Set-Top Boxes

What is a Set-Top Box (STB)?

A digital set-top box may be needed for receiving digital TV broadcasts, because most older TV sets don't have a digital tuner.

An STB is a device that receives and decodes digital television (DTV) broadcasts so they can be displayed on analogue television sets or other display devices, such as computer monitors or projection screens. These can be SD or HD broadcasts, depending on the type of STB you use. In the most straightforward configuration, you simply plug the STB into your existing aerial and TV set, using either a composite, S-Video or component video cable. It will usually scan and find any available channels. The STB then receives the digital stream being broadcast and decodes it so your existing analogue TV can understand it. You can, of course, also connect it to your sound system and VCR.

Set Top Box with HDTV Basic SD-STBs can cost as little as $100 or so, while HD-STBs usually cost a few hundred dollars more. The price of both types of STB can vary widely, depending on their feature set. As mentioned previously however, there is no point getting an HD-STB unless you have a high-resolution screen to use with it, and even if you do, the lack of HD content means that a lot of the time you will be viewing programs in standard-definition.

Don't let that put you off, though. If you want the ultimate in quality, more HD content is gradually being made available and quite simply, nothing else compares (there are also a number of SDTV and HDTV tuner cards available for PCs and even external USB-based Digital TV receivers for notebook computers).

Inside the box

A typical STB has one or more microprocessors for running the operating system (OS), possibly Linux or Windows CE, PowerTV, JavaOS or any one of a number of small "embedded applications". To the end user, it doesn't really matter what OS is used and usually it is not able to be accessed by the user. A set-top box also includes RAM, an MPEG decoder chip, and more chips for audio decoding and processing. Again, they include everything required and are usually not upgradeable.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

GoodGearGuide Staff

Good Gear Guide
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?