Monday, May 04, 2009

Some TV Options When The Lights Go Out.

I continue to get asked about the availability of battery powered digital TV sets. With the storm season on us and the inevitable Duke power outages almost a sure thing, many rely on small battery powered TV sets to get news and weather reports. With the analog broadcasting cut off just around the corner for the local commercial station on June 12, and the public TV stations already broadcasting only in digital, your trusty old analog portable will soon be useless.

When I last wrote about this a year or so ago, there were only two portable DTV sets available and they were very expensive. Things are beginning to change. While I will discuss some options, I still feel that unless you absolutely can’t live without TV during a power outage you may wish to wait a bit longer for sets with more features and lower prices to emerge.

You have two options for receiving local over-the-air DTV broadcasts. You can purchase a tuner that plugs into a lap top computer and uses the computer screen to display the program or you can select from a number of small battery powered TV sets with digital tuners. The Hauppauge Company offers a USB option. You connect an antenna to the “Stick” with is about the size of a memory stick. It uses a small remote control to operate the TV features. This model can also be connected to cable service but that won’t help much during a power outage. I have not tested this model although I have an earlier model from Hauppauge that works quite well.

There are several makers of similar tuners all of which retail at about $100. The key to optimum performance is a good antenna. Most of these come with cheap telescoping antennas that will not provide good reception. Use your regular “rabbit ears” antenna or better yet connect it to an outdoor antenna.

If you don’t want the hassle of using your lap top as a TV there are now some small LCD TVs that have digital tuners. They retail from about $99 to $150 and work like any portable TV. All have built in rechargeable batteries. While it might seem convenient, if you are without power for an extended period of time, it is nice to be able to pop in a few regular AAA batteries rather than sitting in your car charging your TV battery from your car’s power plug. Most of these small 7”models only get about 2 hours of use on a single charge.

You can find several models on I have not seen any at the local electronic stores yet. I am sure they will be there soon. I expect to see better models at lower prices in a year or so. If you can wait, it is a good idea.

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