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Q.  What options are there to get HDTV? 

A.  There are currently three ways to get HDTV signal to your brand spanking new HDTV.  Cable, Satellite, and over-the-air (OTA) using old fashioned antennas.  Of the three, the OTA broadcast is the only free public service available locally to anyone within the broadcast range.

Q.  What is available free on OTA? 

A.  National broadcast networks ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS as well as new broadcasters like Ion and other small local and ethnic stations.

Q.  What do I need to get free HDTV? 

A.  Often, just an antenna.  Most HDTVs marketed today have a tuner/receiver built in, so the simple answer is to connect an antenna to the "F" coaxial connection and you're ready to go.  The more complex answer, it depends on where you are and how far the nearest TV transmitter is in relation to your location.  Visit TitanTV or Antennaweb to find if you're within range of local broadcast stations. 

Q.  What type of antenna do I need? 

A.  If you already have an older antenna on your roof, you're should be set once you point your antenna in the proper direction.  Many cities have TV stations broadcasting in VHF, though most stations broadcast in UHF.  If your city is all UHF, buying and installing the right antenna is simpler than if you need both VHF and UHF (refer to TitanTV and Antennaweb).    

Q.  Do free OTA stations broadcast in true HD?

A.  Yes, most have one major channel in HD, and subsequent sub-channels broadcasting SD (standard definition).  The main channel feed of the OTA broadcasts are often even better in image quality and resolution than on pay service (cable/satellite) broadcasts. 

Q.  What will I miss on OTA compared to cable or satellite? 

A.  For most viewers, sports will be the broadcast that spurs subscribers towards cable/satellite, though of course the lack of national pay service movie broadcasters like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. is only available on subscription services.  For most light viewers that watch the local and national public broadcasts (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS), there's no need to go with subscription services if you live within range of a broadcast station. 

Q.  Is there a way to record the free OTA HDTV? 

A.  Yes, there are several ways.  Most popular option is TiVO which requires monthly/lifetime subscription fee to use their robust guide service to schedule recording.  There are few OTA tuner/receivers that can record using a time schedule with no fees involved.  The latter recorders are often hard to find and may only be available from an online retailer, such as us.  (See TViX M6620NP Dual Tuner/DVR Media Player).

To complete the discussion about HDTV connectivity, below are the paid service options to obtain HDTV.

Satellite HDTV Service

Satellite services install a small dish outside of your home and offer set-top-boxes which can be bought or leased with or without recording capabilities.  There are additional charges for the ability to record shows on a DVR. 

Cable HDTV Service  

Cable is a little more complex.  Below are several options to receive cable signals:

HDTV Cable tuners called QAM tuners are often built into the HDTVs marketed today.  Some may even offer cable card slots so you don't have to lease the set-top-box from the cable service.  There are even PC based cable card compatible receivers that allow recording on the PC hard drive.  The free tuner built into an HDTV that tunes QAM signals can often only receive and decode "Clear QAM" or the local station feeds often provided free on cable services.  For other content, a cable set-top-box lease/purchase is necessary to receive premium stations. Cable Set-top-Box lease or purchase.  As often is the case, your cable company will offer to sell or lease you the cable box to receive premium services.  Cable operators also offer DVR devices at additional charge.

PC tuners with Cable Card.  These days, there are PC based cards that can receive premium cable services with the use of Cable Card that is provided by the cable operator.  Using a PC allows you to schedule and record your shows often on multiple channels and store the signal on your own hard drive along with all the other video, music, and photos files for viewing at a later time.  With advances made on a PC platform using Windows Media Center, today's HTPCs can offer a simple interface that's robust and multi-faceted for use as a whole home library, but there are pre-requisites for this performance.  A good place to start your research is Wikipedia Cable Card info

-Kei Clark
Updated 12/12/2011

More on free-broadcast OTA Recording  

3D HDMI Product List
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Send a signal to more than one TV using a Distribution Amp.
Matrix Switch
Send and control multiple video devices to multiple TVs.  Solution for environments like conference rooms and bar/restaurants. 
Video Converters
Need to connect VGA device to HDMI?  DVI device to VGA?  VGA to DVI?  See our solutions.

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