U-Verse vs. OTA

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Expert

U-Verse vs. OTA

Well, I did two things the past couple of weekends that have enabled me to get a nice comparison of U-Verse vs. Over-The-Air (OTA).

I finally got a new television.  My old, aging Toshiba 40" rear-projection CRT looked good, but it was 8 years old.  I have replaced it with a Sony KDS55A3000, one of the last ones available since Sony has discontinued these.  It's 55", significantly bigger than my old set, and is liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) display technology.

I have to say that the picture on this thing looks absolutely fabulous.  This, of course, is a double-edged sword.  While simultaneously looking incredible with some HD content (and even SD sources), it makes the compression artifacts on U-Verse that much more visible (and they weren't exactly subtle before).

So, this weekend I wanted to try to hook up an antenna and see what an OTA signal looks like on this set.  I bought a Channel Master CM3010 ($59), which is a small (52" width, 15" depth) VHF/UHF antenna suitable for in-attic mounting, with the ability to pick up signals within a range of 15-20 miles (i.e. suburban or metropolitan area).

I mounted it and am receiving about 12-14 digital channels within the Houston area.  One of the big comparisons I wanted to make was to look at the NBC feed from U-Verse vs. OTA while watching the Olympics.

Pros of OTA vs. U-Verse:

- The OTA signal looks absolutely fabulous on still or very slowly moving pictures.  The crispness of objects and detail of those objects surpasses U-Verse's signal.
- The OTA signal has much better quality in dark or low-contrast areas such as backgrounds.  There is nothing like U-Verse's color banding and low update rate of these areas of the image.
- I'm getting several channels in the Houston area that are available OTA that U-Verse doesn't carry, such as KPRC-Wx (24 hour Houston weather) on channel 2.2, two additional KUHT (PBS) feeds, 1 additional KHOU feed (CBS), 2 additional KTRK feeds (ABC), and several Conroe and Galveston stations.
- The OTA feed is not subject to 2HD U-Verse limits.  In fact, I can now record 2 HD channels on U-Verse and watch a 3rd (or more, if I hook the antenna feed to other TVs) from OTA.
- The 5.1 digital audio from the OTA feed is flawless, and dropout-free.
- OTA is completely free, with the exception of the antenna cost and mounting hardware/time/effort.

Cons of OTA vs. U-Verse:

- The OTA signal exhibits macroblocking on moving objects the same as U-Verse's does.  In fact, the OTA macroblocking is actually more objectionable than U-Verse's is.  On U-Verse, which is MPEG-4, when the motion overwhelms the ability of the bitrate to carry detail, the MPEG-4 algorithm tends to just smear/fog out the detail.  MPEG-2, used by the OTA signal, results in "crisper" macroblocks, so you tend to get a more digitized/pixelated looking area of motion which is more noticeable.
- Channel changing is not as quick.  It takes 1-2 seconds for the TV to lock onto the digital OTA feed.
- Only local channels available, obviously.
- No DVR pause/record capability for OTA.

Overall, the OTA signal is probably superior to U-Verse's signal in terms of picture quality, but not nearly as much as I thought it would be.

I'm happy to have the OTA as an additional option to watch, even if it isn't a pristine signal.  It does increase the available viewing options.

If you'd like to investigate OTA possibilities for your area, do the following:

1. Go to AntennaWeb, and click on the button to choose an antenna.  You don't have to give the web site your full address, just put in your ZIP code, and then on the next screen fine-adjust your location using the map.  You will end up with a list of channels available in your area, with the digital vs. analog ones identified.

Each channel will have a color code, which indicates how far away from you the transmitter is.  Yellow is the closest, then it proceeds to green, light green, red, blue, and violet for the deepest fringe areas.  This will affect how large of an antenna you have to get.

Also for each channel is the compass bearing to the transmitter location.  If most of your stations are within a 20 degree to 30 degree swath, you can use a directional antenna.  If the channels are spread out all over the compass, you will need a multidirectional/omnidirectional antenna (these only work at close range), or you will have to have an antenna rotator.

Finally, for each channel is the frequency assignment, which is the channel number slot that the station is assigned to.  This is important because it tells you what type of antenna you can get away with.

There are 3 different, separate bands for TV transmission.  Channels 2-6 are in the VHF Low band.  These are the hardest channels to receive because they require large elements on the antenna.  Channels 7-13 are in the VHF High band.  Channels 14-51 are in the UHF band, these are the easiest to receive and can use smaller antennas.

If no channels in your area use the VHF band, you can get a UHF-only antenna, which is likely to be much smaller than an equivalent VHF/UHF antenna.  If there are no channels in your area on channels 2-6, you can use one of the (very) new VHF High/UHF combo antennas which are smaller than an antenna that gets both VHF High and VHF Low.

Also listed in the chart are analog channels (which will stop transmitting Feb. 17, 2009), and future digital channels (which will exist after the Feb. 17, 2009 analog shutdown).  This is important - you need to see what the channel map looks like after Feb. 17, 2009 - so make sure your antenna works well with that channel map.

For example, KPRC (NBC) in Houston broadcasts their analog signal on channel 2 - notoriously difficult to receive.  KHOU (CBS) is on channel 11, KTRK (ABC) is on channel 13.

The digital transmissions of these channels are KPRC-DT on channel 35, KHOU-DT on channel 31, and KTRK-DT on channel 32.  After Feb. 17, 2009, the analog transmissions on channels 2, 11, and 13 will cease.  KHOU-DT will move from channel 31 to channel 11, replacing the analog feed.  Same with KTRK-DT, which will move from channel 32 to channel 13, replacing the analog feed.  However, KPRC-DT is staying on channel 35, and channel 2 will go blank.

So, after the Feb. 17, 2009 shutdown, there are no channels in Houston broadcasting the VHF Low band.  Thus, I don't need a big full VHF/UHF antenna to receive all digital channels - I could use a VHF High/UHF antenna like the Winegard HD7694P.  This particular antenna has more gain than I need because I'm only 14 miles from the transmitters, so this is not the one I bought.  But if I were 30 miles away, this would have been the ideal antenna for me to get.

So, now that you know the distance to transmitters, whether you need omnidirectional or directional, and what bands you need to cover, now you look for an antenna:

2. Go to HDTV Antenna Labs, which will allow you to put in these parameters and get a list of appropriate antennas.  Each antenna has some reviews, ratings, and links to online retailers.

By the way, don't be fooled in the store or online by anyone advertising an "HDTV" antenna, as if that's something special.  The antenna has no idea whether your receiving a digital or an analog signal, or whether the signal is SD or HD.  It's only about the transmission frequency and direction - nothing else.  You don't need a superwhamidyne special digital thingy to receive HD, as some salesmen would have you believe.

As always, this is only my experience, YMMV. :smileyhappy:
Message 1 of 22 (1,648 Views)
Master

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

thanks for the post joe...

when u post that on uverseusers be sure and zip up your flame suit  :smileyhappy:

my son recently purchased a pioneer elite plasma  and made me realize even more how much the quality of the tv played... (in viewing pleasure)

curse him now i want one lol

 

 

 

 

 

 

randy

Message 2 of 22 (1,645 Views)
Guru

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

Very nice writeup, Joe! 

 

If you want to record your OTA, you might consider cobbling together a Vista Home Premium or MythTV box.   You can make an HD DVR to record those OTA streams without monthly fees.   We've had MediaCenter going for a long time.   It's great to have a PC attached to the TV for a whole variety of reasons, and having those extra HD tuners is really handy when the fall season conflicts start.

 

-- Rob

Message 3 of 22 (1,645 Views)
Professor

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


SomeJoe7777 wrote:


By the way, don't be fooled in the store or online by anyone advertising an "HDTV" antenna, as if that's something special.  The antenna has no idea whether your receiving a digital or an analog signal, or whether the signal is SD or HD.  It's only about the transmission frequency and direction - nothing else.  You don't need a superwhamidyne special digital thingy to receive HD, as some salesmen would have you believe.

As always, this is only my experience, YMMV. :smileyhappy:

You are right about most of what you said in my own opinion of course.  The antenna I use for OTA is about 15 years old and in my attic working fantastic.  I live about 10 miles from the local stations and my picture on local HD's is superior with my OTA antenna.  Not knocking UV, because I know it's totally different than sticking an antenna in your attic or on your roof.  I don't have a problem with HD on UV although like most of you I'm sure things could always be better.  I'm pretty happy with UV, and I could find a few things that drive me nuts, but all in all it's not bad for what I am paying for.

Message 4 of 22 (1,645 Views)
Expert

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


randyl wrote:

thanks for the post joe...

when u post that on uverseusers be sure and zip up your flame suit  :smileyhappy:

my son recently purchased a pioneer elite plasma  and made me realize even more how much the quality of the tv played... (in viewing pleasure)

curse him now i want one lol

 

 

 

 

 

 

randy


Ha Ha:smileytongue:

Message 5 of 22 (1,645 Views)

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


randyl wrote:

thanks for the post joe...

when u post that on uverseusers be sure and zip up your flame suit  :smileyhappy:

my son recently purchased a pioneer elite plasma  and made me realize even more how much the quality of the tv played... (in viewing pleasure)

curse him now i want one lol

 

 

 

 

 

 

randy


 

It also depends on the feed given to the TV. Read this forum post for more on the macroblocking issue.

 

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=14228459

 

Message 6 of 22 (1,645 Views)
Master

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

didnt  say it did one way or the other...

my analogy is for the same house with diff brand tv's and quality of the tvs...

pioneer elite is amazing  imho

 

 

randy

Message 7 of 22 (1,645 Views)

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


randyl wrote:

didnt  say it did one way or the other...

my analogy is for the same house with diff brand tv's and quality of the tvs...

pioneer elite is amazing  imho

 

 

randy


I know it didn't say one way or the other. And yes I do agree with you the the pioneer elite & kuro are the BEST HD sets on the market. I was kinda trying to make the point that a really good set can bring out the flaws/inconsitincies in any broacast. And I think it is apparent that NBC's broadcasts can be hit-or-miss. I was also tying in to the OP who was making the OTA vs UV comparison. I have the exact same TV as the OP plus 5 inches(KDS-60A3000), and I can see the macroblocking as well. Macroblocking is really noticeable in moving pictures, because there is more data that has to be processed. Unfortunately, our TV's(KDS series) do not resolve full 1080 when motion is introduced. The Pioneers do really well on the motion resolution tests. Macroblocking + less than 1080 motion resolution can = noticeable degradation in pq. That in short was the point I was trying to get at. The OP did a good job at comparing the two, but I think all factors need to be taken into consideration. It is always wise to do proper research before buying an HDTV as it is wise to do the proper research before choosing a provider. Just as my RPTV is not perfect neither is U-Verse. UV has its quirks but I am here for the long-haul.

 

IMHO:smileywink:

 

HD tests

Message Edited by awhited74 on 08-12-2008 10:57 PM
Message 8 of 22 (1,645 Views)
Expert

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

awhited74,

 

Can you tell me where you got that chart?  I'd like to read about their testing methods and specifically how they arrived at the "Motion Res" figure.  I specifically looked at every television on the market, and I found the plasma sets to have some picture artifacts that I didn't like.  Several of them have the long-known chroma upsampling bug when displaying SD material, others have some color inaccuracies that can't be calibrated out.  The plasmas also have a limited life span and are still prone to temporary burn-in of stationary images (although they've gotten better about this).  Lastly, I like the look of rear-projection because there are no spaces/voids between pixels like you get with an LCD or plasma.

 

The Sony LCoS TVs, to me, have the (subjectively) best looking picture of nearly any TV.  They certainly outperform any LCD or DLP I looked at.  Now, to be fair, I didn't investigate extremely large sets (> 60"), because they won't fit in my living room setup, and I didn't investigate > $3000 sets.  I think the Pioneer plasmas are up in that range, so I may have not seen them.

 

Message 9 of 22 (1,645 Views)

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


SomeJoe7777 wrote:

awhited74,

 

Can you tell me where you got that chart?  I'd like to read about their testing methods and specifically how they arrived at the "Motion Res" figure.  I specifically looked at every television on the market, and I found the plasma sets to have some picture artifacts that I didn't like.  Several of them have the long-known chroma upsampling bug when displaying SD material, others have some color inaccuracies that can't be calibrated out.  The plasmas also have a limited life span and are still prone to temporary burn-in of stationary images (although they've gotten better about this).  Lastly, I like the look of rear-projection because there are no spaces/voids between pixels like you get with an LCD or plasma.

 

The Sony LCoS TVs, to me, have the (subjectively) best looking picture of nearly any TV.  They certainly outperform any LCD or DLP I looked at.  Now, to be fair, I didn't investigate extremely large sets (> 60"), because they won't fit in my living room setup, and I didn't investigate > $3000 sets.  I think the Pioneer plasmas are up in that range, so I may have not seen them.

 


I believe I have posted this before. But just for you I will post it again. It is from Home Theater Mag. They started these tests back in 2005 but I don't think static or motion rez tests were apart of those tests, they were added later. Anyways, here they are they are all good reads for new HDTV buyers and for people who just like reading about HDTV's and the technology behind them. I agree with you on the fact that the LCOS have the best picture. Anytime I go to BB or CC I look at all the flat panels and there are maybe a handful that can even come close to the pq of the LCOS. The picture truly is amazing, especially while watching a HD DVD or BD, or playing XBOX 360. I was lucky that I got mine at a deep discount right before Sony announced they were getting out of the RPTV business. It is truly disappointing that Sony quit making these TV's. $ per diagonal inch compared to the good but pricey plasmas, they can't compare.

 

HDTV tests round 1

HDTV tests round 2

HDTV tests round 3

HDTV tests round 4

Message 10 of 22 (1,645 Views)
Expert

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


I believe I have posted this before. But just for you I will post it again. It is from Home Theater Mag. They started these tests back in 2005 but I don't think static or motion rez tests were apart of those tests, they were added later. Anyways, here they are they are all good reads for new HDTV buyers and for people who just like reading about HDTV's and the technology behind them. I agree with you on the fact that the LCOS have the best picture. Anytime I go to BB or CC I look at all the flat panels and there are maybe a handful that can even come close to the pq of the LCOS. The picture truly is amazing, especially while watching a HD DVD or BD, or playing XBOX 360. I was lucky that I got mine at a deep discount right before Sony announced they were getting out of the RPTV business. It is truly disappointing that Sony quit making these TV's. $ per diagonal inch compared to the good but pricey plasmas, they can't compare.

 

HDTV tests round 1

HDTV tests round 2

HDTV tests round 3

HDTV tests round 4


Thanks!  Interesting tests.  Makes me wish that one of those Pioneer Plasmas could make its way to my living room, but they're out of my price range. :smileyhappy:

 

I did the same thing as you - got the Sony 55" as one of the last ones in the warehouse.  Got it at a deep discount, and the picture quality per $ simply cannot be beat by anything.  It is definitely a shame that Sony (and JVC) have discontinued all LCoS sets ... it seems everyone wants a hang-on-the-wall TV.

 

I don't have a Blu-Ray player yet, I'm kind of waiting for the prices to come down.  Or, I might just build a MythTV or something like that to play Blu-Ray material from a server.  I've already done this for standard DVDs using a Windows 2003 server holding .iso files and original XBoxes running  XBox Media Center (XBMC), which works great.  Unfortunately, the XBox is too underpowered to playback high-def content, so I'll have to do something else for Blu-Ray stuff.

 

Message 11 of 22 (746 Views)

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


SomeJoe7777 wrote:

Thanks!  Interesting tests.  Makes me wish that one of those Pioneer Plasmas could make its way to my living room, but they're out of my price range. :smileyhappy:

 

I did the same thing as you - got the Sony 55" as one of the last ones in the warehouse.  Got it at a deep discount, and the picture quality per $ simply cannot be beat by anything.  It is definitely a shame that Sony (and JVC) have discontinued all LCoS sets ... it seems everyone wants a hang-on-the-wall TV.

 

I don't have a Blu-Ray player yet, I'm kind of waiting for the prices to come down.  Or, I might just build a MythTV or something like that to play Blu-Ray material from a server.  I've already done this for standard DVDs using a Windows 2003 server holding .iso files and original XBoxes running  XBox Media Center (XBMC), which works great.  Unfortunately, the XBox is too underpowered to playback high-def content, so I'll have to do something else for Blu-Ray stuff.

 


Then you would be interested in this.

Message 12 of 22 (746 Views)
Professor

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

I read about that on xboxscene.  I have the most recent T3CH compilation downloaded, just not installed yet.  I can't wait for an official PC version with Atlantis.  XBMC would make a great HTPC frontend IMO.
Message Edited by Koolkid1935 on 08-14-2008 09:11 PM
Message 13 of 22 (746 Views)

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


Koolkid1935 wrote:
I read about that on xboxscene.  I have the most recent T3CH compilation downloaded, just not installed yet.  I can't wait for an official PC version with Atlantis.  XBMC would make a great HTPC frontend IMO.
Message Edited by Koolkid1935 on 08-14-2008 09:11 PM

 

When I had the original Xbox I played around with XBMC. But it was in the early stages, and I never could get all of the features to work right. Shortly thereafter I got rid of my Xbox and traded up for the 360. It is interesting to see how far it has come and the features they have incorporated. 

 

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

SomeJoe7777 wrote:

 

The Sony LCoS TVs, to me, have the (subjectively) best looking picture of nearly any TV.  They certainly outperform any LCD or DLP I looked at.  Now, to be fair, I didn't investigate extremely large sets (> 60":smileywink:, because they won't fit in my living room setup, and I didn't investigate > $3000 sets.  I think the Pioneer plasmas are up in that range, so I may have not seen them.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

One fear that I had about the LCoS as with any RPTV(LCoS, D-iLA, DLP) was SSE. But the many times I demoed the set and while viewing here at the house the SSE is minimal at best. I am very pleased with the performance of this set.

Message 14 of 22 (746 Views)
Professor

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

Our LCoS has minimal SSE, but it is still noticeable.  It really bugged me when we first got it, but I don't really notice it all that much anymore.  It could have something to do with the fact that we have never gotten it professionally calibrated (brights are too bright, whites are too white, etc), which I am still thinking of getting done sometime.
Message Edited by Koolkid1935 on 08-15-2008 02:18 AM
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