CR Rates Digital Converter Boxes

Consumer Reports recently tested 14 digital converter boxes, concluding that price was not the most important factor when choosing a box.

Curiously, CR decided that picture quality, not reception, was the most important determinant, rating the Tivax STB-T9 $50 among those with the best picture quality. The Microgem MG200, $65 box was also noted for its picture quality.

When it came to reception, CR concluded that “all boxes performed comparably in their ability to pull in digital stations.” The magazine conducted reception tests from its Yonkers, NY, headquarters, using a standard residential rooftop antenna. CR cautioned its readers that reception can vary for each user, depending on location, local terrain, signal strength and the type of antenna being uses, as well as the number of stations broadcasting in the area and their signal strength.

CR also recommended that consumers choose boxes that allow for individual channels to be added over converters that offer the “scan for all channels” feature. Other attractive features to look for in a box include signal strength meters and analog pass-through, according to the magazine.

CR said 25 NTIA-certified boxes are available to consumers, all of which cost more than $50. The magazine also noted the pitfalls faced by early adopters.

“Consumers are finding few choices in their local stores,” said Joel Kelsey policy analyst for Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “This is a consumer Catch-22. Those who acted early in requesting coupons face limited or expensive choices in converter boxes, but can’t wait for more options because their coupons are expiring.”