Buying Guide - Television Freeview Boxes

Features

When shopping for a new set top box or Freeview box, look for these features to add convenience to your TV viewing:


Electronic Programme Guide (EPG): This displays weekly programming information for all available channels right on your TV screen via your set top box.  Every set top box has an EPG, but some are more intuitive than others.

Favourites: This lets you save most frequently-watched channels on your set top box or Freeview box, allowing for watching TVfaster access to your favourites across the wide variety of digital channels on offer with a Freeview box.

Timer: This allows you to program your set top box or Freeview box to automatically switch channels at a predetermined time.  This feature is particularly useful if you like to record shows while you are away from home, though you’ll also have to program your DVD recorder or VCR to coincide with the set top box.

Scart Link Recording: This is a more advanced kind of timer for your set top box, which allows you to schedule recordings directly through the As the nationwide digital switchover presses on, you may suddenly find yourself in the market for a new set top box or Freeview box.  You have four main set top box service options when it comes to free digital television:  traditional analogue, fSfS, Freeview, or FreeSAT.  Service and channel selection differs considerably between these set top box options, so it makes sense to take your time when choosing a free TV service.

EPG without having to set a timer or programme a DVD recorder or VCR.  When you select programmes you wish to record on the set top box, the Scart link switches to the proper channel and activates the VCR or DVD recorder at the appropriate time.

On-Box Controls: Though nearly all set top box models come with a remote control, some also have controls on the box.  This can be especially helpful if the remote for your set top box is lost, if the batteries become drained, or if you just happen to be walking past the set top box on your way back from the kitchen.

Universal Remote Control: Many of the remote controls that come packaged with a new set top box or Freeview box are capable of controlling some basic functions of your TV as well.  Once programmed, you’ll be able to use a single remote to power the TV, adjust its volume, and change channels on your set top box.  These universal remotes are only compatible with certain TV models, though, so if you have an older set you may not be able to take advantage of this convenient feature.

Parental Controls: This feature lets you block access to digital channels on your set top box or Freeview box that may be inappropriate for children.  You can lock certain channels with a PIN; if your kids don’t know the PIN, they can’t unlock the channel on the set top box.  With this security feature, you can prevent your kids from viewing any shows or channels you don’t want them to watch via your set top box, which provides great peace of mind when you can’t be there to supervise their TV viewing.

Why use a free service?

Obviously, the reason most people choose a free TV service is because it is free!  There is no monthly subscription or long-term commitment, and even with the cost of a set top box you still end up paying far less than you would for a fee-based digital television service.  You get plenty of variety at a much cheaper cost.


Some additional benefits of free digital TV service include:

Dozens of television and radio channels.
No contracts to sign, no monthly charges to pay.
Digital picture quality, generally much better than images transmitted over analogue.
One-off cost for equipment (i.e set top box).

Another option for subscription-free TV service is via satellite.  Like the Freeview box, the FreeSAT satellite service is a one-off charge with no monthly commitment.  You simply pay for the FreeSAT set top box and can then enjoy totally free television.

The FreeSAT set top box does, however, have a few advantages that a basic digital Freeview box can’t offer.  FreeSAT receivers broadcast more channels – nearly 200 to the Freeview box’s 40 – and also have more high-def channels.  For those who desire a wider range of channels or enjoy watching shows and movies in HD, the FreeSAT is a better set top box option.

TV Channels

Free service television, whether via analogue, fSfS, Freeview box or FreeSAT, is the smartest choice for budget-conscious consumers.  However, before committing to one set top box, you should know what you’re getting from your service.


Many channels are exclusive to one service set top box or Freeview box, and aren’t available on any others.  Be sure to check channel listings on your set top box carefully; if some of your favourite channels aren’t carried by your service provider you may need to buy more than one set top box or change your service to get all the shows you want.

Coverage differs for each set top box service, as well.  If you live in an area that is still waiting for the digital switchover, you may be limited in your choice of free-to-watch channels broadcast over analogue.  Some fSfS channels still require a viewing card or expired subscription card, though most can been seen without one.  It is always a good idea to thoroughly review coverage availability and channel selection in your area before purchasing a set top box.

It is not uncommon for TV channels to be added or removed, move to different channel numbers, or shift to different multiplexes.  As the digital roll-out moves forward, many users will find that they have to return their set top box in order to stay up-to-date with the latest changes.

Most satellite, cable and broadband set top boxes update or re-tune automatically.  If you have a digital TV or a digital terrestrial service, such as a Freeview box, you’ll have to re-tune it yourself.  If your region has yet to complete the digital switchover, you’ll need to re-tune your set top box at least twice after the conversion is finished.  Even if you have already re-tuned after digital switchover, it is still a good idea to continue to re-tune your set top box frequently to make sure you never miss out on your favourite channels and programmes.

Re-tuning not only ensures your set top box is always updated, but it also restores any channels that may have gone missing or any features that you think your set top box should deliver.

TV remoteBasically, re-tuning is a scan of your set top box that identifies all the available channels.  Even if your set top box has an option to add new channels, it still may fail to detect other changes like channels that have been moved or removed from your service.

To re-tune your set top box:

1, Turn on your set top box and TV.
2, Press Menu on your remote.
3, Select Setup or Installation.
4, Select “First time installation” (“Factory reset,” “Full re-tune,” or “Default settings” on some receivers).
5, If asked if you wish to delete all channels, press OK.  Don’t worry – you really do want to do this part.
6, If prompted for a code or PIN, try 1234 or 0000.
7, Channels will now begin automatic installation.  This process could take several minutes, and you may notice your set top box shut down and restart.  This is normal.

NOTE:  After you re-tune your set top box, you will have to reset your favourites, saved recordings, and other settings.  Make note of these BEFORE you r-tune if there is a chance you won’t remember them later.

If you need more specific information or aren’t able to follow these steps with your particular set top box, consult the manufacturer’s user manual or website for information specific to your device.

Freeview HD

Millions of UK television viewers have spent a bundle on HD-ready set top box sets but continue to watch TV in standard definition.  The arrival of Freeview HD service is poised to change all that.  Freeview HD provides not only the same standard definition channels that viewers can get with a regular Freeview box, but also high-def channels from ITV, the BBC, and Channel 4.


Like standard Freeview, Freeview HD set top box channels are totally free and don’t require a subscription.  The only requirement is the purchase of a high-def Freeview box or a Freeview HD TV with a special tuner that can receive HD transmissions.  Older Freeview tuners – integrated into a television set or contained in a set top box – aren’t able to decode HD signals; these old Freeview boxes will only broadcast standard definition channels.

Freeview HD is already available to viewers in some areas of the country, though some regions may have to wait until the end of 2012 before they can receive free-to-air HD television broadcasts.  Freeview is rolling out their HD service over three years; the first transmissions were introduced for the Granada region in late 2009.  In all, approximately 16 million UK homes had Freeview HD service by the end of 2010, and all remaining major cities are expected to be fully HD-ready by the end of 2011.

Freeview estimates that 98.5 per cent of the UK should be able to receive its HD service by the time the digital switchover is completed in 2012.