The only thing you can evaluate with this box is reception issues.
Judging visual quality of DTV with an NTSC box is a fool's exercise, not unlike talking about how the advent of color affected black and white televisions. Even if you had an HDTV set hooked up to the cheesebox, tuned to -- say -- yesterday's Williams/Williams Wimbledon match (transmitted in HDTV on NBC), you would not only be watching SDTV, you would be watching 4:3 video.
HDTV means 16:9 period. Sometimes, that 16:9 picture has some content that is upconverted SDTV digital content. A case in point would be the recent U.S. Open, which was perhaps only watched in San Diego. Most of the on-course cameras were clearly HDTV. But, when they cut to Bob Costas giving some point, his suit would flash and pop, and you could otherwise see that he wasn't sitting in front of a camera that didn't do HDTV.
Having an HDTV set means that you can actually compare HDTV to SDTV to analog. The former is 16:9; the latter two are 4:3. When you try to evaluate HDTV on a SDTV or analog set, you start off with your screen being 4:3.
True HDTV sets can be had for about $700 retail. People interested in quality will quickly find out that even with the subsidy, cheeseboxes aren't worth the cost and trouble, since at best it's a stop-gap. I tell cable subscribers not to get a cheesebox; cable will handle the transition for you. But, when you look to replace an analog tv set, you should only consider a set that promises HDTV.
720 versus 1080i, for most people, is a religious issue. HDTV versus digital SDTV is something like the difference between "academy frame" 35mm film and Cinerama.
I saw something stunning last week. The penultimate (I think) episode of "So You Think You Can Dance." In 16:9, the Fox logo was at the extreme (and proper position) on the lower right corner of the screen. In some moves, the contestant's foot almost touched the logo. I only watched for a few seconds, but I can guarantee it didn't look that good in analog, SDTV or on a cheesebox, and the action would have been framed differently, perhaps differently from each other. (Fox, like ABC, offers 720 hdtv.)
It's a shame you can't routinely expect good framing on cable, since who cares when you're watching black bars around the entire 16:9 picture? I'm starting to think that the FCC made a bad decision not forcing cable to deploy active format description.
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