RCA Ships Affordable HDTV Receiver/Monitor Combo

Until recently, the ticket price for consumers wishing to get into the high-definition TV game was $5000-$6000. With a new receiver/monitor combination that began shipping the first week of October, RCA has slashed that price in half. The model MM36100 is a 36"-diagonal digital high-resolution television monitor with a suggested list price of $2499. A companion receiver/converter box, the DTC100, carries a suggested retail price of $649. The pair are expected to sell together for around $3000.

The new products represent an aggressive move into the HDTV market by Thomson SA, RCA's parent company. The price brings the benefits of HDTV to a wider market at a time when network programming in the new format is beginning to be developed in earnest. The DTC100 receives standard analog, digital terrestrial, and more than 200 channels of DirecTV satellite programs—including HDTV programming. It has legacy-video outputs for converting HDTV programming to NTSC standards and thus provides improved picture and sound—--similar to the improvement gained by watching movies on DVD rather than on VHS tape.

The DTC100 digital hi-def receiver's outputs include one High Definition (RGB via standard 15-pin connector) output for HDTV, one RF output, two pairs of A/V outputs, one S-video output, a modem jack, and an optical digital audio output. Another feature is an inboard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround-sound decoder. The box also serves as an entertainment information center. "The DTC100 provides viewers with more movies, sports, music, news, and information programs than can be found on cable or any other digital TV service," said Thomson senior vice president Michael D. O'Hara. An onscreen electronic program guide is built into the DTC100.

The MM36100 monitor can display images in either interlaced or progressive-scan modes. Seven audio and seven video inputs make the MM36100 an all-purpose high-resolution display for computer, VCR, standard TV broadcasts, video games, and DVD players, as well as DirecTV satellite service. Yoked to the DTC100, the monitor is said to deliver HDTV-quality pictures, although it cannot directly display 720p.

According to Thomson Consumer Electronics public relations executive Dave Arland, the DTC100 upconverts analog signals (480i) and standard-resolution digital signals (480p) to 540p. High-definition signals (such as 720p and 1080i) are upconverted to 1080i. 540p is exactly one-half of 1080i, Arland points out in a posting on a DTV newsgroup. No signals are downconverted by RCA's new device, he mentions. The company's latest offerings are indicative of higher-quality, lower-priced HDTV products coming soon from several major manufacturers.