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Digital set top boxes buying guide

Find out everything you need to know about digital set top boxes with this handy buying guide.

Digital set top boxes give you access to loads of free digital channels and services, so you can enjoy a wide range of programmes without the bills. Some models also let you record and keep your favourite shows to watch whenever you like. This handy buying guide will help you find the perfect box for your home.


Set top boxes with a Freeview tuner give you access to a whole bunch of digital services without being fixed into a contract or subscription. You’ll get up to 50 free TV channels and around 20 radio stations, so you’ll never be stuck for entertainment. Some boxes come with Freeview HD services that allow you to view high definition channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and more. All you’ll need is a TV with an HD resolution and an HDMI cable to hook up to the box.

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Freesat is another free digital service, but unlike Freeview, it receives its signal from a satellite dish. You’ll get a really good reception and access to more channels than Freeview, over 200 TV and radio services and 13 HD channels to be precise. It’s worth noting that if you don’t already have a satellite dish, you’ll need to get one installed to enjoy the benefits of Freesat.

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Storage capacity

You’re not just restricted to live TV with digital set top boxes. Most come with a hard drive built-in, allowing you to record and watch your favourite shows back whenever suits you. Capacities can vary but to give you an idea, a box with 500GB of space can hold up to 250 hours of whatever you want to store. With that kind of storage, you’ll always have something to watch.

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Some set top boxes allow you to connect to the internet and turn your TV into a Smart TV. With streaming services and web browsing, you’ll be able to watch the latest funny videos or catch-up on TV series and films from the comfort of your sofa. Access to Smart services will differ with every box. Have a quick compare on our product pages and make sure your chosen box has the catch-up service or app that you’re looking for.

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Electronic programme guide

The Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is often overlooked when shopping for set top boxes, but it’s vital to how easy your new box is to use. An EPG is the on-screen TV guide that lets you navigate through channels and programme listings. You want one with a user-friendly layout that makes it really quick and simple to find what you want to watch.

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