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 of the UK public are signing up for TV deals with the likes of BT, Sky and Virgin Media, many more are content with the channels we get for free - or sign up for services such as NowTV, Netflix and Amazon Prime.
But some of the great features from the subscription services have filtered into the free market – meaning not all digital TV boxes are created 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. Most are now internet ready too, so you can access subscription services such as Netflix, NowTV and Amazon Prime directly through your television.
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, your offering can still be limited - especially if you don't have an 'internet ready' TV. While a built-in Freeview receiver gives you all the basic channels you need, including many in HD (if your TV/box is HD ready), you may still be missing out on the bells and whistles a higher end digital TV box can offer.
What are Freeview, Freesat and YouView?
If you're going to spend money on a digital TV box, this will be the first question you’ll need to answer. All will give you the channels you’re used to (BBC, ITV etc), but there are important differences:
- Freeview: You can find basic Freeview boxes for around £20. They simply plug into the SCART socket on the back of your old television at one end, and your standard TV aerial at the other. You’ll get access to 70+ TV and digital radio channels, plus on demand content such as BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub - all for free.
- Freesat: You can now pick up a basic Freesat box for less than £100 - but you'll need a satellite dish. Don't worry, you don't need sky TV - just a dish (there may be one from a previous resident). Or you can have one installed (around £100) - especially useful if you live in an area with poor television reception. And once set up can offer you more than 200 TV and radio channels (more than 10 in HD), plus seven-day catch-up TV and 'on demand' TV services such as BBC iPlayer and YouTube - all without needing a subscription. Plus, if you want to sign up, you can also access Netflix. After the extra initial outlay, it beats a Freeview box hands-down.
- YouView: If you don't want to dip into a subscription, or satellite, a basic YouView box is the best you're going to get right now. The boxes are available for less than £150, offering 70+ free channels alongside catch-up TV. On demand services include BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub, but you'll also have access (via monthly subscription) to all the big players - Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime. And if you have TalkTalk or BT Broadband, you can add their services too.
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 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.
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!