RCA Vaporware DTV Box

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I need to buy a handful of DTV converters. Forget, for the moment, that my FCC coupons expired before I finished my research into the best models for my needs. Let’s just deal with the simple issue of finding a place to buy the converter box I selected.

After whittling down my list of must-have features, it became apparent that the RCADTA809 was the ideal device. But I can’t find any retailer that carries the unit, and I can’t even find any mention of converter boxes on the RCA Web site! (Er, it’s not even listed on the “real” RCA TV equipment (read: Audiovox) Web site.)


The features I care about are few in number, but high in value:

  • Excellent video decoding
  • Excellent signal reception
  • A high-quality program guide
  • Analog passthrough
  • Smart antenna
  • Universal remote

Finding the union of all these features and reading the reviews of its predecessor quickly led me to the RCA line of converters. Aside from its program guide and image quality getting good marks (only the Zenith models consistently reviewed higher for image quality), RCA seems to be the only brand with a universal remote control.

RCA’s previous models, the DTA800A, DTA800B, and DTA800B1 all have marks against them. The first two have the flaw of replacing the already programmed channels when scanning for new ones, making it impossible to receive stations that require antennas to be turned. And at least one person who purchased both the DTA800B1 and the DTA809 says the 809’s receiver is more sensitive, picking up distant stations better.

Alas, none of the usual e-tailer suspects have the DTA809—not Newegg, not Amazon, not even a Google shopping search. And none of the big-box stores have it listed either—Best Buy, Target, Wallmart, Sears, K-Mart, etc. And even the slightly older DTA800B1 is nearly impossible to find.

Even worse, the big-box stores closest to me have a miserable selection—typically a hundred boxes of the same model from just one manufacturer.

Of course,

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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