Review: Zenith DTT901 DTV converter box

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Just used my gubmint'-issued $40 credit and bought the box (at a local Circuit City). Got the only one they had, the Zenith DTT901. Now I'm wondering whether I should have shopped around first.
My main complaint is that the picture quality ain't great. I saw another converter box at a friend's house that looked really good on their tube; this one isn't all that sharp or punchy, kind of grainy. Definitely not as good as the analog picture I get from those stations with the strongest signals. (On the plus side, not only do I get lots more channels than I got before, but the picture quality is at least consistent among all of them, even if it's not the greatest.) I'm assuming this has something to do with the DAC chipset or the RF modulator in the box.
Box was super-simple to set up. I'm not thrilled with the user interface: there's a "favorites" function that's kind of annoying to use. You can put the most-watched stations in a "favorites" list, then hit the FAV button to access them. Problem is, the on-screen menu has a very short timeout, so if you linger too long on one station, it goes away and you can't pick from the list without hitting FAV again (plus it bumps the selection up each time you hit FAV; definitely not the way I would have designed that function).
The remote doesn't turn my TV on and off, but that's probably just because the TV is so old. (There's a list of 45 manufacturers whose sets can supposedly be used with the remote.)
Not big deals, since I don't really care that much about TV anyhow. I'd be curious to hear similar reports on other converter boxes.
Oh, and the box was $60, so I paid $20.
--
Washing one\'s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the
powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
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That zenith is rated in second tier, only online is first tier, let me know if you want more info on these boxes/
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Just used my gubmint'-issued $40 credit and bought the box (at a local Circuit City). Got the only one they had, the Zenith DTT901. Now I'm wondering whether I should have shopped around first.
My main complaint is that the picture quality ain't great. I saw another converter box at a friend's house that looked really good on their tube; this one isn't all that sharp or punchy, kind of grainy. Definitely not as good as the analog picture I get from those stations with the strongest signals. (On the plus side, not only do I get lots more channels than I got before, but the picture quality is at least consistent among all of them, even if it's not the greatest.) I'm assuming this has something to do with the DAC chipset or the RF modulator in the box.
Box was super-simple to set up. I'm not thrilled with the user interface: there's a "favorites" function that's kind of annoying to use. You can put the most-watched stations in a "favorites" list, then hit the FAV button to access them. Problem is, the on-screen menu has a very short timeout, so if you linger too long on one station, it goes away and you can't pick from the list without hitting FAV again (plus it bumps the selection up each time you hit FAV; definitely not the way I would have designed that function).
The remote doesn't turn my TV on and off, but that's probably just because the TV is so old. (There's a list of 45 manufacturers whose sets can supposedly be used with the remote.)
Not big deals, since I don't really care that much about TV anyhow. I'd be curious to hear similar reports on other converter boxes.
Oh, and the box was $60, so I paid $20.
--
Washing one\'s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the
powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
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Can you access consumer reports online, an interesting thing is 2/3rds are not the good ones, the rating is what you describe, poor picture.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

...
Well, that's better luck than I've had so far -- nuttin' is coming in thru the RCA DTA800 I got. It was the only one on the shelves locally and by dallying, I had waited until it was the day the gubmint credit expired. (I've not tried yet to see if can somehow get a second thru the online wizard). It was 40+ so tax and a little was all was out, though.
I haven't yet done the experiments w/ the antenna, cable run, etc., -- in fact I just finished a maintenance job on the hydraulic system of the lift so I can now tomorrow get up there and futz around doing things like direct connection off the antenna, thru the necessary cable, orientation, etc., and see if there's any hope w/ the antenna as it is on the present tower. Since the lift goes 40-ft, if needed I can take it off the current tower and carry it on up higher and see if that will help.
Do wish I had two or three other boxes to compare at the same time, though, to be able to see if it's piss-poor box or just sol from signal strength.
The online sites say we're _supposed_ to be in at least fringe strong-enough signal area, but what do they know?
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dpb wrote: ... Oh, one more thing...in analog pass-thru mode the signal was significantly poorer, to the point of being virtually unwatchable.
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dpb wrote:

Remember that at or shortly after the cutover date, most of those digital signals will get a lot stronger. Most of the current digital signals are transmitting from secondary antennas at quite low power levels.
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Have heard that several times. Good news for me. I get a bunch of stations but some nights they are weak and you get that pixeling. Most of the time they're crystal clear. This is on a DTV with no converter.
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On 10/31/2008 4:10 PM Pete C. spake thus:

>>

>>

I wonder about that: previously, I could get only the closest broadcast stations, some of them not very well. With the converter box, I get a lot more stations, including some farther away ones (like San Jose; I'm in Oakland), and they all come in pretty clearly. And this is with the same set of rabbit ears as before. So aren't the digital signals actually stronger? Or are they just inherently clearer because of the frequency band they're in?
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Most of the digital signals are currently transmitting a lot lower than their final power levels. What you're seeing is the characteristic of digital transmissions where they can recover the data at quite low signal levels and if they can get the data you get a clear picture. With analog transmissions your picture gradually degrades and you get a lot of snow when you get down to those signal levels.
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Pete C. wrote:

I don't know that is or isn't true of these--they've not put out any information regarding that point I'm aware of...
I've asked for info from two of the three; no response so far. :(
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dpb wrote:

It totally depends on how they decided to implement things. In the case of my market two of the five stations are running with temporary installations with a lower antenna and much lower ERP than they will have after the cutoff. The other five installed permanent equipment and what you see now is what you will see after the cutoff. I know this because my buddy does facilities engineering. Sometimes you can get answers if you call the station and manage to talk to someone besides the normal staff.

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George wrote:

Yes...
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dpb wrote:

It's on the FCC.gov site.
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Pete C. wrote: ...

You have a more precise link?
I found several references to the "may be broadcasting w/ lower signal" but all simply said "contact the broadcast station" of somesuch. Which, of course, if I had gotten any response therefrom, I'd already know the answer... :(
I _did_ get the lift back together yesterday, but by then what w/ spending some time w/ the pheasant hunters (yesterday was Opening Day) and other required stuff the wind had gotten breezy enough I didn't much relish the idea of trying to mess w/ the antenna so put the evaluation task off...
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dpb wrote:

It's not the most user friendly, which is probably why it isn't linked from the consumer DTV pages:
http://www.fcc.gov/mb/video/tvq.html
Query on DT, STA, or other relevant fields. The ERP (Effective Radiated Power) field will tell you their transmission power. You'll see multiple entries for stations with different status fields like CP (construction permit), LIC, etc. Where you see ERPs of a few to tens of KW for a main channel (not LP or aux of some type), you can be pretty sure that value will go higher after the cutover.
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Pete C. wrote:

...
...
Thanks; it appears all are so far at least, pretty low (highest was roughly 80kW) so one may hope they're not planning on simply ignoring the rest of the state (altho that's certainly a typical action of the KC/Topeka/Wichita bunch that the other 80-90% of the state (by area) doesn't matter).
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dpb wrote:

I would certainly expect any of the mainstream stations to get to the hundreds of KW at least and more likely to the MW level.
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Pete C. wrote: ...

These are the translators for the SW region of the state from the Wichita base stations for the three major networks -- they're all there is other than a bare-budget PBS that have no idea what they've got the money to be able to do, if anything.
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Pete C. wrote: ...

Well, I got the lift working again and had a nice day w/o too much wind one day last week so did the 'spearmint of direct coax from the antenna to the converter box.
Scan did manage to find one transmitter but signal so low didn't even register on the signal strength tuning indicator. Fiddling w/ antenna direction got one frame w/ quite a bit of drop out to register--following that, the big nothing. Since couldn't see what was happening from the antenna location and wife currently is hobbled w/ a knee so can't ferry messages easily, I may try taking a small set and the converter box up w/ me and see if can fine tune any, but seems little point at this time. Unless there's going to be significantly more signal strength than there is currently, it looks like OTA broadcasts are a thing of the past for us. Which probably means we'll be back to 50's as I'm thinking I'm not going to spend the $$$ they want for satellite. Guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens when it goes dark and try again then. Ain't gubmint "help" wunnerful??? :(
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