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How to buy the best internet TV box

By Lewis Skinner

If you've got an older TV, you'll need an internet streaming device to watch on-demand content. We explain how to choose the best model for you.

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Internet TV boxes connect to the internet and allow you to stream live TV shows, browse popular websites and access catch-up TV services, such as BBC iPlayer. Effectively, they turn your standard TV into a smart TV.

There are a number of interent TV boxes available, from the likes of Apple, Sky and Roku, but the technology is relatively new. At the moment, most internet TV boxes perform just the one function, meaning that you will still need a separate means of accessing digital TV, such as a pay-TV or free-TV personal video recorder.

To help with your buying decision we've created a custom tool to make your choices as clear as possible. Click on the tool below to learn more.

If you'd rather jump straight to the products then follow the link to all our internet TV box reviews.

How do you stream shows without a smart TV?

Internet TV boxes connect to your TV, but also require access to the internet to work. Most use wi-fi, but some can also support an ethernet cable if you'd prefer a wired connection.

You’ll need a decent broadband connection to make sure streamed programmes are smooth - most manufacturers recommend speeds of around 3Mbps for standard definition content. For streaming in high-definition, you'll need broadband speeds closer to 5Mbps, as well as an HD-ready TV. If you're a real technophile and are looking to stream in 4K then you'll need a very good internet connection - between 15 and 25Mbps is what we'd recommend (plus a 4K TV, of course).

What will you be able to watch? 

Different internet TV boxes give you access to different online content. Compare a variety of models to make sure that the apps and channels you want are accessible.

Most offer access to BBC iPlayer, but they won't all give you access to other catch-up services, such as ITV Player, All 4 and My5. Some will let you stream films from Netflix or Amazon Instant Video (if you have subscribed), or watch videos on sites like YouTube; others let you access the Picasa and Flickr photo sharing websites.

Some internet TV boxes also let you 'cast' or 'mirror' what is on your mobile device to your TV screen, so you can navigate menus and control what you are watching with a phone or tablet.

Now that you know what's what, take a look at all of our internet TV box Best Buys.

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