TVs & Home Theaters

General discussion

HDTV without Comcast Box?

by MarkBean / January 3, 2006 6:19 AM PST

Would someone please help me understand what I really need to get HDTV reception?

I?m looking to purchase the Dell W3706MC 37" LCD HDTV. This unit has a built-in NTSC/ATSC tuner. Will I be able to get some HDTV channels via my basic cable subscription without using one of those horrible set-top boxes by Comcast? Comcast in Trenton, NJ is my current provider.

I went to www.antennaweb.org and confirmed that there are stations in my area broadcasting digital HDTV between the range of 3.1 and 57.1. My current cable package carries channels into the 70s. Will these .1 stations be available over the standard coax into my house from Comcast in Trenton, NJ? The cable company tells me that I must have a set-top box and the HDTV package but I felt like they were just trying to upgrade me.

I would prefer to avoid installing an antenna, but I would consider it if I can avoid giving Comcast any more money on a monthly basis. I live in a two-floor condo and am limited to what I can install. Philadelphia stations are 31m away. Should I be able to expect reception with an indoor antenna at that distance? Most of the stations I care about are at the same compass orientation so I?m guessing unidirectional will work for me. Is there such thing as a decent, compact, indoor UHF/VHF antenna?

Thanks in advance!

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HDTV without Comcast Box?
by jcrobso / January 3, 2006 6:39 AM PST

To get cable HD you will have to pay them for the service, and get the box.
There are some indoor antanns, Radio Schack has some. You should be able to pick up the OTA HD channels.

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HDTV without Comcast Box?
by MarkBean / January 3, 2006 7:43 AM PST

Thank you for the reply.

Does this mean that the off-air channels are scrambled on my cable system or is this a general statement for all cable systems? My prior understanding was that off-air HDTV channels are not scrambled on some cable systems and that an integrated digital TV can receive them without a CableCARD or STB.

Thanks,
Mark

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You don't need to pay for HDTV
by TwilightTraveler / January 3, 2006 8:38 AM PST

ALL off-air HDTV channels are free, and in fact the vast majority of HD channels are off-air (free). You don't need to pay Comcast or any other service to receive them unless you live way out in boondocks where you don't get off-air reception. If your system already has a HD tuner (NTSC/ATSC) built-in, all you need is an HD antenna. You can buy it from your local electronics store, like bestbuy or Circuit City). I'm using Terk antenna (www.terk.com) which I bought from Circuit City. Terk website also has an antenna selector where you just enter your zip-code and it shows you available channels as well as a good antenna for them). Best reception is with an out-door antenna: Higher the out-door antenna, better the reception. If you can't install the antenna on a outside wall then you could get a tripod from Radioshack, install antenna on it and put it on your patio. There is a federal law (FCC ruling) which says that no one can stop you from receiving a signal. Also, note that HD signal seems to be quite directional unlike analog signals. Indoor antenna might not give you as many channels unless if you're within 10~15 miles of the transmission towers.

It's not worth paying for the basic Comcast service unless if it makes sense due to a cable-modem service with it. Pretty much every channel worth watching is aired (free). Best channels are PBS (yep- the Public Broadcasting has the most HD content including nature shows which look best in HD!), CBS, NBC and ABC.. in the order of HD content.

I hope that helps.

(And Off-air channels are NOT scrambled, you just need a HD tuner for them. Samsung is one of the cheaper ones if a tuner is not already built-in your system.)

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Is Comcast worth it? Not for me!
by MarkBean / January 3, 2006 9:52 PM PST

I agree with what your point that it's pretty much not work paying for basic cable if most of the channels I watch are available OTA. I do have a cable modem so I get the $10 discount. I also don't have the true basic cable. I have the antenna service which provides all OTA channels for only $14 a month. (antenna service is not offered unless you request it. My understanding is that the FCC requires the cable companies to provide it if requested) Since it qualifies me for the $10 discount on the modem I'm paying only $4 extra a month to not have to worry about setting up antennas around my condo. Another unexpected bonus is that a few non-OTA channels slip by and I get DSC.

Thanks!

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Can't get HDTV to my HDTV tuner?
by MarkBean / January 10, 2006 10:07 AM PST

I bought the dell W-3706MC with built-in HDTV tuner. My understanding was that I would be able to plug my cable wire into the HDTV coax input and I would see HDTV channels that are available OTA. I'm not seeing anything other than standard definition. Is this correct? Should I be doing anything else? I also noticed that I see quick burts of lines of static when I'm using the HDTV/ATSC input from my cable.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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CABLE REQIURES A CABLE BOX
by BONSPEED / January 10, 2006 11:42 AM PST

A BUILT IN HD TUNER IS FOR OTA(OVER THE AIRWAY) HD SIGNALS WHICH WILL NEED AN ANTENNA. ANY SIGNAL COMING THRU YOUR CABLE WILL REQUIRE THE PROPER CABLE BOX OR CABLECARD(IF THAT FEATURE IS AVAILABLE) FROM YOUR CABLE COMPANY.

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or a QAM tuner
by MarkBean / January 10, 2006 11:31 PM PST

Yes, a set-top box, cable card are needed if I don't have a QAM tuner.

I thought I did enough research and would be able to plug my 37" Dell into my "antenna service" from the cable company and receive HD signals. This unfortunately is the first time I heard of a QAM tuner. I bought the Dell TV through CostCo which has one of the best return policies. While I love certain things about the Dell (price, inputs, detachable speakers, swivel stand, appearance and 2-year warranty when bought through costco) I was really set on getting HDTV without a set-top box and without paying the cable company more than the $14 a month I'm currently paying for "antenna service".

Does anyone have any suggestions on a 37" TV similair to the Dell in term of price, inputs, detachable speakers and swivel stand that has a QAM tuner?

I'm 30-50 miles from the signals and live in a condo that will not allow an outside antenna. Considering these factors, I don't expect to have much success. I will try an antenna and see what happens. I heard the Zenith HDTV1 is a good one. I want to get one today and no one sells that model near me. I'm going to try a Terk indoors for now.

Thanks in advance!

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QAM TUNER
by BONSPEED / January 11, 2006 1:47 AM PST
In reply to: or a QAM tuner

SORRY, I DIDNT REALIZED YOU WERE GOING THAT WAY. FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, QAM TUNERS ONLY WORKS WITH UNSCRAMBLED CHANELS. IF YOUR ONLY PAYING FOR BASIC CABLE, THEN THE HIGHER CHANNELS(HD) WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE UNLESS YOU UPGRADE. YOUR CABLE PROVIDER SHOULD BE ABLE TO CONFIRM THIS. CONSIDERING YOUR LIMITATIONS, I FEEL CABLE MAY STILL YOUR BEST OPTION RATHER THEN AN INDOOR ANTENNA. GOOD LUCK.

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SUCCESS! Great HDTV reception without a cable box!!!
by MarkBean / January 11, 2006 2:48 AM PST
In reply to: QAM TUNER

I greatly appreciate all of your comments BONSPEED. I bought a Terk HDTVi indoor antenna today. I wanted the Zenith HDTV1 because I heard many good things about it. I hooked up the Terk HDTVi and at first was very displeased with the results. After a little playing around and having the TV auto-program channels I was finally successful. As of this moment I am THRILLED with the results.

The biggest problem with the antenna was MY IGNORANCE. While I used antennaweb.org and checkhd.com I really didn?t understand what I was doing. It also didn?t occur to me that I only needed to extend the 42? rabbit ears to get the channels I wanted it. I am fortunate. All of the channels I am interested in are UHF and at the same compass orientation with the exception of one which is only 2 degrees off. I currently get in all stations up to blue antenna type range which are in same compass orientation and that includes the one which is two degrees off. Today is an overcast day which I would assume (could be wrong, again) would make it more difficult to get a signal in. Nonetheless, the picture is perfect and I now have a handing channel guide.

So the answer for me was simple, even though getting there was not. Here is what I learned about getting OTA HDTV channels on a TV with an HDTV/ATSC tuner.
1) Buy an external antenna.
2) Make sure it?s pointed in the right direction.
3) Auto-program the channels
4) Remove any non-digital (non .1) channels
5) Enjoy HDTV channels without paying extra to the cable company

While the reception is stunning, I still may try an attic mount so that I don?t have this funny looking antenna near my TV.

Thank you to everyone who provided input.

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This isn't true
by snarfblatt / February 1, 2006 7:18 AM PST

I just hooked up my Sony 50" LCD with built-in HD tuner to my $11 dollar comcast cable and the TV found ~60 Digital Channels (as well as my 36 analog channels). Of course most of those channels were just music, but mixed in there were the HD channels for NBC, CBS, FOX, WB, OPB, and a few others. I think Comcast just leaves this little tidbit of info out so they can get you to pay $60 a month for their crappy digital service.

Just my two cents.

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Digital over Cable
by MarkBean / February 1, 2006 10:48 AM PST
In reply to: This isn't true

I think this is because you have a QAM tuner. I bought a TV with only an ATSC tuner which does not get OTA HD channels on the $11 (in my case $13) a month service. Also, if you are paying for "antenna service" than you should get only those channels distributed OTA. That is of course assuing they took the effort to install the filter and that you did not remove said filter.

I'm using DB2 antenna in my attic and I get in all OTA channels within 40m. I had a cheapo indoor antenna and got similar reception but with some dropout in bad weather adn when I walked in front of it.. Why pay extra to the cable company and use a STB? Get a QAM tuner and you get it all for $11-14 a month. Get an ATSC tuner and external antenna and avoid paying altogether...but you only get OTA channels.

FYI: digital over antenna or cable look perfect. Digital TV is an all or nothing thing. Don't worry about static.

I hope this helps someone!

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depends on what you watch
by masterying01 / January 3, 2006 3:39 PM PST

one thing to keep in mind, if you dont send comcast money, they will not send you hd. look on comcast's website. see what programs you primary watch, and see if its available in HD in your area.

if you only watch local channels and have comcast for the occasional QVC shopping or ESPN, then most likely you wouldnt need to upgrade to HD from comcast.

if you love discovery channel, or love to watch movies in HD but do not want to buy dvd movies..but just watch them on tv.....or if you love sports, i'd say upgrading to the HD package from comcast is a lot better cause you'll get HD for mostly everything that you watch.

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GET THE COMCAST HD BOX
by BONSPEED / January 3, 2006 5:17 PM PST

SINCE YOU ALREADY HAVE CABLE, THE BASIC COMCAST HD PACKAGE IS ONLY EXTRA $5/$10 (AT LEAST IN MY AREA). THIS PACKAGE WILL GIVE YOU THE 5 LOCAL LIMITED HD CHANELS (FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS), AS WELL AS 4 ALL HD CHANELS (INHD1, INHD2, DIS, ESPN). IF YOUR WILLING TO DROP A PRETTY PENNY ON A LCD TV, $10 MORE FOR 9 HD CHANELS IS A SMALL PRICE TO PAY. BESIDES, DIDNT WE ALL SWITCH AWAY FROM THE ANTENNA AND IT'S RECEPTION PROBLEMS YEARS AGO.

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Valid point about the box, but....
by MarkBean / January 3, 2006 9:47 PM PST
In reply to: GET THE COMCAST HD BOX

I have what is called the antenna service which is supposed to be only local channels but in reality you get a few more. That service is only $14 a month. Additionally, it qualifies me for the $10 off of the cable modem subscription so I'm basically only paying $4 net a month for almost basic cable.

I don't watch sports and our total TV watching per week is less than 5-hours. Most of our TV watching is from Netflix DVDs which won't give my HD anyhow. I'm hoping to be able to get at least ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX in HD. DSC would be great, but not worth any extra at this time.

Thanks for your input!

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GET THE COMCAST HD BOX
by BONSPEED / January 4, 2006 1:37 AM PST

I'VE HEARD THE CLAIM ''I DONT WATCH TV MUCH '' FROM FRIENDS AS WELL AS FROM OTHER PEOPLE IN THIS FORUM. HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT WONT CHANGE ONCE YOU GET A TASTE OF HD. FOR ME, I SOMETIMES CATCH MY SELF WATCHING A PROGRAM BECAUSE IT'S IN HD, RATHER THEN IT BEING INTERESTING. AT THE VERY LEAST, I'M MORE OF A WILD LIFE FAN THEN BEFORE.

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GET DISH NETWORK COMCAST IS A RIP OFF
by stewart norrie / January 4, 2006 3:04 AM PST

My Dish 811 system was installed for free al;so I pay $45.00 per month for basic, h.d. package and Voom And the best part is this unit has an awsome over the air hi-def tuner, I receive 19 local digital channels, 9 are in awsome hi-def + unit has d.v.i. output and optical audio output. I have had this unit for 15 months no problem in closing comcast wired up my mobilpark ha ha last week and there fees are about $68.00 for the same service stewart norrie

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Cable vs. Satelllite
by Dan Filice / January 4, 2006 8:50 AM PST

Yes, the cost of cable keeps going up and it makes me so mad, but I still use cable because for $62/mo, I get cable to 5 TVs, two of which get HD via HD tuners (about 12 HD channels including local HD) and of course, HBO and Cinemax. I'm not sure how I would do this with satellite for the same cost. And even though I use my phone company (SBC/ATT) for DSL, I can always easily fall back to my cable company for DSL that's really FAST. For me, it comes down to having cable on FIVE TVs for a reasonable price.

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Cable vs. Satellite
by dcrow82 / January 12, 2006 1:23 AM PST
In reply to: Cable vs. Satelllite

True once you get up to 5 TV's cable does have an advantage. I ended up with Dish Network because with my Plasma TV I really wanted Digital for better picture qulity. In my area it would cost $61.99 for the digital package. Dish cost me $31.99 per month.

I looked into HD with comcast, but it didn't work out the way I wanted it to. Currenlty I have basic cable for $9.80 per month, I also have cable internet so I get a $10 discount for having both. I called comcast the other day and the very friendly costumer explained that I would only get the channels that I currently have in HD if they were available in my area. Curently only CBS and NBC were available in my area. If I could have got the other channels such as ABC and Fox I would have been more interested. I also wanted ESPN HD but would have had to much up to the preffered package which is $44 a month and thats not even digital in order to get the ESPN HD. If I could get atleast the channels I have now in HD I would have signed up for the HD package because I don't receive good reception on my antenna. I'll get the next 6 months of HD programming for free from Dish Network and will see what my options or then. I'll see who has the better HD programming/pricing and make my choice to stay with Satellite or move back to cable.

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NOT everybody a has choice. My apartment complex........
by Riverledge / February 1, 2006 9:21 AM PST

Does not allow Sat. Dishes, period. I'm waiting for Verizon to get here with their FIOS television lines.
I'm stuck with ComCast. What should I do ???

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You may still have an option
by MarkBean / February 1, 2006 9:53 PM PST

Check out:
http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html

The rule "prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming." The big catch is that it must be on property under your ownership. For rentals a non-common use patio counts.

Does the appartment complex have a common antenna? That may be great for OTA digital/HDTV.

While there are still some restrictions, you may be able to work out a compromise. I live in a condo and they wouldn't allow a roof mount dish or antenna. They do however allow mounts on patios. I've seen masts in the ground for ground level and masts in buckets of concrete for 2nd floor or higher units.

My option was to install a basic antenna in my attic/crawl space. I am not interested in dish at this time.

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MORE ON CONDO ANTENNAS
by stewart norrie / February 2, 2006 3:42 AM PST

There are 4 condos on my block and 90% have Dish network satellities on there patios And in my mobil home park they just wired up comcast cable boooo an almost all mobil homes have a dish network system on there roof, WHY? Service is about 35% cheaper and the hi-def quality is outstanding. Also if you get there new 211 system all your local hi-def netwrok stations will be free

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