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Digital TV boxes buyers’ guide

Welcome to Crowdstorm’s guide to digital TV boxes. Whether you’re looking for Freeview or Freesat connections, or perhaps NowTV, you can browse here to compare all the best digital deals from your favourite retailers.

While more and more of the UK public are signing up for TV deals with the likes of BT, Sky and Virgin Media, many more of us are content to stick with the channels we can get for free - or to sign up for services such as Netflix or amazon Prime for our extra TV fix. That said, some of the great features from the subscription services have filtered down into the free market – meaning not all digital TV boxes are equal.

Do I need a digital TV box?

As Freeview is now the standard way to receive a TV single across the UK, all modern TVs have a Freeview receiver built in – meaning you shouldn’t need an external box. However, if you have a very old television you’ll still need to plug in at least a basic Freeview box (which can now be found for as little as £20).

However, there’s ‘need’ and then there’s ‘want’… While a TV’s built-in Freeview receiver gives you all the channels you need, including many in HD (if your TV/box is HD ready), you may still be missing out on all the bells and whistles that a high end digital TV box can offer.

Should I choose Freeview, or Freesat or NowTV?

If you're going to spend money on a digital TV box, this will be the first question you’ll need to answer. Both will give you all the channels you’re used to (BBC, ITV etc), but there are important differences:

  • Freeview:This box will simply plug into the SCART socket on the back of your television at one end, and your standard TV aerial at the other. You’ll get access to 50+ TV channels, alongside 20+ digital radio stations.
  • Freesat:These tend to cost a little more than Freeview boxes and – you guessed it – they rely on being plugged into a satellite dish rather than a standard aerial. But it does offer up a larger range of channels than Freeview.
  • NowTV: A NowTV Smartbox connects via your broadband connection to your TV and gives you a monthly TV subscription you can control with ease. You get what you pay for, of course - but you'll have the option to add everything from Sky Sports to Sky movies - often cheaper than a standard subscription via one of the larger suppliers.

With Freesat, it’s worth remembering that even if you’ve never had Sky (or similar) before it doesn’t mean a previous resident of your home didn’t – check your loft, as well as your roof, side of house and chimney. Also, buying an installing a satellite dish via Freesat is less than £100, so is always worth considering; especially if you live in an area with poor aerial reception.

Freeview recorders and Freeview Plus

With a Freeview recorder you can record your favourite shows onto the hard drive of the digital TV box, letting you watch, pause and rewind it later at your leisure. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, a Freesat recorder will do exactly the same via your satellite dish.

Higher end boxes offer Freeview Plus (or Freeview+). This lets you record entire series at the touch of a button via ‘series link’ and also lets you pause and rewind live TV – so you can get on with your chores without missing a minute of your favourite programmes as they broadcast.

Smart TV streaming

Many digital TV boxes now have elements of ‘smart TV’ built-in, meaning your box can be connected to the internet to give you access to catch-up and on-demand services such as the BBC iPlayer and Demand 5. 

With this you’ll be able to watch shows you’ve missed, or sometimes catch up on entire seasons of shows.

With the rise and rise of on-demand content, many are also turning to the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix by plugging their digital televisions into the internet. Depending on your watching tastes, these can be an excellent alternative to, or supplement for, a digital TV box – and some boxes include access to these services built-in (although they will require an additional subscription and ongoing costs if you sign up).

How do I buy a new digital TV box?

At Crowdstorm we let you compare all the UK’s best digital TV box deals, from the leading manufacturers, online. But better still, all the prices you’re seeing are from your favourite online and high street retailers: all you need do is click through to be taken to the official site of the retailer of your choice.

From there it’s simply a case of completing the transaction with them. Remember, you’re buying directly from them and not us – we make our money from advertising, not you, so there are no hidden costs. Happy shopping!