My ATSC dilemma

I have basic cable. I have a Windows Media Center computer (still running MCE 2005, although I’ll update it to Vista one of these days when I have a free afternoon and nothing set to record).

Now, for the dilemma… I also have a nice Samsung DLP HDTV. Hooked to the media center computer over DVI and running 720p.

Why is that a dilemma? Well, because standard definition TV looks markedly LESS good on a big-screen DLP TV than it did back on the Sony 27″ CRT we used to have. Because it’s blown up much bigger onto the larger screen, I guess. Makes sense.

But it still stinks. Especially since at every level of this setup there’s no good reason why I can’t get the shows in high definition.

Except that I can’t. Well, at least not with Cable. Not to rip too much on MS or any of the other players, the short version is that currently you really only have a couple of choices:

  • Get an over-the-air (OTA) HDTV antenna and some way to get OTA HD channels into the media center
  • Buy an expensive, new media center with “CableCard” OCUR device and pay a bunch more each month to the cable company
  • Get a crappy HD DVR from the cable company and stop using media center
  • Stop watching TV and/or give up on HighDef

So, realistically I need to drop the last 2 from the list since that would defeat the whole purpose of having the MCE box (unifying all our media-music/dvds/tv through a single device). And the 2nd one is also not realistic with a baby on the way. So I guess I’m down to the first option.

Which is not actually too bad of an option… I reviewed the TV that we regularly watch and >75% of it is free broadcast channels (nightly news, NBC sitcoms, etc). 2 weeks ago I bought a small, indoor HDTV antenna and confirmed (with the tuner in the Samsung TV) that we can get pretty much all of the channels locally — benefit to living in a 4th floor condo at the top of a hill, plus, right in downtown Seattle. 🙂

Next, to get the HDTV (ATSC formatted, since it’s OTA broadcast) into the media center, I just bought an HDHomeRun. I’ll plan to follow up here once I receive it and can comment on how it works… maybe we’ll just end up canceling cable. Do you hear that, cable company?? You’re far more likely to LOSE ME AS A CUSTOMER than get me to sign up for HD cable because you’ve been part of making this whole process so frustrating and expensive.


  1. hdtv antenna geek said,

    April 11, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    Yeh, living in downtown Seattle, you can get away with a small indoor antenna 🙂
    What antenna do you have?

  2. Evan said,

    April 12, 2007 at 6:19 am

    I have the RCA ANT525. It’s supposed to have 45dB amplification, but it didn’t come with a powersupply and when I plug in a 12v transformer I had lying around, the signal strength actually DROPS. The antenna just indicates it needs 12v, no indication of polarity or anything particular, so I don’t know if the transformer I used was just not what’s needed or if, perhaps, boosting the signal even a little causes some other problem in my situation.

    I get a couple of channels, but not all of them (none of the directional-antenna channels from Tacoma, basically).

  3. Evan Dodds - Non-work-related blog » HDTV (HDHomeRun) update said,

    June 18, 2007 at 8:45 am

    […] a while ago, so I suppose it’s not really fair to leave it at that. To recap, previously I had purchased an HDHR (HDHomeRun) box to serve as my HDTV tuner into my Media Center (MCE2005). The initial results were not good. I […]