I got my DTV box coupon not too long ago. What am I talking about? In February 2009, if you've been getting your local channels for free over-the-air (using rabbit ears), those analog channels will be gone. Newer TVs have digital tuner, but most people (including me) have TVs that still use the old NTSC tuner. The solution is to get a digital to analog converter box. Get your coupon here. The coupon will take $40 off a digital to analog converter box sold at most electronic store (Bestbuy, Target, etc).
My local Target has an LG model, but it's been out of stock for days. So I ended up buying the Insignia model from Bestbuy. Usually, I don't really like Insignia (it's Bestbuy's generic brand). Most converter boxes are sold for $60, so you cannot really get one for free with the $40 coupon. Yeah, IMO it's a rip-off. I'm sure manufactures can sell the box for $40 or less with consumers getting it for free with the coupon, but I bet some CEOs still want to make some money out of a government program.
Politics aside, let's listed some of the points for this converter box.
1. They're NOT HD. I'm sure a lot of people are confused by this. The boxes that are eligible for the coupon are just digital tuner, not HD tuner. Sure, you get a widescreen picture, but that is not in HD res. It's obvious if you see that all of these boxes only have RF and composite output, not component or HDMI out, which is required for HD output.
2. Noise free picture. Sure, they're not HD res, but it's digital, so say bye-bye to those snowy picture. I never have cable, so the picture quality is a big improvement over the poor analog channels that I've been watching for years. Also, they're widescreen, so I don't have to deal with black bars on the sides of my widescreen TV anymore. If you've watched the news in HD, you'll know the difference. Lack of details, less sharp, etc, but at least they're noise free and widescreen.
3. Still require the rabbit ear. You still need them. Although regular ones that you already have should work, if you want to buy a new one, buy an amplified one. With digital, if you have a weak signal, you'll see artifact, choppy pictures, or no channel at all. Amplified antennas really help, with a downside having another AC adapter to worry about.
4. The Insignia box has a very simple program guide. The problem is, you have to "browse" all the channels first for it to get the guide, which kinda defeat the purpose of a program guide. Still, it's nice to see what's on.
5. Yet another remote. You'll be using the box to switch channel, not the TV. So if you have a universal remote, start programming it for the box too.
What if you want HD? Too bad. You either have to get a much more expensive HD tuner box, which is not eligible for the $40 coupon, or buy a new TV with HD tuner. If you have a windows XP media center PC, or Vista Home/Ultimate, you can buy a USB HD tuner for your PC, and use it to enjoy HD channels on your TV. Windows' program guide is excellent. I have an XP media center PC and WinTV HVR 950 USB HD tuner. HD picture quality is awesome. However, the overall setup is not really stable, and the WinTV tuner's reception is not that great, even when I use the same antenna as the one I use for the Insignia. I settle for the Insignia box, until I buy a new TV with built-in HD tuner.