Digital converter boxes are making it easier than ever to save on cable by becoming a “cord cutter.” You can access digital channels and stream from online sources. With digital TV here to stay, it’s a good idea for analog television owners to look into converter box options to improve their viewing experience.

A digital converter box can also help to bring new life to an old television by producing crisper images and clearer sounds. TV and VCR owners can access more high-quality channel choices as well as features such as on-screen programming, built-in media players, recording services, and more.

EDITOR'S CHOICE

Digital Stream

Our Rating

Best OVerall

Price: See Here

eXuby

Our Rating

Multi-Media Package

Price: See Here

THE BEST VALUE

Zinwell ZAT-970A

Our Rating

Best Budget

Price: See Here

About Digital Converter Boxes

Before we discuss specific products, let’s dive into more detail about digital converter boxes and illustrate where they originated, what purpose they serve, and more.

A Brief History of Digital Converter Boxes

The digital conversion has been going on since about 2009 when the nation’s television services switched from analog to digital transmissions. As a result, millions of families with older TVs have been forced to make the switch to digital technology.

Instead of purchasing a whole new TV set, which can be a significant financial burden for many American families, homes could install a digital converter box. This option was easier and far cheaper to set up than a new home entertainment system.

To encourage people to make the switch, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce developed a converter box coupon program. This allowed analog TV households to request two $40 coupons towards the purchase of a digital-to-analog converter box, allowing them to continue enjoying national broadcasting services without having to worry about the impact on their wallets. 

Today, it’s almost essential that you install a converter box to watch both cable and wireless channels.

What is a Digital Converter Box?

A digital converter box is a television tuner that’s able to receive a digital signal and convert it into a format that analog televisions can display, helping to prevent older TV sets from becoming obsolete. In North America, parts of Central American, and South Korea, television stations transmit information through digital television (DTV) channels. An Advanced Television Systems Committee ATSC tuner, also known as an HDTV tuner, is needed to allow a television set to receive these digital signals. 

Older TVs, however, only have National Television Systems Committee (NTSC) tuners that pick up analog signals. Converter boxes can convert between ATSC and NTSC in the U.S., though other countries may have other combinations. In most of Europe and Australia, for example, digital converter boxes help to change Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) signals to PAL.

The Advantages of Installing a Digital Converter Box

There are a lot of reasons that more and more families are deciding to go digital these days. Digital broadcasting allows stations to send signals with a higher definition, resulting in better quality pictures. This is because digital signals can be compressed, allowing stations to fit more information to produce a clearer image and sharper sound. Digital signals also won’t degrade in quality with distance.

Another advantage to the digital switch is a wider variety of channels at your fingertips. Digital broadcasting lets local stations offer more programming options for consumers than analog signals thanks to multicasting. This is when a station broadcasts several shows within a single frequency, bringing you more viewing options on any given night.

In recent years, converter boxes have gone down significantly in price. It doesn’t cost much to purchase and install a box in your home. What’s more, digital converter boxes only require a one-time purchase without any monthly subscription fees to worry about.

In addition to a converter box many have begun to install smart TV boxes like android tv, fire tv, and Apple TV.

Will a Digital Converter Box Work with Cable?

Only certain types of TVs need a digital converter box to receive signals. When the FCC mandated the switch from analog to digital back in 2009, just broadcast stations were affected. TVs that use antennae to get signals over the air need a digital converter box to access their favorite stations. 

Cable customers, on the other hand, were unaffected by the change. To this day, cable companies aren’t required to switch over to a digital format. Many companies are beginning to include digital content in their packages, however, and may ask that customers purchase a converter box. If your cable company requires you to use a converter box to receive a signal, you may be able to rent out a unit or even get one for free. You should speak with your provider to find out more about digital options.

What Channels Can You Get With a Digital Converter Box?

Households will have access to different channels using a digital converter box depending on their location. Local network affiliate channels such as NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC, and the CW are broadcast using digital signals and can be picked up using a converter box. Users can also pick up PBS programming.

Some cities broadcast local and public access channels to digital converter boxes, allowing you to enjoy a wide variety of locally produced dramas, sitcoms, documentaries and more. Many religious and cultural stations are also available via converter boxes. The clarity and reception of different channels you can access may be affected by your location, the weather, and even the construction of your home.

Does a Digital Converter Box Need an Antenna?

Digital converter boxes don’t necessarily need a separate antenna to function. TVs that can receive strong analog signals through their antenna should be able to pick up digital signals using a converter box with no problem.

Sometimes, though, a TV’s built-in antenna isn’t enough to receive every channel. Amplified indoor antennas with both UHF and VHF capabilities can help to strengthen your reception and pick up a wider range of channels with a crisp, clear picture.

How Can You Get the Best Signal From a Digital Converter Box?

If you have poor signal strength after installing a new digital converter box, the first thing that you should do is to check your connections. Make sure that all components are plugged in and turned on. You can tune your analog TV to channel 3 or 4 to see a setup menu, which can help you to ensure that your digital converter box is working properly. It’s also a good idea to regularly perform a “channel scan” on the setup menu to tune to the newest digital channels received by your antenna.

If, after troubleshooting, your picture is still subpar, you may want to think about adjusting your TV’s antenna. You can also invest in an amplified indoor antenna to drastically improve your signal.

The Top Digital Converter Boxes

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top boxes out there today.

SmartHomeGearGuide

Digital
Converter

Category

Editor's Pick

This is our favorite digital converter box thanks to its comprehensive range of features. It’s fully ATSC compliant and can deliver Dolby signals over an HDMI connection, giving you a crystal-clear picture and smooth sound when you watch your favorite shows.

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The Digital Stream box can receive a wide range of channels. It’s a pass-through device, meaning that it can still pick up analog channels for people living close to the Canadian or Mexican border. The box is also capable of receiving MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 free HDTV channels.

An on-screen electronic program guide and closed captioning are available for users in both English and Spanish. If you have young viewers in the house, this converter box also comes with parental settings. To access any of these controls, just use the universal remote included with the converter box.

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Pros

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    Crisp picture and sound
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    Picks up both analog and digital channels
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    Support in English and Spanish
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    Electronic program guide
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    Parental controls

Cons

  • Few multimedia features
  • Complicated setup
  • Pricey

Category

   Digital
Converter

SmartHomeGearGuide

Best Value

The Zinwell converter box is one of the less expensive models available on the market that still offers all of the essentials in an attractive, mint-green package. The box has a standard RF antenna output and RCA with stereo and audio outputs that easily connect up to your TV.

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This digital converter box receives RF channels 2 through 69 and supports all 18 broadcast formats, allowing you to access a wide range of both local and national channels. The box also decodes Dolby AC-3 audio to give you better sound quality.

If you want to control what your family watches, you can lock mature channels and take advantage of advanced parental control with V-chip technology. Users can also download rating region tables for more information about programming options.

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Pros

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    Affordable
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    Attractive
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    Easy setup
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    Connects to multiple channels
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    Secure parental controls

Cons

  • Not programmable
  • Finicky remote

Digital
Converter

SmartHomeGearGuide

Category

Multi-Media

This digital converter box makes a great addition to any entertainment center. It allows you to watch free digital channels on your HDTV, analog television, LCD, LED, or even projector. Media is displayed in full 1080p resolution, or you can adjust the settings to watch at 1080i, 720p and 576p.

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If you aren’t able to catch your favorite shows, you can record them on an external device such as a USB flash drive or a hard drive. You can also plug in external drives and watch your own movies, listen to your music, or view photos.

An electronic program guide updates regularly and automatically to let you know the latest in local programming. You can find out what’s going to be showing up to a week in advance.

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Pros

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    Compatible with multiple TV types
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    Variety of resolution settings
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    Supports USB and external hard drives
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    Electronic program guide
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    Includes a flat antenna and an HDMI cable

Cons

  • Signal sometimes drops
  • Limited descriptions in the guide
  • Difficult setup

The KORAMZI digital converter box supports just about any HDTV, including both newer and older models. You can display pictures in full 1080p HD, or you can choose a lower resolution setting, including 480p, 720p, and 1080i. You can also switch between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios.

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A USB connection allows you to easily playback multimedia from any USB device. You can also record your favorite shows to either your USB or your hard drive. The converter box supports up to 32GB memory cards and up to 1TB external hard drives.

To keep your media organized, you can use Favorite Channel Lists and a convenient program guide offered on the main menu. Parental control options ensure that your children are never exposed to any inappropriate content.

For the hard of hearing, the KORAZAMI converter had closed captioning options that are compatible with most channels. You can easily turn subtitles on and off for your favorite broadcast tv shows.

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Pros

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    Supports 1080p, 1080i, 720p, and 480p.
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    USB multimedia playback
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    Closed captioning
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    Program guides, favorites lists, and parental control settings

Cons

  • Limited return window
  • Some audio issues

The 1byone ATSC gives you control over live TV, allowing you to pause and record your favorite shows to save for later. All digital broadcasts are displayed in crisp 1080p on your analog TV, giving you the clearest possible picture.

Helpful program guides included in the converter box menu can help you to surf through multiple channels and choose just what you want to watch when you hit the couch. You can even save your favorite shows to a Favorite Channel List.

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If there are kids in the house, a parental control feature allows you to lock inappropriate channels and content. You can choose exactly what your children are exposed to without having to monitor their TV time.

USB multimedia playback capabilities allow you to play your own music and view images on your television screen using a USB device. You can also record your favorite TV shows via USB.

The 1byone digital converter box comes with a 30-day money back guarantee to give buyers a risk-free experience. If you’re not completely satisfied, you can return your purchase for a full refund within a month. If something goes wrong due to manufacturing defects, you can take advantage of a 12-month limited warranty.

 

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Pros

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    DVR capabilities
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    Clear 1080p display
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    Program guide
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    Parental controls
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    USB multimedia playback

Cons

  • Bugs in the design
  • Expensive
  • Complex interface

In Conclusion

If you’re looking to take control of your television setup, the Digital Stream Analog Pass-through DTV Converter Box offers multiple user-friendly features. With pass-through technology, you’ll have access to even more channels with crystal-clear quality. Whether you’re making the switch to digital, improving your cable-viewing experience, or cutting the cord, investing in a converter box can help you to enhance your viewing experience.

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