Digital TV Guides

Digital TV hardware guide

Digital TV hardware - what do I need?

Updated: Tuesday 29 March, 2011

By Becca Talbot - becca@consumerchoices.co.uk

Whether you’re thinking about switching your provider or are about to sign-up to digital TV for the first time, then it’s important you compare the different options on offer and get the right digital TV hardware.

With so much choice available, it can be quite confusing deciding exactly what kind of hardware you need. Do you want the very latest and shiniest gadgets around? Do you want a simple, bog-standard digital TV set-up? Or do you want the cheapest deal on the market?

If you’re going for a pay TV package, most deals come with hardware included - though sometimes there are installation fees. Below is a breakdown of the different hardware available from each company.

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BT Vision set-top boxes

BT Total Broadband customers who sign-up to BT Vision will get a Vision+ set-top box. This is a Freeview box and digital TV recorder all rolled into one.

BT Vision's on-demand offering has 1,000s of hours of entertainment

It also gives you access to all of BT Vision’s great on-demand entertainment, including thousands of hours of TV shows and Vision Box Office Films in standard definition, high-definition and 3D to watch when you want (charges apply for on-demand content).

And, unlike some Freeview set-top boxes, with the Vision+ box you can also pause, rewind, record and store up to 80 hours of your favourite “live” shows and films.

Read our guide on BT Vision for more information, or visit www.btvision.bt.com.

Sky TV set-top boxes

Sky customers have two hardware options when signing up; the standard Sky box, or the Sky+HD box. If you choose the basic Sky TV service, without HD channels, then you will receive a standard Sky set-top box.

Record an entire series at the touch of a button with the Series Link feature

However, if you’ve got a HD ready TV, signing up for the Sky HD pack will give you the Sky+HD box and get you access to over 50 HD channels.

This box is also a digital TV recorder and allows you to record and store up to 185 hours of standard definition programmes, as well as pause and rewind “live” TV.

You can also record an entire series at the touch of a button with the Series Link feature; and, best of all, Sky’s Remote Record service lets you set your box to record from anywhere using your mobile phone or via www.sky.com.

Read our guide to Sky TV to find out more, or visit www.sky.com.

Virgin Media set-top boxes

Virgin Media cable TV customers now have four options when it comes to choosing hardware:

  1. V box - The standard set-top box does what all basic set-top boxes do, letting you watch your subscription channels.
  2. V HD box - A step up from the basic V box, this box is HD and 3D ready, letting you watch the HD channels on offer from Virgin Media, if you activate the box.
  3. V+HD box - This is like the V HD box, but also acts as a digital TV recorder, allowing you to pause and rewind “live” TV, and record two other channels while watching a third. It also offers high-definition capabilities so if you have a HD TV you can use it to watch any HD channels in your subscription.
  4. TiVo box - The latest Virgin Media TV hardware to hit the shelves is the revolutionary TiVo box - an internet-connected box that allows viewers to access a whole host of online on-demand content.

Read our guide about Virgin Media to find out more, or visit www.virginmedia.com.

Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes

If you’re going for a subscription-free service like Freeview or Freesat, you will have to purchase your own set-top box. These vary in price, starting from around £10 for the basic set-top box and access to the Freeview channels.

Buying a set-top box is the cheapest way to go digital. They connect easily to the back of your TV with a scart lead, though you can buy some with an RF socket at the back too in case you have an older TV that doesn’t have a scart socket.

And unless you have a really old TV, all set-top boxes will work with your current set.

For more information, read our guides to Freeview boxes and Freesat boxes.

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