Based on what I read on theses forums, yesterday I went to Target and traded my "coupon" for an Apex DT502. ( SW ver X1.00-06132008, HW ver 001, Loader ver 11230, yellow sn 22046..., vents side and top but still runs hotter than it should). Target has their converters on sale for $40, though most of the stock in the store I went to was the DT250a. Only two more of the DT502, but with green sn 22041...
The set practically set itself up; found a whole bunch of channels (about 30). Nice unit, nice remote albeit too directional, nice program guide, awkward zoom handling, and very nice picture on stations that I actually get. The trouble is that I used to get some 6 usable VHF and 12 UHF stations. Now I get something less than half of that, and have taken a bigger hit on stations that I am actually interested in. Some of the found stations are blank, others stutter enough to be unwatchable. All in all I find the digital broadcasts less hardy. Analog degrades more gracefully; sometimes the picture degrades, but it is still watchable and the sound understandable - not so with the digitally-encoded broadcasts. As annoying as picture artifacts are, the sound dropouts are even worse. I'll take snow and noise over artifacts and dropout anyday. Since TV Fool put more of the digital stations into green than the Analog stations, and all stations that I am interested in were green in both cases, I had not expected such a sorry situation.
What I find most odd is that since all the transmitters are pretty much in the same place and the same 28 miles away and are all line of sight (I am in west Hawthorne [~= western Los Angeles] and the transmitters are all in the Mt Wilson area.), I had expected that they would all behave the same, and AntennaWeb agreed, but it is not so in my case. Fot the found stations, the Apex signal meter shows signal strength generally above 50%, but shows the signal quality all over the place and not steady. The channels I can actually watch show a minimum strength and quality above 50%.
I live in a small single-story house, with the TV in the middle of the house, not on an outside wall. The TV is a 25 yr old 27" Zenith console. Antenna web says analog should come in with yellow and green antennas, while the digitally-encoded channels only require a yellow antenna. I have been using rabbit ears. While I wouldn't mind installing an outside antenna, I am not particularly anxious to run antenna cable to where the TV is. So my question is, should I spend my next 70 bucks on an Insignia/Zenith or Channel Master converter, or on a smart antenna? Or would both be a waste if I don't put up an outside antenna? Or is the DT502 defective? Sure wish I could borrow a known-good converter for an hour.