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Top TV converters

As the Feb. 17 digital-TV switchover approaches, we have found nine digital TV converter boxes that produce picture quality for over-the-air signals that rival those of a DVD.

All of the converters we tested performed comparably in their ability to pull in digital stations at our Yonkers, N.Y., location and in lab tests to see how well they handled progressively weaker signals.

The Zinwell has the ability to pass through analog signals, and it has a VCR timer that will turn on and/or change the channel on the box so that your VCR can automatically record from different channels.

The Channel Master is among the first to have an S-video output, which can deliver better picture quality than a composite-video or RF output. It also has analog pass-through. In addition to the models listed below, several previously tested units are worth noting. The Dish Network DTVPal, $60, has a VCR timer and analog pass-through. You can use a $40 government coupon to defray the cost of an approved converter box. Call 888-388-2009 or go to www.dtv2009.gov to request a coupon.

Posted: January 2009 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: February 2009