What to Look for When Buying a Digital Set Top Box

With analogue TV transmission being progressively phased out across Australia by 2013, if you don’t already own a set top box, you will need to get one to continue to enjoy the entertainment benefits of television.  There are several good reasons not to wait for analogue to be switched off in your area. Without a digital set top box, you are missing out on tuning into several new Freeview channels and other benefits including the ability to record and replay live television. A set top box is basically a digital tuner for your TV set.  Most televisions nowadays feature an integrated digital tuner, eliminating the need to buy an additional set-top box.  However, for those with older televisions, set top boxes offer the cheapest avenue for going digital. Before deciding on exactly what kind of set top box you should buy, think about what benefits you hope to enjoy from owning one.  If all you want to do is be able to watch digital TV, a set top box without the bells and whistles is all you will need.  Expect to pay around $50 for a standard definition (SD) model and at least double that for a high definition (HD) set top box. However, If you are interested in not only watching Digital TV, but also enjoying its other perks including the ability to pause and reply TV, skip advertisements, record shows and access Video on Demand services you better opt for a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) instead.  Be aware that PVRs are dearer than set top boxes. Another option is to subscribe to a pay television service. One and two year service contracts generally include a set top box that enables you to receive digital pay TV and Freeview channels as well as including the functionality of a PVR. When buying a digital set top box, look for one with:

  • On-screen menus that are logically-sequenced and easy to understand
  • Automatic tuning
  • Front panel controls as well as a remote control
  • A remote control that is easy to use.

Installing a set to box is child’s play.  Just attach the digital set to box between your current TV and the aerial and you are ready to go.  However, check to see whether you will need a new aerial to attach your set top box.  In most cases new aerials aren’t necessary but older aerials may require replacing. If you want to enjoy the additional benefits a PVR has to offer, look for a device with:

  • A double or triple digital tuner. Having more than one tuner allows you to record on one or two different channels simultaneously while watching another.
  • An Ethernet port to access movie downloads from one of the many Video on Demand platforms.

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