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HD set top boxes with USB connection

These devices are a cheaper alternative to a digital video recorder – but you only get what you pay for.
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01 .Introduction

Chris Ruggles sheds some light on the benefits of DVRs, the
digital take on the old VHS recorder.

Ten HD Set-top-boxes with USB connections from $99 to $299.

Digital video recorders (DVRs) are the modern replacement for the VCR, but they can be expensive. If you have a spare USB external hard drive with enough capacity (we suggest at least 100GB), a set-top box (STB) with a USB port designed to attach a separate hard drive could be a cheaper way to record digital TV. The STBs on test have the necessary software to allow you to set up recordings and watch them later.

In this test we look at:

  • Ease of use (setting up and recording)
  • Digital tuner perfomance
  • Standby energy use
  • Features

Models on test

  • Akai AD181X
  • Beyonwiz DP-H1
  • DGTEC DGHD6760 #
  • Phoenix JT9200HD
  • Strong SRT5425
  • Strong SRT5441 #
  • TEAC HDVR845
  • Topfield TBF7120 + 320GB HDD
  • Yess DVB-T9300

# Discontinued, buy may still be available in some retail stores.


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What to look for

What they (almost) all have

• One high-definition digital TV tuner.
HDMI output.
• Coaxial antenna pass-through socket (to allow another device to access the antenna).
• Composite and component video outputs (RCA).
• Stereo analogue audio output (RCA).
• Ability to play other media via the USB port (except the TEAC HDVR845)
• Support favourite channels and scheduling recordings from the EPG.
• Support firmware updates via a USB device.
What they (almost) all can’t do
• Record Pay TV.
• Support changing the thumbnail (if any) of a recording.
• Support searching of recordings.
• Support A-B deletion or recorded file division.
• Display video thumbnails for recordings.
• Support automatic "padding" for recordings so you don't miss programs that start early or overrun (except the Beyonwiz).

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