Jacques Steinberg writes:
... the National Association of Broadcasters, the powerful trade lobby representing the nation’s television networks and stations, lifted the curtain on two prototypes for those basic digital converters — one made by LG, the other by Thomson, which is distributed under the RCA brand — that will start appearing in electronic and department stores in January, at an expected cost of about $50 to $70. ...
Link: New York Times.
As if this whole conversion thing wasn't confusing enough to consumers (and to us broadcasters as well), buyers now need to be aware that these basic converter boxes are designed to make your old analog set work with the new digital standard. It does not convert your old analog set into an HDTV receiver nor does it enable you to receive HD on even an HD monitor. For that you will need a somewhat more sophisticated box that supports HD. Another alternative is the emerging category of VCR replacements; that is, DVD recorders that have built-in ATSC tuners. I saw a Panasonic version the other day at Costco for $300 (includes HDMI interface). It has 1080i upscaling for DVD playback, but I can't tell from printed specs if the ATSC converter supports HD. And Wal-Mart is selling two Magnavox units with built-in digital tuners for $190 and $145 (thanks, Ralph Hogan). That's less than I paid for my stand-alone Samsung ATSC set-top box, but beware, like the new cheap converters, both are Standard Definition only tuners. Here are some comments about the more expensive Magnavox on the AVS Forum. --Dennis