A Good Digital TV Tuner  (HDTV)

Originally posted around Spring 2002,
web page links updated February 2005

My opinion of the Samsung SIR-T150 HDTV Tuner

I've had this tuner since Fall of 2001 and been quite happy with it ever since.  It changes channels quickly, is air-cooled (no fan noise) and has been reliable.  (Newer versions of this tuner are on the market now.)

It does one job only and does it well:  it tunes digital TV signals only --no regular TV channels and no satellite tuning.  The full owner's manual is posted on the Samsung web site in the support area if you want specifications.   

This tuner had trouble locking onto the audio signal of channel 7 (ABC in San Francisco) at times, but this was cleared up by downloading a newer firmware version into the tuner (see below).

My only disappointment relates to the fact I use a 4:3 HD monitor with it, not a 16:9 wide-screen.  Before buying I had assumed it would display a wide-screen picture on my monitor in letterbox mode, but it CAN NOT do this when it's output is set to either of the high-definition modes (720p or 1080i).  It can do this, however, at 480i & 480p output resolutions.  What it does instead at 720p or 1080i resolutions is simply to clip the left and right sides of the wide-screen picture.   Thus, you see the center of the picture at the full 1080i or 720p resolution, completely filling a regular 4:3 screen.

The HiPix computer card, discussed elsewhere on this site, CAN do this sort of letterboxing (though it doesn't do it well:  it often creates moiré effects in the image).  After watching in both modes awhile and comparing them (Samsung's zoom/crop mode vs. HiPix shrunk/letterboxed) I find I usually prefer the behavior of the Samsung most of the time.  Why?  It gives a bigger, higher resolution picture, and most TV shows frame their action so it will look fine on regular 4:3 TV's (the majority).  Movies don't always follow this center-action-framing rule, though, and may look better in letterbox mode --probably why regular TV frequently broadcasts some movies letterboxed.  

I have since reconfigured my TV to switch itself to letterbox mode when displaying HD signals, and full screen mode for regular 4:3 TV signals.

Firmware revisions of the Samsung SIR-T150 HDTV Tuner

In the past I posted firmware updates (versions 1.6 & 1.63) from Samsung here.  I removed them at the request of a Samsung ATSC products manager, who says you should contact Samsung directly for customer support.  They can take into account situations such as hardware differences in different production runs.

If you have any concerns with your unit that you believe could be addressed by a firmware update, as of Feb. 23, 2005 it is still posted here on the Samsung web site.  This is version 1.8, which I applied to my unit with no noticeable changes or side-effects.  Version 1.63 fixed the audio problem that I had earlier on with channel 7.  

If the link disappears or gets moved, try searching the Samsung site.  Starting with http://www.samsungusa.com under "Support" then "Satellite and HDTV" might help.

Meanwhile, here are some relevant discussions that may interest you about firmware revisions (October 2001 timeframe) made by Samsung to the Sir-T150 HDTV tuner in the AVS forum thread discussion New owner questions re: samsung sirt150.


You can determine the version of your tuner's firmware by going to "Menu", make sure "Help" mode is 'on', then press the "Display" button on the remote.

To toggle between black and gray bars (generated by the Samsung tuner, not the TV station), press "Menu", move the pointer to Help, make sure "Help" is off, then press Display button.  This feature was added with the later firmware updates.