Absolutely not, well not really. They will work as in you can see the content, but it will just be like watching standard definition content therefore they aren’t really working if you get what I mean. If you want to have HD content you need an HDTV to display it on.
When I first got a converter box for my old CRT TV, I was amazed at the picture quality, even in SD. Analog pictures are nowhere near as clear and crisp as analog. I think HD is only "needed" when you have a really big TV, and sit close. It's amazing, really, how many people with HD TV sets are watching in SD - and don't even know it.
I know what you mean. I got my first digital TV around 2006/7 from Walmart. It was one of those 19" tube type TV sets and the box said something about it being digital ready or maybe ATSC ready. I had no idea what that meant other than what I'd heard snippets of about there being some kind of new TV signal transmission method on the horizon.
For over a year I used that suckers analog setting to watch TV shows because I didn't know how to set it to pick up digital signals. The game changer came from listening to the wife, the son, and the daughter complaining about how crappy over the air TV was and how they wished we had cable again. Searching the internet I learned how to program that TV to pick up digital channels and oh boy was there a huge difference in the picture quality. It looked every bit as good as cable TV and it was free.
Fast forward, they still occasionally complain about wanting cable TV back but free TV is good enough for me, along with Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc. so "no way, Jose." Besides, about all the shows they wanna' watch are on the big 4 or 5 networks anyway so there's really no point in going back.
As a side note (and this has nothing to do with the topic at hand), the other day a nice lady from Time Warner was going door to door trying to lasso in new subscribers. She mentioned their basic service cost around $30 a month and with it "you wouldn't have to mess around with an antenna." I chuckled and thanked her and told her I wasn't interested right now.
I had a kid from Comcast come to my door trying to push a bundle on me. I told him if he could beat my current price, I would go for it.
TV: FREE with antenna, FTA satellite dish, and free Roku channels. (I also pay $8 for Netflix, but it's not a necessity)
Phone: About $2 a month with magic Jack
Internet: $50 from Digis (a Utah WISP - Wireless Internet Service Provider)
$52 a month, including taxes and "fees". Literally hundreds of channels, on TV sets in 4 rooms.
The kid knew he was beaten. He just hung his head and walked away.