Digital Stream HD3150 HDTV Tuner

The Short Form
DIMENSIONS 14 1/2 x 2 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches PRICE $229 MANUFACTURER Pro Brand International,, 770-423-7072 KEY FEATURES •Selectable 720p, 1080i, or 480p format via component-video or RGB output •16-day electronic program guide •Simultaneous 480i format via composite/S-video output •inputs/outputs RF (antenna) input; RGB, HD-capable component-video, and composite/S-video outputs; coaxial and optical digital audio and stereo analog outputs PLUS •Inexpensive •Excellent reception and output flexibility •Superb graphical user interface •Comfortable, easy-to-use remote control MINUS •No HDMI or DVI output
If you own an HD-ready monitor and want to supplement or skip the HDTV programming supplied by your cable or satellite provider, an off-air digital tuner is the way to go. At $229, the Digital Stream HD3150 is an entry-level model that breaks away from the bare-bones pack with some outstanding features and performance. For example, you can set its output for any digital TV's native display format, including 720p and 1080i for HDTVs or 480p for enhanced-definition TVs, all via selectable component-video or RGB connections. At the same time, the HD3150 provides standard-definition 480i signals to a DVD or VHS recorder via its composite/S-video outputs.

An onscreen channel guide gathers data from the off-air signals and provides information up to 16 days ahead. Along with a signal-strength reading that appeared when I pushed the remote's Meter button was an indication of signal-to-noise ratio - a surprising feature I've never seen before on an HDTV tuner.

Setup and Performance The HD3150's excellent onscreen graphics got me up and running quickly. Setup consisted of telling it whether I had a 16:9 widescreen or traditional 4:3 TV and activating the channel-scan function to load my local digital stations. The sensitive tuner quickly picked up all the digital channels I normally receive - as well as one I don't usually get because it's east of my westward-pointing roof antenna.

In day-to-day use, the HD3150 worked with ease. Besides the usual operations, the comfortable remote provided access to such features as a sleep timer, freeze frame, and display-mode control (Wide, Narrow, and Zoom). The large SEL button displays an onscreen information banner, the most complete I've seen on an off-air tuner. Instantly, it showed me the channel number, call letters, and signal strength; day of the week, date, and time; and program title and start/stop time. Symbols informed me if the broadcast was in high-def, stereo, or Dolby Digital surround sound or carried closed captions or multiple soundtrack languages. Channel numbers are also displayed on the front-panel LCD.

Bottom Line The Digital Stream HD3150's selectable outputs, electronic program guide, and fine reception makes it a great economy model to partner with any EDTV or HDTV monitor.