I’ve been telling my readers that since 2006, the Federal government has mandated that all TVs include a digital tuner to allow you to receive free broadcast TV using a cheap antenna. This is one of the main ways that I promote on DisableMyCable.com to save money!
But recently, I’ve been getting messages from readers who claimed that their TVs did not come with a built-in tuner! So, I looked up the specs of one of these: the Vizio E55u-D2 SmartCast E-Series 55″ Class Ultra HD Home Theater Display. Sure enough – this TV had no coax antenna input, nor did it have a tuner!!
TV vs. Display
How could this be??? The answer is that the manufacturer is not calling this a TV, but rather a “Display”. This allows them to save a few bucks and get rid of the broadcast TV tuner. I find this to be very misleading to the consumer!!!!
You Can’t Watch Free Broadcast TV
Not having a tuner on your TV means that you can’t hook an antenna up to your TV directly. You would have to purchase a tuner separately, which means you have two remote controls to mess with. All of that so that the manufacturer can save a few bucks on your TV!!!!
Watching Cable TV Could Be a Problem Too
One reader pointed out that her apartment complex offered complimentary cable distributed via coax cable. Unfortunately, she had a Vizio TV with no coax input, so she would have to buy a cable TV box with HDMI output!! That bites!!!
Reader Genf113 commented that not having a tuner could also make it harder to sell later. Let’s face it, TV technology is changing so fast that you just might not want to keep it forever. Not having a tuner could make it that much harder to unload, especially given the rate that people are cutting cable TV. This alone is a valid reason to get a TV with a tuner, even if you don’t use it.
The Manufacturer’s Explanation
Here’s what Vizio’s website says about this:
The VIZIO SmartCast™ E-Series Ultra HD Home Theater Display is now tuner-free. Most households commonly stream or watch live TV from cable and satellite boxes – neither of which requires a tuner, so you shouldn’t notice any differences in setup.
Now if you use an external antenna to watch free local channels, you will need to get a separate tuner adapter to connect your antenna to your display.
Everything they say here is true, but this statement is buried way down on their site. If you look on Amazon, it’s really hard to tell that this “TV” has no tuner!
Plus, few people will know to look for this. Ever since TV’s first came out, they included a tuner which allowed you to connect antennas to them. Now suddenly, some don’t!
Heck, I bet most people don’t even know what “tuner-free” means!
How to Avoid this Pitfall
Here are some tips to help you be sure you’re getting a TV with a tuner included:
- Make sure the word “TV” is in the product title, as opposed to “Display”, “Home Theater Display”, or “Monitor”. TVs must contain a broadcast TV tuner, by Federal law!
- In the TV specs, make sure it has an antenna, “RF”, coax, or cable TV input. Note, not all TVs with this input will list it. So, if you see this input, you’re good. If you don’t see it, you may or may not be good.
- Find a photo of the TV’s rear panel (Amazon sometimes has these) and make sure it has the coax round connector like the one shown here:
Note that you are looking for a single round connector, not the set of two or more colored round connectors
- Be extra careful when purchasing a Vizio-branded TV.
What to Do If You Already Have a TV with No Tuner
As I’ve mentioned, if you already own one of these “displays”, you can buy a TV tuner separately. This gets a little complicated because you have to make sure that you get a TV tuner that is high-definition and includes an HDMI output. Here are some I recommend:
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The other bummer is that now you’ll have yet another remote control in your pile of remotes on your coffee table. That’s why having the tuner integrated into the TV is so much better.
To Sum Up
I really hope other manufacturers don’t expand the practice of selling TVs without tuners. I find this practice misleading and greedy, because it only costs the manufacturer a few dollars to put in a tuner, whereas it costs you up to fifty dollars to buy one!
Some commenters have said that they don’t want to pay this cost and don’t want a tuner in their TVs because they have cable. That is valid. My beef is that the manufacturers are making it so hard to tell the difference between TVs with and without tuners that many consumers don’t understand what they are missing!
Also, you never know when you might want to ditch cable. Isn’t it good to have the option of using an antenna?
If you see any other brands doing this, please let us know in the comments below! Thanks! – Brian
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If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. I try to reply to all comments. I hope this article was helpful to you. - Brian