Top three best set-top boxes for 2020
By Martin Pratt
The best set-top boxes give you trouble-free access to all your favourite channels and don't compromise image quality. We've picked the top three to help narrow your search.
A set-top box has a straightforward job - giving you access to Freeview SD and HD channels through an aerial or satellite. But you'd be surprised how many models struggle.
Some set-top boxes get it right, though. The best ones are quick and easy to use - so if you're scrolling through scores of channels looking for something to watch, you won't have to wait for each page of TV listings to load.
The best set-top boxes won't compromise your TV's picture and sound, either. The last thing you'd want is for a device that's connected to your TV to spoil your viewing experience.
We've rounded up the best set-top boxes, so you can find one that suits you.
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Best set-top boxes
It may cost more than most, but this set-top box is top of the heap. It’s packed with features, including 4K support, access to catch-up apps and Freeview Play, which lets you watch the previous week’s shows from the electronic programme guide. It gets the basics right, too: it’s a doddle to use and the picture quality is excellent.
This cheap little box is simplicity at its best. There are no flashy features, but its streamlined menus and electronic programme guide are easy to use, and the HD picture quality is terrific. It has catch-up apps, too, but there’s no wi-fi so you’ll need an ethernet cable to use them.
And here's one to avoid
Some set-top boxes make it harder to watch TV. Slow menus make it a chore to channel surf, and using the electronic programme guide can be a slog. Worse still, some models can spoil picture and sound quality.
Although set-top boxes are relatively simple, our tests still uncover models that fall short of the mark and are best avoided.
Set-top boxes to avoid
Not found the model for you? Browse all our set-top box reviews.
Do you need a set-top box or a PVR?
Set-top boxes and PVRs are similar devices with one key difference: a PVR lets you record TV as well as watch it, while a set-top box just does the latter.
PVRs have built-in hard drives and several tuners that let you record different shows at the same time or watch one channel while recording another.
Set-top boxes don't have this feature, so if you're looking for something that you can record onto then check our list of the best PVRs.
Our set-top box tests go further
We leave no stone unturned when we put a set-top box through our lab tests. Our experts check every aspect of the device to make sure it's straightforward to set up, tune channels, adjust settings and navigate around the electronic programme guide.
The quality of your TV has a huge bearing on picture and sound quality, but we watch footage on each set-top box we test to make sure it doesn't compromise that quality in any way. We've tested models that have an adverse affect on the motion stability and sharpness of what you're watching and, unsurprisingly, they don't feature on our list of the best models.