Reviewing Converter Box Features

All converter boxes provide a clearer, sharper picture compared to traditional analog signals on televisions.  But some converter box features – such as closed captioning fonts, limited or expanded program descriptions, and remote control buttons – will vary among the different brands of converter boxes. 

Comparing Features:  Converter box features should be reviewed in the store, or on-line before a purchase is made, because the coupons will not be refunded once spent. The FCC provides a review of Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Selected Features.

Remote Control:  All converter boxes come with a remote control.  Some but not all brands of converter box remotes are able to control both the volume and the on/off features of the television.  This is typically labeled as a “universal remote” feature.  If the converter box’s new remote cannot turn the television on and off, the television’s remote will also have to be used.  It is important to note, however, that all channel-changes must be accomplished by changing the channels on the converter box – using the converter box’s new remote control – and not on the television or VCR.  If a round RF coaxial cable is being used to connect the converter box to the television, the television must be set to Channel 3 and remain set on Channel 3.  If other types of audio-visual cables are being used such as composite or component cables, set the television at Video 1 or 2, as appropriate.

On-Screen Channel and Program Information:  All converter boxes display channel and program information.  Typically, the converter box remote control’s button for “display” or “info” can be used to display the channel number, the name of the program, the current time, the start and end time of the program, and whether closed captioning is available or is turned on.  Depending on the program and the converter box brand, a summary of the specific TV program may also be displayed. 

Closed Captioning:  Federal law does not require converter boxes to pass through closed-captioning, but almost all converter boxes sold in Fairfax County are capable of passing through analog and digital closed captioning.  Some converter box remote controls permit closed captions to be turned on and off via a single button (“CC”) on the remote control.  On newer televisions with closed captioning features, viewers should select the closed captioning feature on either the television or converter box, but not both, to prevent two sets of captions from appearing. 

Aspect Ratio:  Converter boxes can also present programming in different aspect ratios.  Analog signals use a 4:3 aspect ratio and many programs may have been recorded in this format.  However, digital signals may be broadcast using either the 4:3 aspect ratio or a more elongated 16:9 ratio.  The converter box’s remote control can be used to locate and change the “aspect ratio feature.”  The picture can be stretched or cropped either automatically or manually so that the entire television screen is filled with a picture.  Alternatively, a wide screen picture can be displayed by leaving blank spaces or black “bars” on the top and bottom of the screen.  Some converter boxes will automatically adjust the aspect ratio to fill the screen.


More information about the digital television transition is available on the following topics:


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