What is and how does the set-top box for digital terrestrial TV work

The set-top box is a mini-computer that can be connected to the TV set to receive digital terrestrial channels. Here's how it works

The switch to second generation digital terrestrial television will be painless for many Italians, since their TV set (or decoder) is already compatible with the new DVB-T2 standard. For some, however, it will cause a bit of a headache because their TV or decoder is not compatible. For others, finally, it may be an opportunity to make a quantum leap by buying a new set-top box for digital terrestrial television and combining it with an older generation TV or monitor.

After the TV with integrated decoder, after the separate "stand alone" decoder to be placed side by side with the TV and after the Tivùsat option, in fact, the set-top box completes the range of possible technical choices to watch digital terrestrial channels at home. There is no need to wait for the arrival of DVB-T2, however: most of the set-top boxes on sale today are compatible with both first generation and second generation digital, so a purchase made today will not involve replacing the device tomorrow. Today, therefore, it is already possible to buy a DVB-T2 compatible set-top box at prices starting from about 30 euros.

What is a set-top box

A set-top box is nothing else but a mini-computer to be connected to the TV to watch contents and to make it smart or, eventually, to be connected to a PC monitor. Thanks to the integrated hardware, many set-top boxes can run Android TV and the many apps developed for this operating system. Thanks to the many connections, among which there is always an Ethernet port and a Wi-Fi connection, these devices can connect to the Internet to let us watch Netflix or other streaming services. Thanks to the USB inputs, then, they can also let us see and hear audio/video/photo content that we have stored on regular flash drives. The most recent set-top boxes are also compatible with digital assistants, such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and have a microphone built into the remote control to allow us to give voice commands.

How to use a set-top box to watch digital terrestrial

Some set-top boxes on the market, but not all, also integrate a receiver and a decoder for the DVB signal of digital terrestrial (also DVB-T2, almost always). Consequently, they become an interesting alternative to the classic decoder, because they offer in a single device more functions and because they have a higher power than traditional decoders (and usually much more RAM memory). For example, it is possible to connect a set-top box with integrated digital terrestrial decoder to a TV set that is not very new, but of good quality, to revitalize it by making it smart and versatile. You can do the same with a PC monitor, exploiting its video quality with content from the airwaves or the Web. The real strength of a set-top box with integrated digital terrestrial, in fact, is its versatility.