SET-TOP BOXES AND TV TUNERS
These days, most new TVs have a digital tuner built in for accessing Freeview channels. However, Freeview isn’t the only service on offer. This section of our TV buyers guide explains what set-top boxes and other devices are available, plus what else you’ll need to get started.
WHAT SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE?
If you’re not sure what type of service you need, think about how much you watch TV and the types of programmes you enjoy watching.
If you’re happy with the basic channels, then Freeview or Freesat will be ideal. If you want a wider choice of channels, movies or TV shows, a paid subscription is probably your best option.
FREEVIEW AND FREESAT
If you like the idea of having all the basic free TV channels without the monthly fee, then you’ll need Freeview or Freesat. Freeview is delivered through your TV aerial and Freesat through your satellite dish.
If your TV doesn’t have Freeview built in, you can pick up a basic Freeview box for less than £20. There are also more expensive models that give you the ability to record programmes and pause live TV. These can cost £100 or more.
To watch HD channels, you’ll need a Freeview HD box, as well as an HD TV. It’s worth noting that although Freeview is available to more than 98% of the UK, there are still households that can only receive some of the channels. It’s beneficial to check the coverage in your area to see which channels you can get before making your decision.
You can buy Freesat boxes from £40, but the potential downside is that you’ll need a satellite dish installed to access the channels. Freesat has more channels overall and offers total UK coverage compared to Freeview. Freesat HD is also available if you have a Freesat HD box and an HD TV.
Once you’ve decided on the best box for you, all you’ll need to do is connect it to your TV and aerial or satellite dish.
If you want even more channels to choose from, it’s worth spending a monthly fee for a TV package from companies including Sky, Virgin Media, BT or Talk Talk. The set-top box that’s required is usually provided as part of your subscription or for a small one-off cost.
STREAMING ONLINE CONTENT
Another device to consider is a smart TV box or streaming stick. These allow you to stream TV programmes and films using your Wi-Fi connection.
Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV offer free access once you’ve purchased the device, although if you want to use subscription-based services like Netflix, you’ll need to pay. Streaming services including Now TV also offer entertainment packages for an affordable monthly fee.
Google Chromecast deserves a mention too. Once you plug it into your TV, this device allows you to view content from a computer, tablet or phone on the big screen.
See our smart TV section of the guide for more information on the sorts of content you can get online, from BBC iPlayer and All 4 to Netflix and YouTube. Different devices provide you with access to varying content, so spend some time researching what you want to watch before making your choice.
If you want even more channels to choose from, it’s worth paying a monthly fee for a TV package.