We review 14 HD set-top boxes priced from $69 to $150.
High definition (HD) set-top boxes are designed to replace your existing television’s tuner.
If you have an older analogue TV, the box will give you the option of watching digital programming (find out more about preparing for the transition in CHOICE's guide to digital TV), and if you have an LCD or plasma TV with a standard definition digital tuner (or none at all) it will allow you to watch the HD channels.
Set-top boxes are a small part of the big change to digital TV. They play an important role because they are a cheap and relatively easy way to get more channels, increased picture quality and often better reception.
In this updated test we’ve added nine new models to the five still available from our last test, as well as a looking over a couple that are supplied under the Digital Switchover Household Assistance Scheme (HAS) and a Bush BHAS03 talking set-top box, which is now available for people who have vision problems.
Check out our reliability survey to see which set-top boxes last the distance.
• Akai AD163X
• Akai AD175X
• Bush DFTA46R
• Bush DFTA50FVE
• Bush DFTA16HD
• Digitel+ HD3300
• Grundig GSTB3106HD
• Grundig GSTB4101FVE
• Phoenix JT8000HD
• STRONG SRT 5431
• TEAC HDB849
• TOPFIELD TBF7200
• TOPPRO TP1500
• Wintal STB10HD
How we test
Ease of use Our tester, James Thomson, assesses each STB for its user manual, initial setup and tuning, remote control and on-screen controls as well as on-board displays and controls.
Performance Our lab checks each model’s HD tuner for reception performance in areas with a good quality signal, as well as areas where reception is less than ideal and where reception might be affected by appliances such as a dryer or vacuum cleaner.
Standby energy James connects each STB to a regulated power supply and power meter and records its standby energy consumption as well as its energy consumption when in use.
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Video: Talking Set Top Box
Chris Ruggles puts the Bush Talking Set Top Box through its paces.
Talking set-top boxes
Many vision impaired people value television as a form of communication. However, the difficulties they encounter with controlling a TV, or set-top box can be very frustrating.
Bush Australia has been working with the Digital Switchover Taskforce and Vision Australia to bring to market a talking set-top box (BHAS03, $199). We believe Hills Holdings will also have one that will come to market sometime in the future.
You can choose to use the talking feature, which will speak the menus and commands in an Australian accent, or leave the feature off and use it as a normal set-top box.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get one in time for our technical reception tests, but it performed quite well in our ease of use assessment without the talking feature enabled.
We contacted a number of Vision Australia clients who’ve been using versions of this STB for some months and generally their reactions to it are very positive.
However, there are some minor quibbles; the voice can mispronounce some words and lacks smoothness at times, which can make it hard to follow with complicated things such as the electronic program guide. Also the Help button could be easier to locate.
The spoken key learn feature got high praise and could be a useful feature for all set-top boxes. In future there’s a possibility that we’ll have broadcast audio description of what is happening on the screen and set-top boxes like the BHAS03 will handle this as well.
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