ABC, PBS, Fox
Even after the research that I did on the Motorola STB, I was surprised at a couple of nice features:
1) The S-Video is ALWAYS output along with the component signal. So, Ive got my ReplayTV connection back.
2) EVEN WITH A HD Channel, the STB *downconverts* and outputs a 480i signal on the S-Video that has *VERY* high quality...better than any of the other digital channels. So, even though I can't record anything in HiDef, I can at least record normal definition from sources like HDnet, which is nice for special programming.
3) Even though ABC and PBS are not yet HiDef signals, the digital signals are MUCH higher quality than the normal lower 1-99 channels. The tech confirmed that channels 1-99 are not really digitial and are just conversions of their normal analog signals. So, 1-99 have always looked pretty crappy, with 100+ looking decent. Well, 700+ look even better even when not in HiDef.
All in all, I'm very happy with the new setup. The only thing I miss is the Discovery HD channel. INHD1 and INHD2 somewhat make up for that. And Adelphia seems to be adding channels pretty quickly, so I'm guessing we'll see Discovery sometime soon.
Too bad NBC is still not even giving a digital signal. Looks like the Olympics are going to be disappointing. I'm really hoping that HDnet can put together some kind of arrangement like they did with the Winter Olympics a couple of years ago. Otherwise we are out of luck, and I'll be one of many writing nasty letters to both the national and local NBC stations.
Anyway, if you already use Adelphia for the Internet access and don't mind giving more money to the big cable conglomerates, maybe this post will help with your decision.
I know that DirectTV plans to make some big HDTV announcement in June. I hope it's not something that I'll regret. Hopefully any new channels they add will also be added by cable. Adelphia seems to at least understand they have to compete.
I'm not sure this is as good as something like VOOM, but I wasn't about to pay $79 a month on top of my normal Adelphia cable-modem bill.
If anyone is interested in a *great* deal on a used Panasonic HDS20, let me know