More Bang for Your Buck
With a list price of $649, the DTC100 is a terrific bargain, even when you factor in the cost of a DirecTV dish and installation. Most HDTV receivers cost more than a grand, and they receive only regular broadcasts, not satellite TV. With the DTC100, you can choose between DirecTV's myriad of channels as well as analog and digital broadcasts from your local TV stations.
Even better, the set-top box upconverts all standard-definition fare from an interlaced 480-line signal to a 540-line, progressive-scan signal. A progressive-scan monitor, such as a computer display, draws all the lines from top to bottom in one pass. Regular TVs first draw the odd-numbered lines, then go back to the top and do the even-numbered lines. The result is an interlaced picture, which has inferior edge detail and rougher motion than a progressive-scan picture. When hooked to our RCA MM36100, regular TV shows looked better than DVDs from a Toshiba SD-5109. The picture was smoother, with no noticeable scan lines.
All those silky pictures are sent to the monitor over a VGA cable. This is a big problem for most folks, since very few TVs have VGA input. We're still baffled as to why RCA doesn't include component video outputs for this receiver, considering the company includes all the other necessary connections, such as composite and S-Video connections for plugging into ordinary televisions as well as an optical digital audio output for Dolby surround sound. There are also two antennae inputs for pulling in local HDTV broadcasts.
At first, we found using the DTC100 a little daunting, due to the sheer number of options--you can even change the color and transparency of the onscreen menus. But after a little practice, it's pretty easy. We really liked the personal profiles, which show just the channels you want so that there's no need to flip through all the pay-per-view and foreign-language stations while you surf. However, it's really hard to use the remote in the dark, because the buttons are not backlit.
If you have a TV or monitor with the appropriate VGA input, take a close look at the DTC100. It offers improved picture quality for just about anything you want to watch. But if you live in an apartment building or just can't get the DirecTV signal, you will have to let this great receiver pass on by.