Evaluation of the Winegard RCDT09A DTV converter (replaces RCDT09)

Sparks

DTVUSA Member
#1
There are some improvements of the new “A” model over the original model. I am not completely certain of how many improvements since the original model that I had came with some defects that may have prevented some of its features from functioning.

The Analog Pass Through feature is now standard with the A Model. Now you can see the low power repeater stations that are not going to change to digital. You can do that without having to flip any switches or change any wires to go from digital stations to analog stations and back.

If you are considering your first DTV converter or you have never used one. This means that all of the digital channels that come through your converter box would be viewed on your channel 3 or you can select channel 4 if that is your preference. When you turn off the converter box with the “Analog Pass Through” feature, you can now view your analog channels as you always have. As you probably already know; when most of the analog channels are turned off in February 09. There will still be some low power TV stations that will continue to transmit on the analog channels as always in some areas.

A program guide is now available by pushing the “INFO” button on the remote control. It will show the program and a description of the program that is being viewed and what the next up coming program will be along with its description. This is for the channel that you are tuned too only. It also shows the time, date, rating and so on. This feature will only function if this information is being sent out within the TV stations signal. All of them will probably have that feature functioning in the near future; most of them already have it working.

The Winegard tuner box seems to do an excellent job of pulling in the weaker and distant stations signal; it is about the same as the Channel Master and the Zenith boxes that I have tested. For comparison purposes this feature is very poor with my Sanyo 19” HDTV. I can pull in distant stations off of the back of the antenna with this box. These same stations will not come in on my HDTV without the antenna pointing directly at them.

All of the standard features exist with this box that I would normally not even think to mention since they are common place. These include the close captioning; parental locks and that sort of thing. There is a whole menu page of options available through an operator generated password. A piece of antenna cable is included for hookup along with a small remote control and the batteries for the control. I like that remotes small size and it still has almost all of the needed features to operate the converter box. The box has the RCA connectors on it so it can be connected to a TV or VCR with that type of connections. It has Dolby Digital stereo sound capability or can be set to “Mono”. It is “Energy Star Rated” and can be set to turn itself off after a preset time that is user adjustable. This feature can also be turned off so that the converter box is on until it is manually turned off. The front of the box has an on/off indicator light and switch. It also has two buttons on the front to change stations without the remote control. A 22 page instruction manual is included that is in English. It appears that this booklet that comes with it actually tells you how to operate the converter box. The previous Winegard model that I have tested did not have a booklet with it.

The Winegard DTV converter is the only box that I know of that is made with the RV (Recreational Vehicle) enthusiast in mind. It is small in size - 5.5” wide, 1.75” high & 6.5” depth. It runs on 9 volt DC power and includes a standard plug into a wall outlet AC power plug and cord that converts the household power to the 9 volt DC power. An optional battery pack that does not include the batteries is available. It will hold 6 D cell batteries and is listed as having an 18 hour run time with alkaline batteries. The battery pack lists for $14.99. I have seen the converter box listed for about $60.00 and it does qualify for the government $40 coupon program.

Another feature that could be handy for use in a recreational vehicle: When you do a “full channel scan” it erases the previous channels that had been locked in at the previous night’s camp site. You can then rotate the antenna and do an “add on scan” without losing the stations that had just been locked in. You can do this as many times as you wish. It is also possible to do a manual channel add on. I put it through these scan features several times and they did work properly every time. Some other digital tuners that I have tested are a bit flaky and did not have the same results with every scan.

When I wrote the evaluation about the previous Winegard model TCDT09 I did not see many of the features with it that I just described with this newer TCDT09A model. On the previous model I could not get it to lock all of my available digital stations sub channels beyond the -3 numbers. The -4, -5 and so on channels would not lock in on any station where they were available. I am having that same problem with this new model on one channel, 20-4 only. I contacted that stations engineering department and they suspect this problem is their fault and the people with Winegard say that this problem has been turned over to their engineering department. I do not have that problem with other DTV converter boxes or with HDTV sets on the same antenna. In any case both the TV station and the box manufacturer are in contact with each other to solve the problem and they both want the problem corrected.

As TV stations get their new digital equipment working properly. We can expect some small problems and brief times that they are off of the air for a while. They should have all of the problems worked out in a short time. In most if not all situations they can not really do the complete set up and calibration of their digital equipment until they turn off the analog transmissions. Many of them have the digital antennas in temporary locations until they turn off the analog signal in February.

With the DTV converter boxes we are now on what seems to be a second or third generation of the converter box in less than a year. When the first boxes came on the market it seemed as though the people that designed some of them did not give them much thought as to how they would need to function.

As I understand it, all of the converter boxes are coming from China to meet the demands of the American market. Off of the air TV is not very widespread in China so they do not have experience with the idea of off of the air digital TV. Much of, or most of the TV in that country and in many other countries is accomplished with free to air satellite that is also digital. Digital TV has been in use in many other countries for years. Free to air satellite is also available in the US but is not used as much. It appears that Americans do not care what they have to pay since so many of us support the pay to see satellite TV.

Most Americans probably feel that we are the first and foremost on the cutting edge of technology. We need to wake up and look around because we, as a nation are last on just about everything except for spending money that we do not have.

The remote control lacks a button to instantly change the screen size and shape. All other brands that I have seen has this feature except for the RCA box. With the Winegard box it is necessary to go several steps through a few menus and sub menus to change the setting for this feature. The picture shape and size feature can however be set to automatic. The automatic feature will not function if the TV station does not broadcast the information needed for it to function.

A question that is often asked is will a DTV converter box allow the viewer to watch a digital program that is broadcast in HD (High Definition? The answer is yes; obviously it will not be displayed in high definition on an analog TV set. Since HD is a wide screen picture the picture will be shorter in height on the screen so that it will be in proportion to view the entire width of the picture that is being displayed on a conventional analog TV.
 

Aaron62

Contributor
Staff member
#3
Sparks, your level of detail never ceases to amaze me (and that's a good thing!).

Would you recommend this converter for someone that has limited knowledge about electronic devices? I've got a few family members that'll need a converter box and I'll probably buy them one with one of my extra coupons for Christmas. They live a couple of states away from me, so I won't be there to help them connect it.
 

Sparks

DTVUSA Member
#5
Ease of operation -

The Winegard converter box is very easy to operate. Place it in the antenna wire, plug in the power cord and turn it on.

Run the channel scan and if you receive from multiple directions, turn the antenna and do an add on scan.

Once all the channels are found, watch TV.

This unit has a very complete 22 page operators manual.
 
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