Choosing a digital converter box

While most analog TV signals are gone forever, a digital converter box can keep your old set humming for many years to come. Advanced boxes make it easier to consider cutting the cord with your cable company. Selections are more limited than before the digital conversion, but some great options remain. Here's what to bear in mind:

  • Analog pass-through makes setup easier. Without it, hooking up a DTV converter box can be more complicated.
  • Basic converter boxes don't deliver HDTV. That's a carry-over from the converter box coupon program, which only covered standard-definition boxes. Some newer, more advanced converters, such as the Channel Master CM-7000PAL DTV converter/over-the-air DVR, can deliver high def at its full resolution.
  • Look for timers for use with a VCR. Only a few DTV converter boxes have this feature. Other converter boxes will work, but they won't change channels automatically between shows that are being recorded. Also remember to disable the converter's automatic sleep mode (which is enabled by default for Energy Star compliance) if you are using the box with a VCR.
  • Check channel availability in your area. Digital TV signals are more sensitive to obstacles such as buildings and hills, meaning some stations that came in perfectly fine when they were analog might be challenging or impossible to receive now that they've gone digital. However, in some locations, reception might be better. For more information on what you can expect to see where you live, and what antennas might be a good choice, see our report on TV antennas.

Choosing a digital converter box

While most analog TV signals are gone forever, a digital converter box can keep your old set humming for many years to come. Advanced boxes make it easier to consider cutting the cord with your cable company. Selections are more limited than before the digital conversion, but some great options remain. Here's what to bear in mind:

  • Analog pass-through makes setup easier. Without it, hooking up a DTV converter box can be more complicated.
  • Basic converter boxes don't deliver HDTV. That's a carry-over from the converter box coupon program, which only covered standard-definition boxes. Some newer, more advanced converters, such as the Channel Master CM-7000PAL DTV converter/over-the-air DVR, can deliver high def at its full resolution.
  • Look for timers for use with a VCR. Only a few DTV converter boxes have this feature. Other converter boxes will work, but they won't change channels automatically between shows that are being recorded. Also remember to disable the converter's automatic sleep mode (which is enabled by default for Energy Star compliance) if you are using the box with a VCR.
  • Check channel availability in your area. Digital TV signals are more sensitive to obstacles such as buildings and hills, meaning some stations that came in perfectly fine when they were analog might be challenging or impossible to receive now that they've gone digital. However, in some locations, reception might be better. For more information on what you can expect to see where you live, and what antennas might be a good choice, see our report on TV antennas.

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