I got my replacement unit today. The optical port works just fine. Anyways, here is a list of all the improvements I suggested to their design team:
These are listed in category, but each category is in no particular order.
1. It seems that there are two buttons that are unused at the moment. One is at the top center and the other the bottom right of the remote.
2. Program the bottom right button as a mirror to the OK button so that when someone enters a channel, they can quickly hit the lower right button to accept the channel change, instead of having to wait or move their hand and press the center OK button.
The top center button would be great if it were programmed to show the current signal strength. One press could bring up a small onscreen meter, which would be very easy to get to and helpful for aiming an antenna.
1. It would be helpful if you could tune to a channel not currently in the channel list. If the user enters a channel that was not in the list (as found by auto scan), the unit should take the channel number to mean the RF frequency channel and tune to that channel. This is useful when the unit cannot detect a channel due to the aiming of the antenna. With this feature, the user could enter the RF channel of a known digital station and use the signal strength button mentioned above to fine tune the antenna. For example, channel 55.1 (RF 36.1) is a particularly weak station, that I cannot tune with the PHD unit since I am unable to fine tune an antenna and the auto scan does not detect it. In this case, I could press 3 6 . 1 and have the unit tune to RF 36 and look for a digital signal.
2. On the channel list, if you could store the current program names as given by the PSIP stream of each digital station so that the channel list would not only show the name of the channel, but also the current program name; that would be very helpful.
1. Currently, I am unable to tune to a specific sub-channel when using the QAM tuner. For example, channel 100.1 is my digital PBS and 100.2 is my digital CBS. I can only push 1 0 0 enter to tune to channel 100.1 then I must press channel down to get to channel 100.2. This is very frustrating on my Music Choice channels as I cannot press, for example, 63.28, I must push 63, then channel down 28 times. This is very annoying to say the least.
2. On my cable system, there are several unencrypted QAM channels, but there are far more encrypted QAM channels. On channel detection, the PHD unit finds roughly 320 channels, only 3 of which are HD channels and a handful are music stations. That leaves around 200-250 encrypted channels that do me no good by being in the channel list. The unit should be able to detect which ones are encrypted and automatically remove them from the channel list as it is scanning for channels.
Both formats (ATSC & QAM):
1. Onscreen menus should have a timeout associated with them, similar to the display when changing channels. If I press the list button, the list display will remain until I press list again, or the clear button. This could cause serious burn-in if left like this. List applies to the Menu, Guide, and List functions.
2. On the channel list, when I press list, the cursor should default to the station I'm currently on. As it is, it defaults to the top item. This isn't a big deal or OTA programming, but on my cable list, there are well over 100 channels, and if I am on channel 70 and want to go to 75, I'd have to scroll down 75 times.
3. The display of channel number, resolution, audio format, and channel name should show the Dolby Digital format, such as 2.0 or 5.1. This would be a nice convenience factor. So the display instead of Dolby Digital could say DD 5.1 or DD 2.0.
4. On channels above channel 6 (channel 7 and above) for OTA and channels above 13 (channel 14 and above) for QAM should allow me to press the channel number followed by a sub-channel number without the need for a press of the . button. Since there are no channels above 69 for OTA, pressing 2 1 1 should automatically select channel 21.1. For the cable, there are no channels above 135, so pressing 1 4 1 should select channel 14.1. Channels below this will still require a press of the . button since 6 1 1 could either be channel 6.11 or 61.1.
5. The timeout delay for the information screen could be shorted from 15 seconds (which seems kind of long) to something like 8 seconds. A delay of 15 seconds could still be implemented for other onscreen information such as the guide, menu, and channel list, as those are not automatically put on the screen by a channel change.
6. Another feature that would be nice is that if you scan for an OTA channel list, then scan for a QAM list, the unit would not lose the OTA list. When the user selects an Antenna scan, the unit could prompt the user to use the previous list, or to scan for a new one. This way users that switch back and forth between cable and OTA, could just select no to the rescan and use the previous list. I myself have an A/B switch for cable and antenna, and this feature is quite nice on my LG LST-4200a. An idea for a future box, and one that would net you a great deal of sales, is have two coax inputs and store an ATSC and QAM list at the same time, allowing the user to seamlessly go from a cable to OTA channel. I'm a member of several online forums, and this feature is one of the most requested features of an HDTV tuner. Currently, I know of no tuner only (not DVR units) that has this feature. It would be a great opportunity for your company.
7. When the unit goes into standby, the LED on the front remains an amber color. It would be very helpful if when the unit is in standby that the LED would turn red. I have a hunch that it was designed originally to do this, as after I use the power button on the front, the LED is red for a short time until it boots up and turns on.
8. It would be helpful to program the front buttons of UP and Down on the unit to change channels. Since they do nothing when the menu is not displayed, it would be a nice fall back if you could not find the remote.
Future hardware revisions for the next model:
1. As I stated above, it would be nice to have two coaxial inputs, one for cable and the other for OTA. This would increase the selling point of the box tremendously.
2. Implement a tri-state LED on the front panel for the signal strength: Red for 0-30%, Yellow for 30-70%, and Green for 70-100%. This way, at one glance of a small light, the user can tell the current signal strength.
3. Label the LEDs on the front panel so that the user knows what each one does.
4. Rearrange the Up, Down, Left, and Right buttons on the front panel in a cross for a more intuitive layout.
5. Add a small LCD display that displays the current channel, or time. Let the user choose which he prefers in the menu.
6. Add an NTSC tuner for backwards compatibility with cable systems that have many analog channels still, and will continue to have analog channels, well after the FCC Analog OTA shutoff date.