Best Digital Converter Boxes

Review & Comparison, Last Update December 13, 2019
Digital converter boxes will give a new life to your favorite old TVs. These devices ensure high-quality sound and image. A weak broadcasting signal won't get on your nerves anymore. Just consider these low-price models with rich functionality. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2019
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
BROADCASTING SUPPORT
RESOLUTION
FEATURES
INTERFACES
FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
WARRANTY
 
PROS
An HDMI cable is included. Plus, there is a wide set of additional useful features in the tuner. ViewTV AT-163 ATSC looks really stylish and has a modern design.
CONS

The keys on the remote are too close to each other. 

OUR VERDICT

The Viewtv AT-164 can play just about any format you throw at it and do that even from external drives, making it one of the best converter boxes for those looking for a device offering a strong feature set, good price and excellent quality.

detailed parameters
BROADCASTING SUPPORT

ATSC / QAM analog pass-through

RESOLUTION
1080p
FEATURES
EPG Guide, Timing Startup & Shutdown, USB Multimedia Player, Recording Function, Parental Control, Closed Caption, Auto Tuning, Favorite Channel List
INTERFACES

USB, HDMI, RF In/Out, YPbPr output, Coaxial output

FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
Divx, AVI, MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, VOB, MOV, FLV, VC-1
WARRANTY

1 year

PROS

The emergency alert system (EAS) provides emergency information from the pre-set TV station(s). You can record TV series onto USB flash drives and external hard drives. 

CONS

The IR remote conflicts with other devices. 

OUR VERDICT

The Mediasonic Homeworx HW130STB will let you turn any TV into a smart TV. Using this box, you'll be able to control and schedule the content as much as possible.

detailed parameters
BROADCASTING SUPPORT

ATSC / QAM analog pass-through

RESOLUTION

1080p

FEATURES

EPG Guide, Timing Startup & Shutdown, USB Multimedia Player, Recording Function, Parental Control, Closed Caption, EAS (Emergency Alert System), Auto Tuning, Favorite Channel List

INTERFACES

USB, HDMI, Ant In / Out (with ch3/ch4 switch), Composite Video, Composite L/R Audio

FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT

Divx, AVI, MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, VOB, MOV

WARRANTY

1 year

PROS

You'll be able to schedule, record, and play the recorded content whenever you want, so you won't be missing your favorite series anymore. You can build a favorite channels list and quickly access these channels.

CONS

The EPG guide takes a long time to load. 

OUR VERDICT

The Leelbox LBX F6 is easy to install and easy to figure out. You'll be able to access local TV channels for free. The device will let you playback, access, and manage various media content.

detailed parameters
BROADCASTING SUPPORT

ATSC / QAM analog pass-through

RESOLUTION

1080p

FEATURES

EPG Guide, Timing Startup & Shutdown, USB Multimedia Player, Recording Function, Parental Control, Closed Caption, Auto Tuning, Favorite Channel List 

INTERFACES

USB, HDMI, Ant In / Out, Composite Video, Composite L/R Audio, Coaxial output

FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT

Divx, AVI, MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, VOB, MOV

WARRANTY

1 year

PROS
A signal level indicator will help select an optimal antenna position. Interlaced and progressive TV scanning is supported.
CONS

The only available format is 12/24. 

OUR VERDICT
A good tuner that supports portable drives of up to 3TB. Apart from the wide functionality, it will allow you to watch uncoded cable channels free of charge.
detailed parameters
BROADCASTING SUPPORT

ATSC / QAM analog pass-through

RESOLUTION
1080p / 1080i
FEATURES
EPG Guide, USB, Multimedia Player, Recording Function, Signal Quality Indicator, Parental Control, Favorite Channel List
INTERFACES

USB, HDMI, Ant In / Out, Composite Video, Component Video, Composite/Component L/R Audio, Coaxial in

FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT

MPEG-2/4, H.264/AVC, AVI, MPG, DAT, VOB, MKV, MJPEG, MP3, AAC, MP4, JPEG, BMP, PNG

WARRANTY

2 years

PROS
The enclosed remote control can be used to control your TV set as well. The receiver can be set in an upright position thanks to a special retractable stand.
CONS

There are not too many additional features. 

OUR VERDICT
A low-cost receiver with a rather limited number of additional features that still performs its direct function pretty well - steady signal transmission to the TV set.
detailed parameters
BROADCASTING SUPPORT

ATSC / NTSC analog pass-through

RESOLUTION
720p
FEATURES
EPG Guide, Parental Control
INTERFACES

Ant In / Out (with ch3/ch4 switch), Composite Video, Composite L/R Audio

FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
MPEG-2, H.264
WARRANTY

1 year

Viewtv AT-163 ATSC Digital TV Converter Box

Functionality at an Affordable Price

The first thing you'll notice when connecting the Viewtv AT-163 digital converter is that there is an HDMI cable besides a composite one. It's rare to see this connectivity option among the competitors. Thus, with an appropriate socket on your TV, you can efficiently transfer high-quality images from the tuner to a TV panel.

It's a good addition considering the money it costs. Interestingly, besides perfect configuration, the manufacturer tried to provide this model with different additional peculiarities including a capacity to record any live broadcast on the external devices, an information guide, a content multimedia playback function via USB, parental control, closed-caption display function, autotuning, and the creation of your favorite channels list.

There are many reasons why this digital converter box is better than most prospects on the market right now. Among those reasons are the formats that the device supports. Sure, there's nothing impressive about this box being able to run Divx, AVI, MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, VOB, and MOV.

The FLV format that the device supports too is not as prevalent though, which's unfortunate for the devices that are missing this format and great for this particular because you're able to listen to lossless music. You'll also be able to play VC-1 videos, which is not necessarily the best format out there but there aren't too many digital converter boxes that support this format, so the ability alone is always a plus.

Review of Viewtv AT-163 ATSC Digital TV Converter Box

Automatic Switch

Having said all that, there is one more feature this tuner can boast - a capacity to automatically switch on and off. The feature includes an option to set a certain time for switching on and off if it is necessary.

Putting this model in the same line with its competitors, we can say that it is one of the most optimal in terms of capacity to receive signals, functionality, and configuration.

The product's only downside that we couldn't overlook is the size. Measuring 10.2 x 9.8 x 2.1 inches, it is not even remotely as compact as the device's more affordable and, in most ways, less impressive competition.

However, the box sports a fairly sleek profile that will complement any space. Sure, you don't necessarily buy these devices for looks but there's no downside to an attractive profile, is there? The box probably wouldn't work as a conversation starter but you also won't have to worry about some ugly-looking box ruining the setting's vibe.

Viewtv AT-163 ATSC Digital TV Converter Box in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


VIDEO
Viewtv AT-263 Unboxing, Setup, Review (Digital Converter Box with Recoding) OTA

What customers say about this product

Size & Weight

Well made unit, all metal construction with rubber feet on bottom.

Accessories

Remote is easy to use, set-up was ridiculously easy.

Features

You can select the resolution, at the full 1080p setting the picture is indistinguishable from the original.
 

Mediasonic Homeworx HW130STB

Sleek and Almost Imposing

The Mediasonic Homeworx HW130STB is up there with the most versatile and full-featured digital converters. At the same time, the device looks much more sleek and elegant than these boxes usually look.

Measuring 5 x 1.5 x 4 inches, this box is as compact as they come. At the same time, the device weighs less than five ounces, which is pretty nice even though its weight matters very little.

The glossy front panel makes this product look stylish, while the all-black housing makes the box appear almost imposing, certainly adding character to the otherwise modest, unassuming device.

Of course, you don't buy these devices for looks alone, aesthetics are complementary but not necessary here. This device is fine with that. The people behind this product haven't been banking on looks at all. On the contrary, it is the device's functionality that sells this box.

First things first, this model features an electronic programming guide, which is something that these boxes rarely come without. The guide's menu-based system provides continuously updated menus, displaying scheduling information regarding current and upcoming broadcasts. You can even scroll backwards here.

Timing startup and shutdown are basically obligatory features these days too, so we won't be focusing too much on them. Needless to say, you can use these settings to program the TV to turn on and off whenever you want.

Review of Mediasonic Homeworx HW130STB ATSC Digital Converter Box

Emergency Alert System

There are many features here that we've seen many times before. There are also some features that are pretty unique or, at the very least, rare enough to justify the spotlight.

First and foremost, there's an emergency alert system (EAS) that provides emergency information from the pre-set TV station(s).

Apart from that, you can also use this box as a TV tuner, receiving over-the-air TV channels and doing everything that TV tuners enable you to do.

You can use the recording function to record your favorite TV series onto USB flash drives. You can also use 2.5"/3.5" external hard drives. In fact, these are preferable because USB flash drives seldom let you smoothly record the content.

Parental control, closed captions, favorite channel list, automatic tuning, these standard features are naturally present as well.

Bottom line, the Mediasonic Homeworx HW130STB will let you turn any TV into a smart TV. Using this box, you'll be able to control and schedule the content as much as possible. Plus, the device looks really sleek too.

Mediasonic Homeworx HW130STB ATSC Digital Converter Box in the use

Additional Info

User Manual


 

Leelbox LBX F6

Dolby Digital Plus and H.265

Made from ABS plastic, the Leelbox LBX F6 is surprisingly tough and rugged. The box will usually be able to survive drops from 3-4 feet (we wouldn't recommend dropping the box anyway though).

The controls are really simple. The buttons are up there on the hood. The LCD screen is backlit, easy to read, and accessible enough.

The USB port is on the front panel, while the HDMI, Ant In / Out, Composite Video, Composite L/R Audio, and the coaxial output are on the box's back. You can use these inputs and outputs to connect various devices to this box, including TVs, loudspeakers, headphones, different antennas, and more.

The box measures 2 x 1.2 x 0.4 inches, which is even less than these boxes usually measure, so you'll barely have to sacrifice any space.

Using the IR search function, you'll be able to receive over-the-air ATSC digital broadcasts to your analog TV, smart TV, projector, computer, the list goes on.

Of course, that's something that most digital converter boxes can do. That said, these boxes rarely support 1080p Full HD video output, using the newest Dolby Digital Plus and H.265 video codecs to provide rich, high-quality visuals and deep, stunning audio.

Review of Leelbox LBX F6 1080P Digital Converter Box

Schedule, Record, Play

More often than not, what separates these boxes is what they can do besides receiving ATSC broadcasts. As far as this particular device is concerned, that list is pretty long.

Using the aforementioned USB port, you can playback movies, photos, different videos, music, pretty much whatever content you want (the device supports Divx, AVI, MKV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, VOB, MOV, JPEG, BMP, PNG, MP3, and AAC formats).

You'll be able to schedule, record, and play the recorded content whenever you want, so you won't be missing your favorite series anymore. You can even use closed captions to watch these series in the native language.

The device will let you build a favorite channels list and quickly access these channels without sifting through the channels you don't care for.

At the same time, you can use parental control to prevent children from accessing questionable content.

The EPG guide is present too, which is nice since you won't have to browse online to figure out the programming schedule. The only issue here is that the guide usually takes quite some time to load.

Long story short, the Leelbox LBX F6 is easy to install and easy to figure out. You'll be able to access local TV channels for free. The device will let you playback, access, and manage various media content.

Leelbox LBX F6 1080P Digital Converter Box in the use

Additional Info

User Manual


 

IVIEW 3500STBII Multi-Function

Maximum Quality, Signal, and Recording Capacity

The iView 3500STBII is an excellent digital converter box through and through. Its specs are solid and there are enough features supported here to compete with the best mid-range boxes.

At the same time, the model has quite a peculiar feature many may find interesting - a signal level indicator. This indicator enables you to monitor signal quality coming from the connected antenna, and that, in its turn, allows you to determine precisely its optimal position to achieve the best-quality signal.

Before that though, let's pivot towards the device's appearance. More often than not, these boxes look so bland that you're hesitant to even put the box onto the entertainment center. That's not the case here though. Sure, the device doesn't look especially elegant but the streamlined profile looks nice and even somewhat bold, bold enough to add character to most entertainment centers and even elevate some.

As for the image quality, it is at a high level. This digital converter will let you watch your favorite TV channels in a selection of resolutions: 1080p, 1080i, 720p, and 576p. It's very important to keep in mind that the tuner is able to receive both interlaced and progressive scanning methods.

Review of IVIEW 3500STBII Multi-Function Digital Converter Box

Every Format You Need

The box supports pretty much every single standard format in the book, including MPEG-2/4, H.264/AVC, AVI, MPG, DAT, VOB, MKV, MJPEG, MP3, AAC, MP4, JPEG, BMP, and PNG. You'll be able to watch vacation photos, listen to music, watch movies, and so on and so forth.

As far as we're concerned, the product's flaws are pretty much limited to the fact that the box supports only military time. We couldn't but note one more advantage this digital converter box has over its competitors, namely portable drives support with the saving capacity of up to 3TB, whereas the majority of tuners support drives of up to 2TB only. This feature will let you record your favorite TV shows in great numbers.

The standard parental control feature is present too, which is great considering that, even though the feature is easy to implement, there are too many converter boxes that do not support this function. You'll also be able to add as many channels as you want to the Favorite Channels List and quickly browse these channels alone whenever you want.

Summarizing, we can say that this model is ideal for those who want to enjoy watching their favorite channels in high quality with an unlimited possibility to record them with the maximum quality signal.

IVIEW 3500STBII Multi-Function Digital Converter Box in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


VIDEO
iView-3500STBII Digital Converter Box Product Review

What customers say about this product

Size & Weight

The remote is nicely sized compared.

Accessories

The only real upgrade is a much improved remote control.

Features

This turner box does show the tv guide from cable (clear qam) or air (atsc) which is excellent.
 

RCA DTA-800B1

Usability Champion

While comparing all 5 tuners in our review, we couldn't but notice the RCA DTA-800B1. You'd ask, how it can be unique and interesting, it's one of the cheapest of the kind? To be honest, we were surprised, too, after we've seen it perform. The key feature of this model is its perfect usability, which in comparison to the competition within the same price bracket is at the highest level.

Let's hold our horses though. As much as performance defines these devices, the form factor can make the product as much as this parameter can break them. Here though, there's nothing special about it. The box looks somewhat bland but not too bland, meaning that the device will not stand out in any fashion, good or bad.

Measuring 2.8 x 6.5 x 10.2 inches, the box is neither especially compact nor particularly large. You should be able to find enough space for this device without having to move things around. The box is barely larger than most paperback books, so you can even consider shelves close to the TV too. Also, the plastic housing looks somewhat cheap but its composition is surprisingly sturdy. 

Review of RCA DTA-800B1 Digital Converter Box

Vertical Placement Too

Of course, considering the price tag, the box has its flaws compared to its more expensive peers. More than anything else, the features are lacking quantity-wise. You have the EPG Guide that will let you access the programming schedule. You also have parental control, which's great since you'll be able to easily prevent children from accessing questionable content. That's about it though. You won't be able to record the content. The device won't let you make favorite channels lists.

On the bright side, the box lets you set the tuner either horizontally or vertically. There are not so many converter box models that boast vertical placement, let alone both. The manufacturer provided RCA DTA-800B1 with a special stand to use the tuner vertically, which ensures a steady position of the device on the surface. Thus you can save space near the TV set, which is very usable.

We also noted a very intelligible and simple remote control here. Its main feature is large buttons located very conveniently. This remote control is comfortable even for elderly people. But that's not all. This remote control can be programmed to control not only the tuner but your TV set as well. Highly convenient and practical. Also, the buttons on the box are huge and easy to access for anyone.

Summarizing, we can affirm with certainty - this model is the absolute champion in terms of its usability.

RCA DTA-800B1 Digital Converter Box in the use

Additional Info

User Manual


VIDEO
RCA DTA800 demo (Los Angeles, CA)

What customers say about this product

Size & Weight

The unit itself is tiny and light with a small.

Accessories

The remote is easy to operate (very few buttons) and so far we have not had any problems with this unit.

Features

This converter box is easy to connect to a pre-2007 television, using either the "RF" connection or the "composite video" connection.
 

What Is a Digital Converter Box?

After transitioning from analog to digital broadcasting, many users have faced a problem: a great number of channels they used to watch were not supported in old TV sets. They just had no capacity to receive such a signal. As a rule, most modern TV sets are already equipped with special tuners. But the old television sets don't have those and, as you'd imagine, simply buying a new display isn't always an option. Fortunately, you can solve this problem by purchasing a digital converter box. A device like that receives a digital signal that is further converted into an analog one. This way, you are able to enjoy the newest broadcasting signal, all while still using your old trusty TV set.

For those who wish to expand the functionality of their TV sets significantly and make it really smart, we suggest considering a streaming media player. But to improve the received signal you'll also need a high-quality TV antenna.

What Features to Compare

Broadcasting Support

When selecting a digital converter it's necessary to decide on the broadcasting support you will need. As we know, a digital converter serves for decoding an ATSC digital signal into an NTSC analog one. But if you still want to receive an analog signal coming from local low-power broadcasters that don't intend to transit to a digital format, you should check if there is an Analog Pass-Through feature. Thanks to this feature, the analog signal will pass directly to the TV set. If you also want to watch digital cable channels, you'll need to make sure you have a tuner in a QAM standard. It's worth noting that in this case, you will be able to watch uncoded channels only.

Image Resolution

It's very important to take into consideration the broadcasted image resolution, as it affects the quality and at the same time compatibility with a TV screen. If your TV set has a standard SDTV screen, no need to overpay for the tuner supporting HDTV video signal reception. For example, if your TV screen is 1080p, pay attention to the tuner, which should support the same HDTV (High Definition) standard. Older TV models can have 720p and 480p resolution, so tuners with EDTV (Enhanced Definition) and SDTV (Standard Definition) formats support respectively will be needed.

Tuner Features

While speaking about the tuner features, we normally mean additional functions like a built-in USB multimedia player, which allows you to play back digital content from flash drives and portable hard disks. The recording enables you to save video live to the same external memory. The next function is the creation of your favorite channels list for a quick access. The closed caption function helps display it if necessary. Other essential functions are parental control, auto-tuning, sleep mode, and the capacity to switch the device on and off at a certain time.

Interfaces and Multimedia Processing

And in conclusion, you should check the tuner connection to the TV set. It's recommended to use an HDMI connector to achieve the highest quality. If your TV doesn't have it, make sure you have analog composite audio/video ports. As for the connection with external memory, a USB connector is required, and for the antenna — an RF port. The USB multimedia player and digital signal compression standards support plays a great role as well. It's better to give preference to the tuners supporting AVI, DAT, VOB, MKV, MJPEG video, for the music it should be MP3, AAC, MP4, and for images: JPEG, BMP, PNG. In modern tuners MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 video compression technologies are generally used, therefore such devices are usually called digital television decoders.

Did you know?

The Tallest TV Tower in the World

Did you know that the tallest TV broadcasting tower was built in the Japanese city of Tokyo? It is situated in the Sumida district and is called the Tokyo Skytree. Just imagine, its height is 634 meters, which is the top height among TV towers and the second tallest construction after the famous Burj Khalifa in Dubai with its 828 meters height. Because of Japan's transition to the digital television and radio broadcasting standard, which took place in 2011, it was decided to build this tower, since the old tower wasn't tall enough.

The construction started in 2008, but the most interesting thing is the speed of constructive works. It's unbelievable, they were moving with a speed of 10 meters per week. The tower construction was completed on February 29, 2012, and on May 22 of the same year, the Tokyo Skytree was officially opened for the public. Approximately 580 thousand people were involved in constructive works on the TV tower, and its costs exceeded the amount of $812 mln.

The First

Did you know that the first American TV channel, which started round-the-clock broadcasting was the globally known CNN? Interestingly, in the USA the channel was nicknamed "Chicken Noodle Network". It's worth noting, that in the USA, CNN company is the largest one. Its audience is approximately one billion people. It's also interesting that among all the mass media CNN was one of the first companies that started digital broadcasting.

Nowadays, there are mass media giant broadcasts on six continents in four languages: English, Turkish, Spanish, and German. Among other interesting facts about television, we should mention that thanks to the UN Assembly we have an opportunity to celebrate World Television Day on November 21st since 1996.

Some History Context

It's quite difficult to surprise anybody with digital television today. But few people know how the process of transition from analog to digital broadcasting advanced. The turning point in this history was the decision taken on February 17, 2009, by the US Congress about the termination of analog broadcasting by all the TV stations. The very transition process required the conversion of about 1800 high-power transmitting centers. Among them, there were 380 public and 1378 private ones. It's noteworthy that many cable operators continued to broadcast in analog format additionally, that still allowed the users of analog television to watch their favorite channels without any tuners.

At the same time, e-stores were forbidden to sell TVs without digital tuners. So many electronics manufacturers started mass production of various TV tuners, which converted a digital signal into an analog one to let people watch their old TVs. All the while NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) tested and selected the best and at the same time inexpensive tuner models, that cost $40-70 afterward compensated by the state.

For the television reform, the government allocated about 1.5 bln dollars. It's interesting, people got special $40 coupons, 1-2 per each family, to purchase these very tuners. Many sellers had to be certified for participation in the program. At the present moment, the US government stopped issuing coupons.

Sources:

1. Robert Silva GE Smart Digital Converter Box For Analog Televisions, Lifewire. October 18, 2016.

2. Matthew Torres What You Need To Know Before Buying a DTV Converter Box, About. August 11, 2016.

3. Digital TV Converter Box Tips? HubPages. February 12, 2015.

4. Jessica Hatter How to Reset a Digital Converter Box, Techwalla.

5. HDTV or Converter Box? Antennas Direct. January 17, 2015.

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