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Two types of photo heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) to directly down-convert optical signals to electronic signals have been reported in the literature: a conventional photo-HBT in which light penetrates through the area of the base-collector junction and an HBT where light shines through the base-collector edge for higher conversion efficiency. Although the performance in relation to bias conditions has been published, the detailed analyses for identifying the parameters and bias conditions that provide optimum direct down-conversion have not been examined. This paper provides a full explanation of the operation of the down-conversion for both HBT configurations based on low-frequency analyses. Such information is useful for both understanding the nonlinear mechanisms involved and designing for maximum efficiency. In addition, a new circuit has been developed from the basic HBT down-conversion circuit that provides improved performance.