Archive for the ‘Digital TV How-Tos’ Category

How Much TV Do I Need?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Courtesy of the New York Time’s Gadgetwise blog, a video post explaining how to figure out what size HDTV screen to get for your space:

TV On the Cheap – Your Guide to Ditching Cable and Satellite

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
Netflix Instant Watch - a free add-on to your Netflix service

Netflix Instant Watch - a free add-on to your Netflix service

With the economy being in the toilet at the moment, a lot of people are trying to cut costs.  Cable and satellite are both expensive.  If you get a decent package that includes basic channels, the “expanded” tiers of programming that include the basic cable channels that you want to watch, and some premium channels like HBO or Showtime, you could be looking at a hundred bucks a month or more.  So one thing to scale back on is cable or satellite.

Fortunately, we’ll show you how you can watch all of your programs minus a cable or satellite bill.  Here’s what you’ll need.

First, if you want to watch broadcast TV, you’ll either need an HDTV (we recommend the Samsung LN32B650) and an antenna (go to Radio Shack or Best Buy and pick up a regular old TV antenna, it should cost you $10-15 depending on the model; there’s no need for anything fancy, they’re all basically just a pair of wires) or an analog TV and a digital TV converter box (we recommend the Tivax STB-T8).  Now you can watch live broadcast television.

If you want to watch shows after they’ve already aired, programs from basic cable, or you want to catch up on old episodes, you can probably do that for free online.  The best resource is  Hulu is an online TV venture from some of the major studios.  You’ll find a pretty good selection of past and current TV and cable offerings there, along with a few movies.  And best of all, Hulu is 100% free.  Some studios/networks (notably CBS) don’t tend to offer programming on Hulu.  But you can probably find episodes of those shows on  Hulu and other online TV offerings sometimes have time restrictions on programming; so for example if you’re a fan of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, Hulu only has a few episodes at a time.  And sometimes they’re delayed for a few days as well.  But they’re free.

Some basic cable networks and most premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) don’t put their videos up on Hulu or even on their own websites.  If you want to watch TOP CHEF or MAD MEN, you’ll have to pay for it.  That’s where iTunes or Amazon on Demand come in.  Most standard-definition shows are $1.99 per episode, and most HD versions are $2.99 per episode.  If you think about the tens or hundreds of dollars you pay for cable or satellite per month, even if you couldn’t find any programming on Hulu or other free online services and bought it all by the episode, it would still work out cheaper on iTunes and Amazon on Demand.  Plus, if you use Amazon on Demand and you purchase a Roku Digital Video Player, you can watch your programming on your television.  Perhaps even in HD!  The one drawback to this is that Showtime and HBO both wait on making available their shows until after they’ve aired, sometimes long after, in order not to hurt their subscription base.  Our guess is that as video on demand revenue continues to rise and eventually equal or eclipse subscription revenue, this will change.  But for now, you’ll have to have a little patience when it comes to shows from premium cable channels.

The next step in our TV On the Cheap Guide is Netflix Instant Watch.  As we’ve said before, we’re a huge fan of this service, which is a free benefit with any Netflix unlimited plan (those plans start at $8.99/month).  And you can sync Netflix Instant Watch up to your Roku box as well or your Xbox 360 via Xbox Live.  Netflix Instant Watch offers thousands of films and TV shows, including most of the Starz network’s offerings (PARTY DOWN is a fantastic, hilarious show).

That’s all there is to saving thousands of dollars a year on cable or satellite, without missing your favorite programs.  With your newfound cash, maybe you could pick up a point-and-shoot digital camcorder; we recommend the Flip UltraHD.

HD Movies on the Cheap with Netflix Instant Watch

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Netflix Instant Watch and an Xbox 360 - a great, cheap way to get HD movies

Netflix Instant Watch and an Xbox 360 - a great, cheap way to get HD movies

Part of the new direction here at is giving you the product reviews and advice you need to make the most of your digital world. In this economy, it can be hard to go out and splurge on the latest Blu-Ray player or bigscreen HD TV. But you can enjoy movies, some in HD quality, for a very low cost.

Netflix Instant Watch is a great technology. If you have a broadband connection, you can watch over 12,000 movies from Netflix’s collection on a Mac or PC in fullscreen. Often, these films are available in HD quality (and if not, they’re standard DVD quality). Netflix Instant Watch works just like regular Netflix – you have a separate queue that you can add movies to and then you can select which film or TV show to view.

Best of all, Netflix Instant Watch comes as a free add-on with any Netflix plan of $9/month or more. Which means that for only $9 a month, you can subscribe to Netflix’s unlimited DVDs, one-DVD-at-a-time mail plan and get Netflix Instant Watch at no added charge.

And, as a special bonus, you can watch Netflix Instant Watch films on your TV, including your HD TV if you’ve got an Xbox 360 with an Xbox Live Gold membership or if you purchase a low-cost Roku box (the Roku box also lets you view Amazon Video On Demand content on your TV). If you’re already rocking an HDTV and an Xbox 360, it’s an easy way to add a ton of content to your home for just $9/month. If you’re looking to purchase a Roku box, they can be had for $99 from Amazon. You’ll need to link your Roku to your Amazon account or Netflix account) in order to watch content on your TV (or link your Netflix account to your Xbox 360), but it’s a very simple, intuitive process.

We’re Making Some Changes to

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

The digital transition came and went, mostly easily.  We’re now living in a digital world.

We know that this can be a bit confusing — you might want to learn how you can get HD programming on an old analog TV (short answer: a digital converter box, digital cable, or satellite); you might be thinking about purchasing a new HD TV or a Blu-Ray player or a cutting-edge gaming console.  Maybe you’ve got questions about what kind of surround sound is the best or which home theater audio equipment to buy

And that’s what we’re here for. isn’t just for reviews of digital converter boxes — we can help you out with all sorts of equipment and content, with reviews and advice.

So stay tuned in the days to come and we’ll help you navigate your way through our digital world.  It’s a great world to live in!

The Digital TV Switchover is Coming!

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Remember, folks — June 12th is the date by which the FCC mandates all television programming in the United States must be digital.

Don’t be left out in the cold, watching static on your old analog TV.

Find a digital TV converter box here, with our handy digital converter box reviews.

Confused about what you’ll need to make the digital TV switch?  Read our guide to the digital TV transition.

Want to keep watching TV on your existing analog set?  Don’t want to pay a lot to do so?  Find out how to get an FCC digital converter coupon (which knocks $40 off the cost of a box).

Why is the FCC Mandating a Digital TV Switchover?

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Many people know that the switch from analog to digital television is coming on June 12, 2009.   And many people know that the switch to all digital TV means that programs can be seen in higher quality high definition, with better picture and sound (if you have a high definition set and you are receiving a high definition signal through an over the air antenna, through satellite TV, or through digital cable).

But most people don’t know why the Federal Communications Commission and Congress mandated the digital switchover.  TV is becoming digital for a couple of reasons.

First, digital television can squeeze more information into less space.  TV (and radio and certain other forms of communication) is broadcast on a spectrum.  Part of the job of the Federal Communications Commission is to manage the spectrum.  Not only what TV stations and radio stations broadcast on which frequencies (so they don’t overlap), but also which frequencies are used for government, military, and rescue work.  Digital television, particularly high definition TV, squeezes much more information into the same swath of frequency spectrum.  A good analogy would be comparing analog TV to a videocassette and digital TV to a DVD.  The VHS videocassette of the film contains the movie.  The DVD version contains the film in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, director’s commentary, deleted scenes, and previews of other movies.  And the DVD takes up less space on your shelf! High definition television is similar to the DVD version of a movie — programs are in widescreen, a much higher resolution, and they’re broadcast in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. (NOTE: You will need a high definition TV and either digital cable, satellite TV, or an over the air digital TV antenna to enjoy high definition programming.)

This better use of space for digital television also means that broadcasters can engage in multiplexing, or broadcasting different digital TV signals on the same swatch of spectrum, allowing more digital TV choices.  You can see this now if you have a digital TV hookup with an over the air antenna (or through a digital TV converter box) — you might find your local NBC broadcaster offering a high definition channel of their regular programming on channel 4-1, a standard-definition of their programming on channel 4-2, and 24-hour weather on channel 4-3.

Second, because of the increased use of space, the FCC can take the portion of the spectrum previously used for analog TV broadcasts and return it for emergency and governmental work.  This means that the military, police, firefighters, and EMTs can upgrade their equipment to cutting-edge spread-spectrum communication devices, allowing them clearer communication without risk of interference or jamming.

Sound confusing?  It’s not.   If you want to know how you can view digital TV — even on your existing analog television, check out our digital television guide.

Something Iffy in the Price Point for Digital TV Converter Boxes?

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Over on the Gadgetress blog, she wonders why all digital converter boxes are priced around $40. Is there some sort of conspiracy involved?

From the names (or no-names) of some of the converter-box brands — AccessHD, Artec, Coship and Goodmind, to name a few — I figured the digital boxes were cheaply made in Asia. And I’ve wondered if some savvy entrepreneur is making millions inflating the price of cheaply made electronics to cash in on the government subsidy.

Cynical me.

While, in fact, the only converter-box brand made in-house by a familiar name is Zenith, a brand owned by LG Electronics, other companies aren’t making a whole lot of money on digital converters, says Myra Moore, president of Digital Tech Consulting, a research-consulting firm that has tracked this very topic.

It’s an interesting read. Full article can be found here.

How Do I Get a Digital Converter Box Coupon?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The switchover to all digital television is happening June 12, 2009.  If you don’t want to upgrade your TV or subscribe to cable or satellite TV and you want to keep watching your television shows, you’ll need to get a digital converter.

The good news is, digital converters are fairly inexpensive.  Even better, the Federal Communications Commission is offering $40 coupons for the purchase of digital converters.  So you can be a part of the analog to digital TV transition at low or no cost!

And getting a digital converter coupon is pretty simple.

Just visit the Federal Government’s Digital TV website and fill out the request for a form.  They’ll ask you for some information, like your name and address and if you subscribe to cable or satellite TV.  Remember that you’ll also need a digital converter for each analog television in your house.  The FCC allows up to two $40 digital converter coupons per household.  Coupons are good for 90 days from the date you request them.

And if you’re a nursing home resident, there’s a separate digital converter coupon form to fill out.

Digital converter coupons are only good for certain digital converter boxes and at certain retailers, so make sure you check the FCC’s list of eligible retailers and eligible digital converters.  Also note that these coupons are not rebates – you have to use it when you purchase a digital converter, not afterwards.

Digital Television Switchover/Digital Converter Box FAQ

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Q: When will the switchover from analog to digital TV take place?

A: It is officially scheduled for June 12, 2009, although some TV stations are phasing out their analog broadcasts already.

Q: What do I need to watch digital TV?

A: We’ve got what you need to watch digital TV right here.  But the short answer is – you have a few options.  You can purchase a new digital TV (high definition TV).  You can subscribe to satellite TV.  Or you can  use your existing analog TV for free or very low cost by getting a digital tv converter box.

Q: How much does a digital TV converter box cost?

A: They vary by model, but most are fairly inexpensive.  Even better, the FCC is offering coupons for digital converter boxes, so you can get a digital converter box at no or extremely low cost.

Q: Is it hard to hook up my digital converter box?

A: Not at all.  If you can hook up a “rabbit ears” TV antenna or a DVD player, you’ll find it extremely easy.

Q: What if I found it hard to do that?

A: Check out our digital converter box installation guide.  It’s even got a video.

Q: That sounds pretty easy.

A: It really is.

Q: Which digital to analog TV converter should I buy?

A: Check back here often for our digital to analog TV converter reviews.  We’ve got you covered.

How to Hook Up a Digital TV Converter Box

Monday, March 30th, 2009

If you have an old standard definition television and would like to continue watching your shows, you’re going to need a digital converter box.  The good news is that you can get a digital converter box for free or very little cost with the Federal Government’s digital converter box coupon program.

We have loads of reviews for digital converter boxes on this site – that’s what we’re all about.

Once you’ve picked out your digital converter box and purchased it, the only thing left to do is hook it up.

So – how do you hook up a digital converter box?  It’s as easy as hooking up a DVD player!

What you’ll need:

1)   TV antenna with coaxial (screw on) cable
2)   Digital converter box
3)   Coaxial (screw on) cable or RCA (red and yellow plug) cable

How to do it:

1)   Connect the TV antenna to the “Antenna In” on the digital converter box with the coaxial (screw on) cable

2)   Connect the digital converter box “Out to TV” to your television.  You will have the option to use either coaxial (screw on) or RCA (red and yellow plug) cable.  If using coaxial, connect it to the “Coaxial In” or “TV In” coaxial (screw on) plug on your television.  If using RCA, the red and yellow plugs to the red and yellow “TV In” or “RCA In” on your television.

3)   If using RCA (red and yellow plug) cable to connect your digital converter box, you will need to set your TV to either AV, “Input,” “TV/Video,” or “Device.”  This varies by TV make and model – consult your owner’s manual.  If using coaxial cable to connect your TV to your digital converter box, you will need to set your TV to either channel 3 or 4.  This varies by TV make and model – consult your owner’s manual.

4)   You will now be using the remote for the digital converter box to change channels.  You will use your TV remote for volume and power.  If you don’t want to use two remotes, think about purchasing a universal remote.

If you’re the type of person who prefers video instruction, watch the following: