Analog and digital TV channels explained, yet more Advent TV problems!

Week 33, 2003

Q:     In your most recent column, you said, “Visit your retailer and have them connect the projection HDTV you are considering to a satellite service delivering analog channels.” How do I do that?  Aren’t all satellite channels digital?  That’s what the ads say.  Which ones are not?

-Gordon Walter, Iowa

A:   Here is an easy explanation:   NTSC= old transmission system= analog channels.  On cable, this would be ESPN, CNN, Comedy Central, etc.  The channels start out as analog, just like regular cable.  The delivery system is digital.  The analog signals are converted to a digital bitstream for transmission, and converted back to analog NTSC at the satellite/digital cable box.

ATSC=new transmission system=HDTV channels.  ATSC signals are all digital.   In my column, I generally say “HDTV” rather than “ATSC” because few people are familiar with what ATSC means, and the new system is largely referred to as HDTV by the general public. So, when you watch CNN through a digital satellite dish (or digital cable) you are watching an analog NTSC channel.  It is only the method of delivery that is digital. Digital cable is usually a hybrid system with some of the channels delivered as traditional analog cable, and the rest of them converted to digital for transmission.  This is why satellite companies use “all digital” in their advertising pitches.

Q:     I am trying to ascertain the quality of Advent’s new line of TVs.  I saw one of your columns where a customer has a warranty service issue with Best Buy concerning Advent’s 20″ flat screen TV. I was told by a Best Buy sales rep that Advent is an RCA product.  He was not sure if that meant that it was off-brand marketed by RCA, (i.e., licensed to sell Advent) or that RCA actually produced and marketed the product.  I also noted that RCA has the worst service/repair rating among all major brands as reported by consumerreports.org.  Any advice or information you could provide would be helpful.  I am contemplating purchasing Advent’s 32″ HDTV.

 -Jon English, Norman, OK

A:   RCA is part of the French-owned Thomson Group.   Advent televisions are manufactured by Chinese manufacturer Prima Technologies.   Prima is not a Thomson company, so Advent is not a Thomson brand.   Thomson television brands sold in the USA are RCA, RCA Scenium, and General Electric.

Over the past few months I have received several emails telling the same sad story: the Advent television breaks, and Best Buy refuses to help the customer unless they have Best Buy’s warranty.     Until the customers escalated the problem to a member of the media (myself) they could get no help at all from Best Buy or Advent, even when their television should have been repaired under the manufacturer’s warranty.   I have received no complaints at all regarding any other manufacturers and retailers.

Based on my experience the past few months regarding the Advent/Best Buy situation, my advice to you is to look for a different TV, and to buy it from another retailer.   With so many companies competing for your business, there is no reason to accept shoddy products or poor service.

Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic all make excellent televisions and have an established service network.   Wherever you decide to buy, be sure to ask about warranty repair policies and procedures in case something goes wrong during the warranty period.     My own experience has been that locally owned, independent retailers do the best job servicing their customers.   You may want to include a few of them on your shopping list.   Among large chains, Sears has their own service department and provides warranty service on televisions they sell.

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