As many of you may already be aware, as of February, 17, 2009, televisions are going to stop broadcasting in analog when they make the switch to 100% digital broadcasts, and those of us who use rabbit ear or rooftop antennas can't pick up digital broadcasts. To make the 2009 analog to digital transition less expensive for people, the government is offering $40 TV converter box coupons, up to 2 per household, but you have to apply for them. You can call 1-888-DTV-2009 for details, or you can visit https://www.dtv2009.gov/ for more details and apply for the $40 coupons from there. A complete list of coupon eligible converter boxes can be found at https://www.ntiadtv.gov/cecb_list.cfm
I selected the Zenith DTT900 Digital TV Tuner Converter Box because Zenith is a familiar brand name in television products, and my bedroom TV happens to be a Zenith. And because every digital converter box model cost $59.99 before the coupon and sales tax at every home electronics retail store that I had thought to visit. And because I was very tired of shopping by the time I found the Zenith model and very clueless as to what makes one digital converter box any better than another.
Unfortunately, the different sales reps I talked to at the various stores couldn't tell me why their digital converter box product was any better than the other guy's either. But kudos to Radio Shack who had an honest sales rep who told me that their current in-stock model was not capable of analog pass-through, and who knew that would mean the loss of the Canadian stations that we can receive locally. Radio Shack lost the product sale but took a giant leap in local store reputation in my eyes.
The Zenith DTT900 Digital TV Tuner Converter Box is smaller than my DVD player, about 6" x 8.5" x 1.5" and it weighs about 1.65 pounds. Connecting the unit to the TV and antenna is easy with the quick set-up guide, and the unit comes with all of the needed wires, a AAA battery, and a supplied multi-brand remote control. Unfortunately, the supplied AAA Shenkang battery for the remote control was already dead. Fortunately, I had a AAA Duracell in the cupboard that was best used by 2004, and that was still a working battery.
I'm normally able to pick up ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and FOX with my $10 RCA rabbit ear antenna. The quality of analog reception varies depending on the weather and how well I've tuned my antenna, but I've never gotten what I would consider a good reception. I just don't watch that much television at home beyond the news to really care about the little bit of static interference or light ghost images.
But the Zenith DTT900 Digital TV Tuner Converter Box makes my cheapo rabbit ear reception look fantastic by comparison. After the fifth try, the automatic tuner was finally able to pick up three digital stations: my local NBC and CBS affiliates, and an unknown affiliate station that I've never heard of. The analog-to-digital conversion of the antenna reception was so poor that all I could see was shifting colors and there was no sound. After a few minutes, I lost the converted digital reception altogether due to "bad signal". Well, heck, I've NEVER had a great signal from a rabbit ear TV antenna, but it's always been good enough that I can watch some TV.
I unplugged the Zenith TV Tuner Converter Box and plugged my RCA rabbit ears back into my TV. What a waste of money.
Update On Jul 02, 2008: I went to Walmart today and bought a Philips amplified UHF/VHF/FM/HDTV rabbit ear antenna (MANT510), thinking that maybe I wasn't receiving a digital signal to convert into analog, or that I needed a more powerful TV antenna than what I currently have. Nope. The Zenith Digital Converter Box is still a useless piece of junk, but the analog reception from an amplified antenna was very good.