Skip to main content
Jump to navigation
sky q silver room

When it comes to TV set-top boxes, there's never been so much choice. But with so many different options, it can be confusing and more than a little bewildering finding the right one for you.

How do you know it does what you want? How do you make sure you're not paying for extras you don't need?

Thankfully, help is at hand. We've rounded up the best set-top boxes around and detailed everything noteworthy about them to ensure you get the one you need.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Sky Q

sky q interface

Sky's newest set-top box is due to be released early in 2016. The top-of-the-range Sky Q Silver model has a 2TB hard drive – that's enough space to fit 350 hours of high definition recordings - and lets you record four channels while you watch a fifth.

One of its biggest 'sells' is that it handles 4K technology, which means that pictures are four times as sharp and detailed as Full HD TVs. Although there isn't much 4K content around right now, Sky is set to start broadcasting 4K shows at some time in 2016.

Sky Q's other major unique selling point is that, when paired with a whole eco-system of gadgets will be sold with it, it makes it easier to watch Sky content around the home and while you're out and about.

Up to two tablets can show Sky at the same using the Sky app, and it has a new remote that includes gesture controls. It's the future of television, but be warned, it won't come cheap.

Keen to know more? Check out our bite sized guide to Sky Q

Sky+ HD

sky+ hd box

Although not as jam-packed with winning features at the Sky Q, Sky's current set top box is no slouch. For starters it has Wi-Fi, so can connect to the internet wirelessly to show on-demand and catch-up shows.

It's also available in a selection of storage options ranging from 500GB or up to 2TB. Again, the latter can hold 350 hours of HD content – be it TV shows, films, documentaries, sports or anything else – or 1,180 hours in standard definition.

And finally, it has two tuners so you can record two channels and watch another at the same time, and lets you pause and rewind live TV.

Virgin Media TiVo

virgin media tivo box long

Like the Sky box, Virgin Media's TiVo lets you record programmes to its hard drive, though it only holds 100 hours of HD footage. It has three tuners, though, so you can record three channels at once and watch a fourth at the same time.

It offers plenty of catch-up content too. And has one unique feature: the thumbs-up, thumbs-down buttons.

When you watch something you like, press the green thumbs-up button and you'll be recommended more like it.

If it's not your cup of tea, press the red thumbs-down, and it won't recommend similar shows. It's a great way of expanding your televisual horizons.

TalkTalk YouView boxes

talktalk youview box

TalkTalk's Standard YouView box doesn't have a hard drive, so you can't record TV. If you want that feature, you'll have to opt for YouView+ box.

The Standard YouView box does let you pause and rewind live TV, however, and watch catch-up TV and access an on-demand library.

You can also scroll back through the EPG (electronic programme guide) and watch anything you missed without having to open a separate app . This is a much more intuitive way of getting to what you want.

Though sadly there's no Wi-Fi, so you'll have to hook it up using an Ethernet cable.

BT YouView boxes

bt youview box new

BT's YouView offering is much the same as TalkTalk's; the only difference is what additional content you get.

A relaunched, smaller version is now available and comes with a new remote control. It has the same 500GB hard drive as its predecessor, but you can upgrade this to 1TB for an extra £35.

Or if you're willing to pay more, you can opt for the 4K model, the Humax DTR-T4000. But remember, you will need a 4K TV, and there's not much 4K content around at the moment.


panasonic freeview play

Freeview boxes come in three different kinds: Freeview Play, Freeview HD and Freeview HD Recorder. So it's important to know what you're paying for before you buy.

Freeview Play is the basic box. It lets you watch the standard terrestrial channels like BBC, ITV and Channel 4 but also has catch-up capabilities, so you can go back in time and watch what you missed.

Freeview HD gives you up to 12 high definition channels, while Freeview Play Recorder boxes let you pause, record and rewind live TV.

Once you've paid for the box, everything is free, so you'll never have to pay to watch anything. Though it doesn't include more premium services like Sky Movies or BT Sport.

Join the conversation

comments powered by Disqus

Stay up to date

  • Google+ Follow uSwitchTech
  • Subscribe to our RSS feed

Latest comments

  • Dave Beck 2 months ago EU portability streaming law:... Netflix already provide a service if the country has a Netflix service. My UK Netflix account works for US...
  • Robert KołOdziej 2 months ago EU portability streaming law:... Netflix, for example, detects and blocks VPN. Tried it and failed just before Easter when we were abroad....
  • Vorteilspack 2 months ago Is Netflix making its own news... Oh no! Whoever told Netflix to do that did a good job sucking up money for something the world doesn't...

Search news