Consumer Reports Rates DTV Converter Boxes

Consumer Reports has started to take a hard look at digital-to-analog converter boxes as they come on the market. The independent agency rates 14 devices now on the market, looking at picture quality, audio quality, and features like ease of adding channels, analog pass-through (only one tested device has it), configurable closed captioning and having an aspect ratio button on the remote (the four highest-rated devices have it).

According to Consumer Reports, these four converters rank highest in picture quality (i.e., capable of images that come close to DVD quality):

Tivax STB-79
Lasonic LTA-260
Sansonic FT300A
MicroGEM MG2000

Although at least 25 converter boxes are now available, Consumer Reports readers have reported a scarcity of many models. Another consideration: Even with the $40 government subsidy coupons for digital-to-analog converter boxes, most of the devices tested by Consumer Reports fall in the $50 to $80 range.