Digital Set Top Boxes

The prodigious growth in technology allows us to accomplish more with less. When it comes to television, all of us have our never ending list of movies and sitcoms that are dear to us. But finding time to catch them when they air might not be possible every time. The PVR feature of the set top box allows you to record and view the show at our convenience. Now there is no need to leave everything in order to catch your favourite show on air. With the convenience of PVRs and set top boxes, that becomes a thing of the past. No more fighting within the family over the remote, as you can record your favourite shows and watch them later. This is also known as Time Shifted Viewing. Read buying guide

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Buying guide

Vudu Set-Top BoxWhy buy a PVR / set-top box? What does it do?

Apart from recording one programme and viewing another, PVR Set Top Box also allows you to Pause live TV. Any hindrance to your viewing can be dealt with and later resumed from the place you left. Fast forward and Rewind are other functions that give you the much required control on your television viewing. The greatest feature of PVR set top box is that is lets you watch whatever you want, whenever you want. Digital Video Recorder (DVR) or Personal Video Recorder (PVR) technology has significantly changed the way viewers around the world enjoy broadcast TV. It enables broadcast content to be recorded and replayed at our leisure, using hard disk storage device which is integrated into the set-top box. It provides plenty storage space for you to record all your sitcoms and movies. The technology came into being in early 2000 and since then has grown leaps and bounds. The earliest models came with only the facility to record, pause, rewind and replay live TV. Soon it was followed by set top box with twin digital tuners that enabled users to watch two programmes in parallel on separate TVs, or record one of the programmes while watch the other one. After it, the set top box allowed users to record and replay HDTV. The current models allow users to record several television programmes simultaneously. When buying a PVR set-top box there are few things to be kept in mind.

Choosing a set-top box

Content

There is little point in buying set-top box if you cannot watch the programs you like. With that obvious conclusion in mind, we can say that finding the right combination of channels is probably the most important decision there is to make regarding these devices. Netflix and YouTube are staples present in most units, but there are a number of other interesting options that you’d have to be on the look for. For listening to music, for example, do you prefer Pandora, Spotify or Rdio? Are you a sports fan that needs to have the MLB, NHL and NFL channels, or just one of them might do the job? Or maybe going for ESPN might be better. Do you want HBO Go and Hulu Plus? Currently, there’s no set-top box that counts with all these options, so you’ll have to choose the package that suits you best.

Storage

Many users are just interested in using the streaming capabilities in these units. However, if you have a big music and movie library that is constantly growing, you might want to get an unit that counts with a good storage size to save and play these files, too. Products like Western Digital WD TV Live Hub offer 1TB and upwards of local storage, which is a very sweet deal. There’s also the option of connecting the set-top boxes to an external HDD which you may already have. In this case, look for devices with USB ports.

DLNA / Wireless networks and compatibility

Efficient DLNA wireless connections are really hard to find in this segment. But when it does work, it is incredibly useful to be able to connect to all your integrated devices and grabbing files between them to play on your TV. Always check reviews and ratings across the web to see how they rate this feature in the models that have them. In a similar way, many times these boxes can be integrated to other electronics, such as smartphones, to make them act as remote controls for the system. However, this is not a common feature.

Supported formats, user-friendliness and video quality

There are many available modes for streaming videos in most services in the segment nowadays. However, make sure that you have all the compatibilities aligned when aiming for a certain quality. It’s no use to have a 1080p-enabled set-top box if your television can only handle 720p, and you will only have wasted money. You will also want to check to see the file format compatibility list of the device if you intend to store and play your media library off of it, too. MP3, MP4, MOV, JPG and PNG files are supported by pretty much every set-top box out there, but some people have libraries composed by very specific formats and will have to meticulously check each product’s compatibility list.

 

Finally, consider how easy it is to use the device. Between its remote control layout and functions, its EPG (electronic program guide) and setup menus, an unintuitive system can be really frustrating and seriously detract from an experience that should be relaxing and enjoyable. User reviews can be especially useful when analyzing this aspect before making an online purchase. Remember: keep your preferences in mind, read reviews and compare prices to make sure that you are actually going to make a good deal before sealing it. Shopbot’s tools are your friends here. Happy shopping!

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