Can I Buy a HD Tuner instead of Renting from Comcast?

Mr.Crimson

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#1
I have an older flat panel tv that is moving to the bedroom (I just got a bigger flat panel tv for the living room).

The old LCD TV is just a monitor (without a tuner) and I am too cheap to pay $15 more a month to Comcast for another DVR rental that receives HD.

I thought I would ask everyone here what my options are for receiving HD channels from cable and possibly over the air HD channels to my old tv?

- I don't want to pay Comcast a rental fee
- I don't mind spending $150 on a tuner
- It needs to have a remote
- HDMI or DVI connections
- Able to display HD channels from Comcast
- Not required but would like to receive HD over the air
 

SWHouston

Moderator
Staff member
#2
Mr. C,

Sorry about this, but you're SOL on that one. (for the most part)

You can certainly buy a tuner, which will do more than just the old Analog tuners would, but not much. Here's what your choices are.

You can buy a unit which have a NTSC (Analog) and ATSC (Digital) and a QAM (Quad Mod) Tuners in it, and that will get you as close to getting as many channels as Comcast will let you have, without renting.

I assure you from personal experience, that what Comcast will let you see via a QAM, is hardly worth it. You might pick up maybe 5-10 Channels you couldn't get on a regular NTSC/ATSC Tuner. And, those channels won't be anything that too worth watching. All their good stuff is encrypted, and probably is going to stay that way.

Your other choice is...
You can rent a Cable Card, assuming you've purchased a stand alone Tuner box, which has a Card Slot in it. But, that's only a savings, I don't use one of those, and am not sure just how much savings that would be.

Most TV's now a days, have a NTSC and ATSC tuners in them.
If you have a Digital to Analog Converter, that will give you a few more channels. Again, not much, but, it cost less than a QAM.

What you'll be looking at is...
Analog from Ch 2 to 99 with the NTSC Tuner.
Some unknown number of Digital Channels via the ATSC Tuner.

Now, even the Basic Cable comes with some HD, maybe five or so channels.
BUT, you won't be able to get any HD, that isn't ATSC Digital, unless you rent their box. They throw all their HD up in the Ch 600 range, and your standard tuners won't tune those channels in.

So, your cheapest way out of this is...
Just get a Set Top Box which will do Digital.
Buy Basic from Comcast, or, Extended Basic will provide you with a few more channels than regular Basic. And, settle for that.

You really need to do a comparison via the Comcast Channel List, and see if Expanded or regular Basic is the right one for you.
Just keep in mind, the difference between the number of channels you can get that are between Ch 2 and 99

For instance...
Basic will give you let's say 50 channels, and Expanded will give you 65.
You need to decide if those additional channels are worth the cost to you.

Now, if you were to buy/install an OTA (free TV) via your own Antenna, you could be assured that you could get ALL of the Local Channels in (real) HD.
Those local HD Channel's "may" be transmitted via the Digital signals Comcast sends to you...maybe !
I'll tell you this, I have an OTA system and Comcast, and I NEVER watch locals via Comcast, my Antenna system has VASTLY superior HD than what Comcast deliverers.

Have a good Day ! :)
S.W.
 
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bicker

DTVUSA Member
#3
I have an older flat panel tv that is moving to the bedroom (I just got a bigger flat panel tv for the living room).

The old LCD TV is just a monitor (without a tuner) and I am too cheap to pay $15 more a month to Comcast for another DVR rental that receives HD.

I thought I would ask everyone here what my options are for receiving HD channels from cable and possibly over the air HD channels to my old tv?

- I don't want to pay Comcast a rental fee
- I don't mind spending $150 on a tuner
- It needs to have a remote
- HDMI or DVI connections
- Able to display HD channels from Comcast
- Not required but would like to receive HD over the air
Sorry about this, but you're SOL on that one. (for the most part)
I suppose, though it should be noted that I had a setup with Comcast that did everything that Mr. Crimson wanted, except meet his $150 budget. It would be over $500 to get all of that, but you'd get a bonus for that money, you'd have a DVR so you can record television, instead of just viewing it.

I assure you from personal experience, that what Comcast will let you see via a QAM, is hardly worth it.
What you probably meant to write was that what you get via clear QAM is pretty limited. While some areas get more, increasingly, just like all their competitors, the only unencrypted services available via QAM will be the local over-the-air broadcast channels.

(Also, saying what you've said here, without mentioning CableCARD at this point, is misleading. So I'm going to cover it in more detail, as a reply to a much earlier point in your message than where you chose to put it...)

However, the government has issued a regulation that Comcast now complies with in every part of the country guaranteeing customers access to encrypted linear services as long as the customer is using a tuner that complies with the parameters allowed by the government regulation. To take advantage of your rights under this regulation, you need to be sure that your tuner is CableCARD-compatible. While there are a limited number of such tuners, the number is increasing now, after decreasing for many years due to lack of consumer interest.

As allowed for by the law, you're still going to pay a rental fee for a CableCARD though. The amount, however, is regulated to be "reasonable", on average, nationwide.

You might pick up maybe 5-10 Channels you couldn't get on a regular NTSC/ATSC Tuner.
Well, that's assuming you can get any channels on a regular NTSC/ATSC tuner. If you are living in an area, or in a place in a building, where you cannot get over-the-air reception, every channel you can get via clear QAM is a channel you cannot get otherwise. The average subscriber receives about 20 channels via clear QAM.

And, those channels won't be anything that too worth watching.
That's not true, even in your extreme example: For example, here we received the Style channel. It's not much, I'll admit, but some folks do feel it is worth watching. And, of course, if you cannot get good over-the-air reception, then clear QAM will give you all of those channels, which represents almost 90% of what I watch.

All their good stuff is encrypted, and probably is going to stay that way.
Actually, it is actually moving even more strongly in that direction. If we, as a society, cannot do a better job controlling cable theft, then you can expect to see everything encrypted, some day.

Your other choice is...
You can rent a Cable Card, assuming you've purchased a stand alone Tuner box, which has a Card Slot in it. But, that's only a savings, I don't use one of those, and am not sure just how much savings that would be.
It won't represent a cost savings. The box rentals from Comcast are actually very reasonably priced, even though people think that the rates are high. The monthly rates Comcast and other cable companies charge are so low that that there isn't any incentive for companies like Pace, Motorola, Thompson, Samsung, etc., to make such boxes available for sale.

Most TV's now a days, have a NTSC and ATSC tuners in them.
Just to clarify, you were changing topics here. These tuners will be of no use for tuning in cable service. They're only going to help tune in channels over the air. Your answers related to OTA reception were great... I have no comment about them.

Back to cable...
Now, even the Basic Cable comes with some HD, maybe five or so channels.
Generally, Comcast provides the HD signals for all of the over-the-air broadcast channels for the DMA... so that's actually close to 20 channels, on average.

BUT, you won't be able to get any HD, that isn't ATSC Digital, unless you rent their box.
That's not generally the case (though there are a few places where it once was the case).

They throw all their HD up in the Ch 600 range, and your standard tuners won't tune those channels in.
That's not true. You're confusing virtual channels with physical channels. If your local CBS affiliate in HD is "Channel 602" on Comcast's line-up, then you'll find it with your QAM tuner, perhaps at channel 89-2, or 112-1.

So, your cheapest way out of this is...
Just get a Set Top Box which will do Digital.
I think you're going to have to be much clearer about what you're talking about here, or the OP will end up buying a different kind of digital box than you were referring to, and/or will think that the digital box you're having him purchase will do something very different from what he thinks it will do for him.

Mr.Crimson:

My recommendation is to think very carefully about how important each of the parameters you listed are to you. You cannot have absolutely everything you want. (Specifically, your #1 and #5, if taken as absolutes, are mutually-exclusive.)

Generally, if you're happy with just getting the over-the-air broadcast channels, and you can get great reception of them via an antenna from where your television is, then there is no good reason to have cable. So that's the easy decision, if it applies to you.

If you want or need cable, and digital (which includes HD) is a requirement, then you're almost surely (and eventually, absolutely surely) going to pay a monthly fee for either a STB or a CableCARD, either included in your digital package fee or separate.

Eventually, we will probably see some more new HDTVs with CableCARD slots. They were available in 2005 and 2006, but no one was willing to pay extra for them, so many HDTV makers stopped making them. They're trying to sell CableCARD-compatible HDTVs again, now, and if we consumers start buying them, then perhaps that'll be an option going forward.

However, as long as the cable company is charging so little per month for rental of HD STBs, and the actual cost of supporting those boxes in the field is so high, none of the manufacturers are going to be willing to sell them to you, so your only choice in that regard will be to rent them. The cable companies are required to offer them for rent, so they cannot use the same excuse the manufacturers use to not offer them.
 
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bicker

DTVUSA Member
#5
I'm not sure what you're referring to, specifically, but I'm confident that everything that I described is legal, in terms of what I indicated service providers offer, in terms of what the CE manufacturers have decided to offer (or not offer), and in terms of what I recommended for subscribers to consider doing.
 

Mr.Crimson

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#6
Mr.Crimson:

My recommendation is to think very carefully about how important each of the parameters you listed are to you. You cannot have absolutely everything you want. (Specifically, your #1 and #5, if taken as absolutes, are mutually-exclusive.)

Generally, if you're happy with just getting the over-the-air broadcast channels, and you can get great reception of them via an antenna from where your television is, then there is no good reason to have cable. So that's the easy decision, if it applies to you.

If you want or need cable, and digital (which includes HD) is a requirement, then you're almost surely (and eventually, absolutely surely) going to pay a monthly fee for either a STB or a CableCARD, either included in your digital package fee or separate.

Eventually, we will probably see some more new HDTVs with CableCARD slots. They were available in 2005 and 2006, but no one was willing to pay extra for them, so many HDTV makers stopped making them. They're trying to sell CableCARD-compatible HDTVs again, now, and if we consumers start buying them, then perhaps that'll be an option going forward.

However, as long as the cable company is charging so little per month for rental of HD STBs, and the actual cost of supporting those boxes in the field is so high, none of the manufacturers are going to be willing to sell them to you, so your only choice in that regard will be to rent them. The cable companies are required to offer them for rent, so they cannot use the same excuse the manufacturers use to not offer them.

Thanks for the recommendation that you gave and I will put that in mind and go over all the information that I read.

Have a nice day ^^
 
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