Zenith HD-SAT520 DirecTV HDTV Receiver - My Quick Review

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Brajesh Upadhyay, Nov 13, 2002.

  1. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Supporting Actor

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    I setup my Zenith 520 last night. Great box! I'm upgrading from the Hughes E86, so my comparions will mostly be w/this box. But, I've previosuly also owned the RCA DTC100, Toshiba DST3000 (same box as E86) & Samsung SIR-T150. My display is the Panasonic 53WX42 HD-ready RPTV, ISF calibrated.
    Setup
    When I first hooked up the 520 & went through the initital setup, the box didn't show any DirecTV channels. I re-checked everything in the menu, but found no way to enable DirecTV channels there. I unplugged the box & reconnected it after a minute. Voila! -- OTA & DirecTV channels recognized. Total setup time was less than 1/2 hour, including calling DirecTV to register the new box. The DirecTV rep was excited about my box, asking where I got it & what I paid [​IMG]
    Performance
    Picture quality is fabulous! Better than all the other HD boxes I've tried (see above). HDNet & HBO-HD picture quality made my jaw drop! Standard OTA & DirecTV upconversion is very good. I can still see DirecTV's damn over-compression artifacts, but the picture is a lot more palatable now. The Guide is very fast. Channel changing is also pretty fast, but the audio seems to take a second to catch up. The Dolby Digital optical output quality is fine. S-video output quality looks better than the E86.
    Features
    Love the single-button click signal meter. It's user-friendly, but wish it would stay up until I decide to close it. The channel banner can be set to go away quicker (& it does so quicker than the E86), but I'd have preferred it go away even quicker. The program info on the channel banner doesn't seem to be as good as the E86; it shows "Regular Programming" (especially for most OTA channels) while the E86 was more informative. I like the channel ID display on the LED on the box. The Panorama stretch mode is pretty good like others with the Sony HD200 have mentioned, but I prefer having black bars on the sides & keeping the 4:3 aspect ratio intact. You can add many more 'Quick Surf' channels than the E86. I see the 520 has a function to power-up & tune to a specified program in the Guide in the future, but I don't know yet if it powers off after the program is over. The timer function on the E86 is definitely better as it also let you set custom start/stop times. The 520 excels when it comes to connectivity with component video (what I'm using), DVI, RGB, S-video, composite & RF. Aesthetically, it's the nicest looking HD box I've seen.
    Conclusion
    Where it counts (picture quality, connectivity, ease of use & aspect ratio control), the Zenith 520 is definitely the best HD box I've yet used. Compared to the E86, I felt a little shortchanged on features (timer, channel info.). I'm keeping the 520 as my only STB. Overall, it's a winner!
     
  2. Kenny C

    Kenny C Agent

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    I am glad you like it. I just order one today and hopefully I can hook it up to my new Toshiba 65HDX82 TV coming in tomorrow.

    Hopefully hooking it up will be as painless as your experience.

    Thanks for the review.

    Kenny
     
  3. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Brajesh,

    I have the Tosh box now and like everything except the 480i to 1080i upconversion. Having to switch to 480i output and switch the tv to an S-video input is a pain.

    If it's not too much trouble I would like to ask a couple of questions about the Zenith box.

    It's my understanding that the Zenith's upconversion is much better and that it can also upconvert 480i to 480p instead of 1080i and pass it via component cables. Have you had a chance to play around with this and what gives the best results for 480i stuff? Can the conversion be changed via the remote or is it necessary to flip a switch on the box?

    I've also read that the Zenith/HD200 does a better job of receiving marginal local ota digital signals, and was wondering if you could verify this.

    What configuration are you using for 480i and is it significantly better than the E-86/Tosh boxes?
     
  4. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Supporting Actor

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    Steve, the Zenith 520's upconversion is definitely better than any HD box I've ever used. There's no physical switch on the box to flip between 480p/720p/1080i -- it's done via the menu. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to play with some of the things you asked about much. I used to record via s-video from my E86 to my Panny DVD recorder. The 520's s-video quality is better (not as grainy, more of a solid picture & less edge-enhancement).
    Re: OTA reception, the 520 is a little more sensitive than the E86 & Samsung 150. While the E86 exhibited macroblocking, freezing & pixellating on three weak channels in my area, the 520 is noticeably more stable on those channels (even though the signal meter reads "Bad" on reception).
    Try here for more reviews of the 520.
     
  5. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Thanks Brajesh-really appreciate the feedback. I'm looking for an excuse to go with the Zenith/Sony box over my current Toshiba--trying to justify spending another $700 or so now vs sticking with what I have until my dream box is available--that being an HD-capable PVR/stb for under 1k.
     
  6. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Supporting Actor

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  7. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Supporting Actor

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    Correction: Changing between 480p/720p/1080i is done via a button on the unit's front panel, not the Menu. Guess Zenith didn't really learn its lesson from their previous DTV1080.
     
  8. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    >>> Correction: Changing between 480p/720p/1080i is done via a button on the unit's front panel, not the Menu. Guess Zenith didn't really learn its lesson from their previous DTV1080.
     
  9. MikeM

    MikeM Screenwriter

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    Hi Brajesh, thanks for the review.

    Does the 520 come with a cable for DVI connection?

    Just wanted to know exactly what comes in the box, thanks!
     
  10. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    >>>Does the 520 come with a cable for DVI connection? Just wanted to know exactly what comes in the box, thanks!
     
  11. MikeM

    MikeM Screenwriter

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    Bruce, thanks for the detailed reply. That's exactly the information I was looking for.

    Since I will be using DVI if I decide to get this box, it's worth noting so I can buy it separately so I'd have everything setup at the time of purchase. Thanks again.
     
  12. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Supporting Actor

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  13. Kenny C

    Kenny C Agent

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    Brajesh,

    Do you think I should connect my 520 via DVI to my Tosihba 65HDX82 ? Will i noticed a better picture ?

    Does anyone know where to get a good DVI cable ?

    Thanks
     
  14. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Supporting Actor

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    Kenny, I'd use DVI if I had a DVI-equipped display like you. From what I've read @ avs, people who compared component vs. DVI didn't detect any real noticeable difference in picture quality. Both looked great. Maybe a large front projection system would shows a difference. In theory, DVI should be better because the signal is digital all the way.
     
  15. Kenny C

    Kenny C Agent

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    Thanks Brajesh. I will save my money unless someone here can change my mind.

    Thank you
     
  16. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    >>>In theory, DVI should be better because the signal is digital all the way.
     
  17. Lucas Dang

    Lucas Dang Stunt Coordinator

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    Ok, so who can tell me the best place and price or what you paid so I know for referrence. thanks
     
  18. Bill Lucas

    Bill Lucas Supporting Actor

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    The Sony allows selection of any HD output resolution from the remote. As noted, the Zenith does not. The Zenith does toggle between the last used HD output resolution and 480i via the remote. For 99.9% of you this should not be an issue. You should be watching the output resolution that most closely matches the native resolution of your set. IOW, if you have a 720p front projector you should be watching 720p because overall there will be less artifacting (i.e. the projector is seeing a signal that is wants to see and there is no need for the projector to alter the signal). Most RPTVs are only going to accept 1080i anyway so choices are very limited. Regards.
     

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