Explanation of Converter Box Features

These were the required features on all coupon-eligible converter boxes (CDCBs) during the coupon program that ended in 2009.

Converter Box Comparison Chart

ATSC Tuner Range:
The range of digital signals a converter box tuner can receive.

  • Channels 2-6 VHF: Low band 54MHz to 88MHz
  • Channels 7-13 VHF: High band, 174 MHz to 216MHz
  • Channels 14-69 UHF: band 470MHz to 806MHz
  • RF Input: ATSC digital signal input from the antenna. The connector type is a standard F type, 75 ohms.

    RF Output: NTSC analog signal output from the converter box. The connector type is a standard F type, 75 ohms. The user can select channel 3 or 4 for connection to an analog TVs RF input.

    Composite Video Outputs: Yellow RCA connector allows the converter box to be connected to the TVs video input, also yellow.

    Audio Outputs: Right (red) and Left (white) RCA audio connections allows the converter box to connected to TVs audio input.

    Picture Display Formats: The way a converter box can display a picture on a TV.

  • 4:3 format is the center cut-out of the 16:9 letterbox format.
  • 16:9 letterbox format is the full picture view of the digital picture transmitted. On a standard TV the picture will have black bars at the top and bottom.
  • Full or Partially zoomed output is the viewing option of zooming into the 16:9 letterbox picture format.
  • PSIP Processing, Program and System Information Protocol: This is the method of sending information encoded within the digital TV transmission. Such as channel identification and electronic programming guide (EPG) which displays the current and upcoming programs, program ratings, current time and date. CECB manufacturers may also include additional capabilities such as multi-day EPG.

    Channel Display Capability: A converter box must be able to show all channels transmitted by a broadcast station, including the station's additional multicast channels.

    Closed Captioning: A converter box is required to pass all closed captioning information included in the digital signal through to the analog TV for decoding by the TVs built-in decoder. Some CECBs also have an internal digital CC decoder, which allows for changes in font and text size.

    Emergency Alert System (EAS): Allows the converter box to display messages sent from broadcast stations warning the public of emergency conditions.

    Parental Controls (V-Chip): Allows parents to block programs that they do not want their children to watch.

    Remote Control: A remote control with batteries is to be included with each converter box. Standard programming codes can be used to allow the remote control to turn on and off, change channels and adjust the volume of a consumers existing TV.

    Energy Star Standards: The converter box must meet the power saving standards required by the NTIA. A CECB cannot use more than two watts in sleep mode; after 4 hours of inactivity (default) it will turn off. A current program will be allowed to finish before turning off automatically. The consumer will be able to disable the sleep mode if desired.

    Owner's Manual: Must be included with each converter box.

    Power LED Indicator: An indicator will be included to show power status.

    RF Cable: The radio frequency signal cable that connects the converter box to the TV set. The cable must be included with each converter box.

    Signal Strength Indicator: An indicator that shows the strength of the signal being received by the CECB.

    These were additional features allowed by the NTIA:

    S-Video Output: This video output will display a sharper picture than standard composite video.

    Smart Antenna Interface:

    This allows a converter box to be connected to an antenna which adapts to the signal reception conditions where it is located. Some converter boxes with this connection will only work with a specific model, usually by the same manufacturer as the box.

    Analog Pass-Through:

    This is extremely helpful for people who will still be receiving analog broadcasts from low-power and translator TV broadcast stations that do not have to transition to all digital.

    This feature allows a converter box to pass through analog signals without interruption to your existing analog TV. This allows switching from a digital channel received by the converter box to an analog channel (passing through the box) to be viewed on your TV.

    BTSC Stereo included in RF output: Better known as MTS, this feature allows stereo audio signals to be received by TVs capable of decoding the information.

    Automatic Software Repair/Upgradeable: Through a digital signal or physical connection to the box, software can be updated.

    Bundling Antenna and Converter Box: The retailer is permitted to bundle an antenna and converter box by special promotion. A retailer is not allowed to require the purchase of an antenna when a coupon is used.

    Universal Remote Control: An enhanced remote that can control devices other than the converter box and existing TV; such as a VCR, DVD player, Satellite Receiver or Cable Box.

    Audio/Video Accessory Cable Provided: A cable to connect the audio (left/right) and video signals from the converter box to the TV.

    Battery Power Capable: The converter box can be operated by battery power or external power packs.

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