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Compare set-top boxes

What set-top box will I get?

Will you get a YouView or TiVo? Does it hold 1TB or 2TB? Can you record live TV or just pause and rewind? Here’s your guide to what set-top box providers offer and what you can expect out of each one.

Although some features — like catch-up and on-demand TV — are standard nowadays, every provider offers a different set-top box, and each of those boxes does different things.

Depending on who you provider is, you might be able to watch Netflix through your set-top box or you might need an extra device. Some boxes let you record live TV while others only let you pause and rewind.

Here's a breakdown of each provider's set-top boxes so you can know exactly what you'll be getting.

Sky’s set-top boxes

Sky launched its Sky Q box in early 2016. Within that same year, the company officially discontinued its Sky+ HD box, meaning all new subscribers across all bundles receive the Sky Q and the only decision you’ll have to make is whether you want the 1TB or the 2TB box.

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Sky Q 1TB

The Sky Q 1TB box has — as its name suggests — 1TB of space for you to store up to 500 hours of standard definition TV. It can record three shows at once while letting you watch a fourth live.

Depending on your Sky TV bundle, you can watch HD programming using the 1TB set-top box.

You can navigate the Sky Q 1TB box using a standard, easy-to-use Sky Q remote.

If you also pick up a Sky Q Mini box, which gives you multiroom capabilities, you’ll be able to watch Sky TV in two rooms at the same time. Or you can use Sky Go to stream live, on-demand or recorded shows on your tablet.

Sky Q 2TB

Sky Q set-top box

In addition to having double the storage space of the 1TB box, the 2TB version of the Sky Q box has some added features.

With the 2TB box, you can record six shows while watching a seventh live, and you can get an additional Sky Q Mini box that allows you to watch Sky TV in three rooms at the same time.

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Sky Go usability is also improved for subscribers with the 2TB box: Up to two compatible devices — not just tablets — can stream live, on-demand and recorded shows through the app.

The Sky Q 2TB box comes with a revolutionary Sky Q touch remote, which uses haptic feedback and gestures instead of regular buttons. The remote is Bluetooth-powered, so if you ever lose it, you can find it by pressing a button on the set-top box. Additionally, you can use voice commands to search for content, too.

The last bonus feature on the 2TB box is its ability to handle UHD or 4K quality programming in addition to HD.

BT’s set-top boxes

BT offers three different set-top boxes, all of which are built by YouView. Which one you get depends on which plan you sign up for.

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Starter package: YouView box

Sign up for BT’s Starter package and you’ll get the basic YouView box.

With the YouView box, you can pause and rewind live TV; however, you can’t record programmes. You can still access catch-up TV through the set-top box itself, though, so if you miss your favourite show, you might be able to watch it on-demand or buy it from the BT Store.

Entertainment package: YouView+

The Entertainment package comes with, fittingly, the YouView+ box.

The YouView+ is a step up from the basic YouView box as it allows you to pause, rewind and record live TV. You can store up to 300 hours on the box and record up to two shows at once.

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You’ll also get access to the BT TV app, which allows you to watch live TV channels and on-demand content through up to two devices, such as your mobile, tablet or laptop. You can also use the BT TV app to schedule recordings for your YouView+ box.

Max package: YouView+ Ultra HD

BT YouView set-top box

BT’s top-tier set-top box has all of the same features as the YouView+ and then some.

The YouView+ Ultra HD box allows you to watch HD and UHD or 4K programming, and you get double the storage space so you can record up to 600 hours of TV.

TalkTalk’s set-top boxes

TalkTalk’s two set-top boxes are also built by YouView. Similar to BT, the box you get depends on which package you sign up for.

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TalkTalk TV package: TalkTalk TV Box

If you’re on TalkTalk’s standard TV package, you’ll get the TalkTalk TV Box.

The TalkTalk TV Box lets you pause and rewind up to 30 minutes of live TV, but you can’t record any programmes on this box. You can access on-demand content through catch-up services and apps within the device, however, or buy or rent TV series and films through the TalkTalk TV Store.

TalkTalk TV Plus package: TalkTalk TV Plus Box

TalkTalk set-top box

TalkTalk’s TV Plus Box is a step up from the TalkTalk TV Box. With the TV Plus box, you can record two programmes at the same time and store up to 185 hours of recordings on the set-top box.

If you have the TV Plus Box, you can also use TalkTalk’s TV Planner app on up to five devices. The TV Planner App lets you view the guide, set reminders for programmes or schedule recordings no matter where you are.

Check out our TalkTalk TV Plus Box review.

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Virgin’s set-top boxes

Virgin has two different set-top boxes — TiVo’s 500GB box or Virgin’s new V6.

You’ll get the 500GB TiVo if you’re signed up for Player; otherwise, you'll get the higher-end, newer V6 box.

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TiVo 500GB

Although it’s considered Virgin’s ‘basic’ set-top box, the TiVo still has some great features.

The 500GB TiVo lets you pause, rewind and record up to 250 hours of live TV, and you can record up to three shows at once.

Virgin also continues to show the TiVo love with regular UI updates, like their updated visual menus and new Series Link+ feature. Series Link+ is a powerful search tool that pulls results from live, upcoming and on-demand programmes, including those on apps like Netflix or YouTube, and stores them all in one convenient location. You can search by title, subject, actress or actor.

The TiVo box also links with Virgin’s TV Anywhere app so you can watch recordings, live TV or Box Sets on up to two compatible mobiles or tablets. It can also be used as a remote control with your box.

Virgin V6

Virgin V6 set-top box

The V6 has 1TB or storage space, so you can pause, rewind and record up to 500 hours of TV. It also lets you record up to a record-breaking six shows at once. You can have up to three V6s in your home for multiscreen viewing, which gives you a total of 18 simultaneous recordings.

If you do have multiple V6 boxes, they can also link to one another — or to another TiVo box — wirelessly or through a Powerline adaptor so you can view recordings from other boxes.

The V6 lets you view 4K or UHD programming, and it’s futureproof to handle upcoming HDR TV, as long as your TV can display it.

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Although it’s not a touchpad remote like Sky Q’s, the V6’s remote is also Bluetooth-operated and has a location feature that links it to your set-top box, too.

It comes with all the same features as the TiVo, of course, including Series Link+, which works a bit faster on the V6 due to the updated hardware.

Read our full Virgin V6 review for more information on the V6.

NOW TV’s set-top boxes

Although you can watch NOW TV online or through an app, they also have two set-top boxes. You can purchase either box, but if you sign up for a NOW TV Combo — including your NOW TV pass and broadband, either with or without a calls package — you’ll get the NOW TV Smart Box.

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NOW TV Box

With the NOW TV Box, you can watch on-demand content from your NOW TV pass and other services, like iPlayer, All 4 and ITV Hub.

You can also access apps through the box, essentially turning any TV into a smart TV.

If you’re thinking about buying this box, take note that you cannot watch live TV through the NOW TV Box, only on-demand content.

NOW TV Smart Box

NOW TV's set-top box

You can, however, watch — and pause and rewind — live TV through the NOW TV Smart Box, which comes with all NOW TV Combos.

Otherwise, the NOW TV Smart Box has all the same features as the regular NOW TV Box.

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EE’s set-top box

So far, EE offers only one set-top box, the EE TV.

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EE TV

EE TV set-top box

The EE TV has 1TB of storage, so you can pause, rewind and record up to 500 hours of live TV. It’s capable of recording up to four channels, depending upon what shows you’re watching or recording.

It integrates well with the EE TV app, which works as a remote control and also lets you watch live TV, recordings or on-demand programmes on up to three compatible tablets or phones. This means you can watch four different programmes throughout your home at the same time.

Through the EE TV app, you can also create different TV guides for each user so you can quickly access the content and TV that you want to see.

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