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.

3 Comments

  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 […]