Review: DTVPal digital tuner

The February 17th, 2009 analog shutoff marks the beginning of the digital age here in America and digital tuners, such as the DTVPal, are going to become a staple in many American households. Thankfully, Congress allocated $140 million to alleviate the personal cost of these boxes, by allowing two, $40 coupons per household. This should cover most, if not all, of the retail price. The DTVPal is one of the first on the market to hit the sweet spot of $40 MSRP, allowing consumers to receive these boxes for free thanks to that coupon.

This low price piqued my interest and so I set out to discover if this DTV tuner was worth the cost of your coupon. I, like most Americans, do not need one of these boxes, thanks to cable TV, but my lovely mother does. So I packed up the DTVPal, along with my camera, and headed over to her place.

Growing up at my mom’s house never involved much TV. She has the same antenna that was built with the house in ’76. When I was lucky, I could tune in FOX, but mostly all I had in my younger years was the big three networks of ABC, NBC, and CBS. When the President was on, my night was shot. It’s the same way still today; three, maybe four snowy stations on a tube TV.

My digital station market includes an ABC, NBC, and a FOX affiliate along with pairs of CBS and PBS stations. When all the digital stations are added up, there are 15 of ‘em. To my mothers utter, abet underwhelming, surprise, the DTVPal added all of ‘em to her available lineup — glorious digital TV had arrived to my mom’s house. The DTVPal did its job, but now my mom had to live with this new contraption.

Now my Mom isn’t exactly a true, technology fearing luddite as one can quickly surmise by her impressive component audio setup, but it can take her a while to warm up to new things. This was another remote to add to the end table and another system to master. Thankfully, the Dish Network-made tuner and remote operates the same way as the company’s satellite tuners so I could easily explain the basic functions, as could anyone that has used the providers equipment before.

The menu, along with the guide function, was easy ‘nough, although I doubt she will ever access either one. The OSD explains what TV show is playing, along with the signal strength and time. The whole setup is nice and clean.

I hooked up the tuner, although with a little reading and hunting, my mom could have connected the colored cables to the appropriate inputs. The tuner, of course, outputs the signal via composite RCA jacks or coax. The RCA jacks give you a higher quality picture, so I went with those for her little Sony TV. Unfortunately, in order to redeem the $40 DTV coupon, the tuner cannot have component outputs giving users access to the even higher quality inputs that most TVs have.

Overall, I am very impressed with the DTVPal and cannot find anything for Dish to improve on. We have tried other tuners at her place and none of them provided a better signal, or an easier operation. Plus, the unit is free with Congress’ generous DTV coupon. I even plan on getting a DTVPal when my coupon is delivered for the occasional Comcast downtime or emergency TV. Seriously, click here for one of the vouchers and then redeem it on a DTVPal. It is well worth the cost of admission and can be ordered of

Oh, don’t forget to make sure that your ‘rents and grandparents are hook’d by February 17th,, 2009. Just think, you could redeem one of your vouches and give the DTVPal to one lucky antenna user this Christmas – they don’t’ need to know it was free. CrunchDeal for sure.