Cheap external TV tuner for broken TV?
January 11, 2011 7:32 AM   Subscribe

TV tuner issues, part II: I need to find a workaround for a TV with a flaky tuner.

I posted this question a little while back, describing my TV with a coax input that doesn't always work.

I've more or less given up on fixing the input, but I'd still like to be able to watch cable TV on the thing. The component inputs work fine. I'd like to buy an external tuner that takes my cable signal and spits it out to my TV, over component or composite. I'd prefer that it supported HD, but that's not absolutely necessary, I suppose.

I also have a Windows box sitting around that could be made into a TV machine without too much hassle- so if it would be just as easy to put a TV tuner card in it, and then get the PC video to the TV, that would be OK too. (The PC has an NVidia card that doesn't have component out, to the best of my knowledge.)

I was thinking I could just buy a DTV converter box, but none of the coupon-eligible boxes have component video out and the more I look around, the less certain I am that I'm buying the right thing. Thanks!
posted by aaronbeekay to Technology (3 answers total)
Best answer: That's the definition of a "cable box." Your cable provider should be able to rent you a non-DVR HD-capable tuner for about $5/month. An aftermarket box is called a "QAM tuner" in the cable world, and there appear to be a few on on Amazon in the $70-80 range, including ones that work with a computer and Windows Media Center.
posted by fireoyster at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: Fireoyster is right.

The downside to buying an aftermarket QAM tuner is that you won't get guide updates and the channels won't be on the right numbers. Unless something has changed that I am unaware of. You can buy software to go with a PC tuner card that will map the channels and make it work, but that's more expense and hassle.

I believe federal law says that you can buy a standard cable box like the cable company uses and they have to let you use it. But they are expensive, and it will likely be a hassle.

The least hassle and expense will probably be just renting a box from the cable company. You can probably get a standard-def one for nothing or next to nothing, and an HD box is probably in the $5-$10 range. That adds up over the months, but if the box breaks, they replace it.
posted by gjc at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: Awesome- that seems like a pretty reasonable solution. The setup at my school lets us pay some monthly fee for HD service and a set-top box, so it looks like I'll just do that. Thanks!
posted by aaronbeekay at 8:22 AM on January 11, 2011

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