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After owning the Sony HD-100 and now a Hughes HIRDE86 HD box I thought I could give some feedback on the pros and cons of both. For full disclosure I should first tell you that I had the HD-100 and experienced the months of dropout problems that Sony did finally fix but the fan noise and poor guide were too much for me so I returned it and purchased the Hughes after trying out many of the available STBs.


Guide: Winner Hughes

The Sony relies on PSIP while the Hughes uses AGP. There is no comparison the lack of guide data in the Sony impacts its usability very negatively. I never had any useful guide data for OTA with the Sony and PSIP and I live in an area where we have good local DTV providers. With AGP I have data for all the DTV and Analog stations, and I no longer get that searching message that hangs the box when looking to see what is going to be on in the future. If fact if you want to see what the next 6 shows are going to be you just cursor over to the station id on the guide and at the top it list the next 6 programs and times. I think the Hughes AGP guide goes out 14 days or so but I never went out that far. The Hughes guide is fast compared to the Sony. I did not find the Sony preview box useful as it does not work for HD or OTR digital TV sources, the Hughes overlays a guide on top of your current program and the transparency and color is configurable via the configuration menu. If guide usability were important to you I would look at something using AGP like the Hughes/Mits/Tosh box, unless they fixed the UI performance problems I would stay away from the Panny, cause man that is one slow UI.


Output switching: Winner Sony

I think the Sony does a far better job here than the Hughes. I first started using the HD-100 on my WEGA 36xbr400 a few weeks later my 10HT projector came in and I moved the HD-100 to my HT room. I tell you this because the automatic variable switching mode was a very useful feature on the xbr400 but it was useless and in fact caused problems on the Sony 10HT. I think this is because the XBR400 is smarter than the 10HT when it comes to identifying input frequency and can switch automatically where on the 10HT you have to enter the menu and input modes. For me I went for ease of use and ended up setting the HD-100 up-convert everything to 1080I. What makes the variable switching mode useful is the Sony can output 480 and 1080I on component and the Hughes will only output 1080I on component and you must use composite or s-video to output 480i. Now in my situation with the 10HT, this works great Sony or Hughes, both had to be set to up-convert to 1080I, but if I was still using these boxes on my XBR400 there is no doubt that it would be annoying to have everything up-converted with graybars on SD material.


OTA reception: Winner Hughes

I use a Radio Shack double bow tie as my antenna. Now I wish I could have done side by side test but as I had to return the Sony prior to receiving the Hughes I will just have to tell you my observations. The Hughes appears to do a much better job at receiving and resolving OTA both analog and digital signals. I live about 30 or so miles from Sutro tower in the Montclair district of Oakland, with a clear view of the tower. With the Sony I would occasionally have to adjust the antenna north or south to receive DT broadcasts. This never made any sense to me as all the stations broadcasted from the same tower, so I just assumed it was something to do with multipath problems and just dealt with it. I was never able to receive a good clear analog station. Now the Hughes has been night and day compared to the Sony I have never once had to adjust the antenna and where the Sony would have signal strengths from the 70s to the 90s, the Hughes locks in at 100% on all of my OTA DTV stations. In addition I am now able to receive analog UHF stations and some of them as clear as the digital ones e.g. 44 analog and 45 digital UPN station. For some reason I also get about 5 – 10 more strength points on my dish reception too. I don’t know why the Hughes does such a better job, I am not a EE, maybe it does better mutlipath rejection, I can just tell you it does a better job based on my experience.


Picture Quality: Winner Hughes

I think you would have to do a side by side test to really do this right but here is my opinion anyway. I think they both do a good job with 1080I source. When it comes to SD materal the up-converted picture on the Sony was soft and the Hughes is cleaner and crisper. The Hughes uses graybars when up-converting where the Sony uses blackbars, from what I can tell, I think the graybars help with perceived contrast. On a side note from what I understand gray bars are better for preventing phosphor burn in, not a problem for me as the 10HT is LCD panels but it may be important to you.


Graphic User Interface – Split decision but I am leaning towards the Hughes

Simply put I think the Sony menu system is more elegant and modern with graphics and icons, and the Hughes is more like a classic STB menu system. IMO the Sony is easier to learn and intuitive but less powerful the Hughes is less intuitive but can be more useful. At first I was a little confused by the Hughes menus and some odd labeling but they make up for it by putting a little function description at the bottom of the screen that changes as you cursor over things.


Noise: Big Winner Hughes

Noise what noise, there are no moving parts in the Hughes while Sony apparently attached an un-muffled jet engine to the box. Perhaps I am too harsh but I took out my trusty Radio Shack sound meter and measured a lovely ~55db fan hum from the Sony which continues to run unit on or off. Now I know there are some of you who are so hooked on having Sony stuff that you have removed your fans and some of you have even drilled holes in the top of your boxes. I personally think that’s crazy to spend $800 on a piece of electronics and then end up mutilating it when you can just buy a box that is designed to work with out a fan, but different strokes for different folks. So if you enjoy the sound of small fans humming while you are watching a movie the Sony is the box for you but if you are like me and enjoy the sounds of silence you will love the Hughes.


Cosmetics: Winner Sony

If the cosmetics of the box are what are going to push you one way or another, you may be missing the point of HDTV, but as this may be important to some here you go. The perceived quality of construction and design are won by Sony hands down, that is if you like silver boxes. Sony also includes a nice little information panel that shows output mode, station and time. The Hughes is your every day black plastic box with a little green diode on the front. The output mode is very functional it would have been nice if Hughes would of at least put a diode telling you what mode it is in especially since it does not output 480I on the component outs.


Remote Control: Winner Sony

What can I say it is just a nice remote, I thought it was easier to use but I primarily use a Pronto so it does not matter that much to me.


Misc Items: Winner Hughes

Check this out, Hughes actually included a decent set of, check this out, 8 ft long component cables. This cable is a 5 channel cable with 3 conjoined RG/59 and audio channels, it look to be just a tad below the grade of a monster-3 component cable. No it is not a cable nuts ideal cable but I am using it and it works great and it beats the hell out of the typical audio grade crap that Sony and most DVD players come with. Not only they include a decent component cable they included a long toslink cable, something the Sony does not include and I have never seen included with any other equipment I have ever purchased. I give a big thumbs up to Hughes for actually including useful and all necessary cables.


Price: Big Winner Hughes

I paid $799 for my Sony HD-100 from Outpost

I paid $650 for my Hughes HIRDE86 from GoodGuys (I had a $350 gift check from them I needed to use) I know you can purchase it from www.abtelectonics.com for $527.


From what I understand Hughes is the OEM manufacture for the Toshiba DST3000 and Mitsubishi SRHD400 and they are both basically the same box as the HIRDE86 and both sell for hundreds more than the Hughes. So if you can find the Hughes why pay the extra for the same electronics?


Conclusion

For price and performance the Hughes is the winner, the only caveat would be the variable mode output via the component output. That might be real important for some peoples configuration, like if you were using a 36xbr400 but on my 10HT Front Projector it was of no value.


I hope this is helpful so someone.

Regards,


Brian





[This message has been edited by btmoore (edited 07-14-2001).]
 

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Brian,


I think this was a well explained, fairly objective (or objectively fair) compare/contrast. Thanks. (I tried to do the same with the DTC-100 & the Dish 6000 back in the "early days" of HD).


One item (as an early adopter), my DST-3000 was $600 net. Also it would win the remote contest hands down (there are differences with the other OEM versions more than cosmetics). It is the perfect second remote after my Pronto (but I have a Toshiba HD set, Progressive DVD, etc.).


Thanks,

Tim

 

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btmoore-

Excellent job on the comparison. This was something that I was looking at, and you saved me a lot of research!

Regards.
 

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I tried the Sony HD100 also (in fact, I still have it on loan, but I won't be keeping it, either) and found that it's biggest weakness was sloooow channel access. I could easily count "one-thousand-four," sometimes even, "one-thousand-five," before it would change channels. In contrast, my DTC100, is just about instantaneous. The standard definition Hughes boxes I have on other TVs are also faster, though not as fast as the DTC100. Same with the Dish Network 6000 HD STB I have.


I also miss the second HD antenna input that is found on the DTC100, the only STB that has this feature, as far as I know. I also found the OTA tuner only very slightly better at pulling in stations than the DTC100.


All of which is too bad, because the Sony's cosmetics, design, LCD display, and remote, kill very other STB.


As for the Sony's fans, I must have a more recently manufactured unit because mine, while noticeable when the TV was off, was absolutely unobtrusive with the set on. In fairness though, I put mine in an unenclosed cabinet which surely helps a bit. Perhaps bare-naked and out in the open it would indeed make you nuts!




[This message has been edited by PF (edited 07-15-2001).]
 

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Wow, I'm starting to feel like I'm Sony biased (I really don't have that much Sony stuff), but I tried out the Hughes and Sony (HD-100) STB's and came to the completely opposite conclusion. Obviously, most of us conduct very subjective non-specific tests. I couldn't even get my cable to work with the Hughes box! I guess the two specific comments I wanted to make was:

1) Given the fact that PQ was at least as good or better on the Sony, I think the importance of a front panel display (especially with other non-techies in the house) is under-rated.

2) I long ago removed my fan (some of you may recognize my name) eliminating the noise problem.

Diversity of opinion is what makes this forum so interesting.
 
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