Originally Posted by stampeder
This thread has started to enter that gray area that separates the OTA Forum from the good threads in DHC that deal with PCs and Linux boxes as multimedia and Home Theater devices.
You're right, there was a risk that the thread would get morphed into a HTPC, HDTVW thread. Actually, the root idea I wanted to get across was that for some people, an expensive tower and antenna isn't necessary to receive OTA HDTV, which had been mentioned as an argument against OTA. Jeneral didn't use an HDTV Wonder but paired an HDTV receiver box with just a $60 Radio Shack antenna.
But when thinking about issues like this, I often find it useful to make up a matrix of the most important factors. In this case, high vs low cost, light vs heavy TV viewing. When you list out the combinations, some of the issues that come to light can be interesting.
Low cost/low TV viewing.
This is where I am. Either an HDTV Wonder using the included antenna or an inexpensive HDTV receiver box plus a low cost antenna. If you only watch a few hours of TV a week and want to drop satellite or cable fees this may be the best way to go. IIRC, digital reception requires many db less transmission power than VHF, so you can get all the major networks with just a tiny UHF antenna (no tower+large VHF antenna needed) and it's mostly in HDTV as a bonus.
Low cost/high TV viewing.
In this case, I don't think you can beat cable for simplicity and ease of use, although satellite comes close (no chance of rain fade with cable). There just isn't enough content (and probably never will be) on HDTV OTA stations to satisfy a heavy TV viewer. No 24 hour news channels, no specialty channels, no movie channels, no PPV. Most of the extra channels aren't in HDTV yet, so you're probably going to be watching SDTV most of the time anyway. So OTA may not be the best value in this situation. It's too much trouble and not enough return for the precious money spent.
High cost/low TV viewing.
Here you may have a large flat screen advanced HDTV monitor. Interestingly, OTA may be the best bet, since it probably has the highest resolution, best picture quality. Having spent a lot of money on the monitor, spending less than $100 on a small UHF antenna or $1000+ on a tower won't make that much difference. You might not watch much TV, but when you do watch, it might as well be the best experience possible since so much money was spent on the viewing system.
High cost/high TV viewing.
Again, you probably have an expensive home theater system. In this case, adding OTA as an additional content source on top of cable or satellite may make sense, since it's likely it will have the best picture quality. Since you watch a lot of TV, spending a few hundred dollars extra for cable or satellite service will likely be a good purchase. Adding OTA HDTV to get the best possible picture quality for occasional network broadcasts makes sense to get full value out of the expensive home theater system.
Another factor that some people have mentioned is the WAF - Wife Acceptance Factor. That is of course, always the decisive factor and doesn't need a decision matrix. ;->