Alternatives to a Digital Converter Box

By Joan Greylord

There are several alternatives to a digital converter box.
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Digital TV is here to stay, and by now most people have added digital converter boxes to their analog television sets. But there are several alternatives to using a digital converter box with an analog set. The choice depends on how much you want to spend and how you like to incorporate television viewing into your lifestyle.

DVD or VCR/DVD Combo with Built-in Digital Tuner

Connect an analog television set to DVD or VCR/DVD recorder combo that has a digital tuner built in. This solution provides the functionality of a digital converter box plus the advantage of being able to record and play back your favorite shows. Look for a unit that has an integrated ATSC digital tuner. Expect to pay around $200 for a new model.

New HDTV with Built-in Digital Tuner

Purchase a television set with a built-in ATSC digital tuner. This is the simplest but most expensive alternative to digital converter boxes. The built-in tuner automatically processes the incoming digital signals. Just connect an antenna to the television set to receive over-the-air digital broadcasts. Although prices have dropped over the past several years, you should expect to pay around $500 on average for a 32-inch class LCD 720p HDTV.

Cable TV or Satellite TV Subscription

Subscribe to cable or satellite TV. This is another potentially expensive alternative to a digital converter box. A cable or satellite connection can be used with both analog and digital television sets. Depending on the size of the programming package you choose, you will have a wider choice of shows beyond your local programming. The average monthly fee for cable TV is around $70, while satellite TV subscriptions can run anywhere from $30 to over $100 per month.

Digital TV Tuners for Desktops and Laptops

Upgrade your computer with a digital TV tuner and watch TV on your computer or laptop. Add an internal digital TV tuner card to your desktop, or a USB tuner device to your laptop. Connect an antenna to the tuner to receive over-the-air digital broadcasts. Most tuners come with digital recording software, or you can use the recording feature in Windows Media Center in Windows Vista and Windows 7 to record your shows. Also, USB-connected TV tuners allow you to take your TV with you on your laptop computer. You can watch TV anywhere you have access to an over-the-air signal. Expect to pay around $70 for a USB digital TV tuner, and around $25 for an internal digital TV tuner.

Free Online Television Shows

Watch your favorite television programs on-line for free using your existing Internet service and computer. Most of the major networks broadcast nearly all of their prime time shows and specials from their websites. You can see the most recent episodes the day after they've aired on TV. You can watch your shows anywhere you have a computer and an Internet connection.