Best Digital Converter Boxes

Review & Comparison, Last Update October 28, 2017
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 2017
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
BROADCASTING SUPPORT
RESOLUTION
FEATURES
INTERFACES
FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
WARRANTY
 
PROS
V-chip technology is used to block channels depending on categories. Quite simple, usable and intuitively intelligible interface. EAS (Emergency Alert System) support.
CONS
Sometimes the deleted channels might be added back.
OUR VERDICT
Perfect tuner to watch digital TV. It will give a new life to your old HDTV, EDTV, and SDTV TV set, supporting 18 ATSC broadcasting formats with a high-quality signal and Dolby AC-3 sound.
detailed parameters
BROADCASTING SUPPORT
ATSC Analog Pass-Through
RESOLUTION
720p
FEATURES
Sleeping Mode, Parental Control, Closed Caption
INTERFACES
- RF input - RF output - CH3/CH4 - Сomposite video/audio output
FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
MPEG-2 (MP@ML/MP@HL)
WARRANTY
Limited 90-day
PROS
A signal level indicator will help select an optimal antenna position. Interlaced and progressive TV scanning is supported.
CONS
There is only 24-hour time format in it.
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 - Coaxial Out Composite - Video Composite L/R Audio - Component Video
FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
MPEG-2 (MP@ML/MP@HL), MPEG-4 SP, ASP, H.264 HP at L4.1, DivX3.11, 4.X, 6.X, FLV, VC-1
WARRANTY
Platinum Limited 2-year
PROS
Simple setting and software update. Clear info on the current and next shows on a screen will help switch channels.
CONS
The USB port is at the back.
OUR VERDICT
This excellent digital tuner will provide you with a high- quality TV signal. It's also possible to program a certain time interval for recording. It can be stopped and rewound in a Timeshift mode.
detailed parameters
BROADCASTING SUPPORT
ATSC Analog Pass-Through
RESOLUTION
1080p
FEATURES
USB, Multimedia Player, Recording Function, Favorite Channel List, Parental Control, Auto Tuning, Closed Caption
INTERFACES
- USB - HDMI - CH3/CH4 - RF input - RF output - Сomposite video/audio output
FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
MPEG-2/4, H.264/AVC, AVI, MPG, DAT, VOB, MKV, MJPEG, MP3, AAC, MP4, JPEG, BMP, PNG
WARRANTY
Limited 1-Year
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
Not quite comfortable keys location on the remote control.
OUR VERDICT
One of the best options in terms of low price, image quality, and functionality. A wide display and automatic switch on and off are provided.
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
Limited 1-Year
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
A minimum set of 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
- RF In / Out - CH3/CH4 - Smart Antenna In - Composite video/audio output
FORMATS AND CODING SUPPORT
MPEG-2, H.264
WARRANTY
Limited 1-Year

What is a Digital Converter Box?

After transition 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 they are not, an acquisition of a new panel is not cheap. You can solve this problem by purchasing a digital converter box. This device receives a digital signal further converted into an analog one. Thus you are able to enjoy the newest broadcasting signal still using your old 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.

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Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box

Don't Throw Away Your Old TV

After a detailed study of Zinwell ZAT-970A digital tuner, we drew a conclusion, that this model is one of the best at its level when it comes to the transmitted signal quality. We are also very pleased with its performance and reception potential. As compared to its competitors this tuner is a bit more expensive, but it's completely worthy of such a price. It's justified by the fact, that the device receives and amplifies weak signals perfectly, and thereby ensures high image quality corresponding to HD format. The device supports all the 18 ATSC formats and is also compatible with MPEG-2 digital standards. In addition, the tests proved that you can set an aspect ratio of 4:3 or 16:9 depending on the TV screen, and the tuner will ensure the best image quality for any screen size. One more peculiar feature we paid attention to is high output sound quality. The Zinwell ZAT-970A tuner uses the newest technology for ATSC Dolby AC-3 audio signal decoding that allows you to receive  a perfect surround stereo sound. Finally, we can affirm that this device is the best alternative to cable television and prevents the decrease of a sound signal quality, assures perfect sound and image regardless of your TV screen aspect ratio.  

Review of Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box

Interesting Fact

The history of the digital television standard in the USA originates in the distant 1987. This happened after Japan and Europe had created their own high-definition TV systems called MUSE and HD-MAC. To answer that, the US experts in this field decided to hold a national contest for the best high-definition TV system project for its further adoption as a national broadcasting standard. The result of such a bold decision was the establishment of a special body: ATSC (Advance Television Systems Committee), which is, by the way, the only body even nowadays that defines and regulates digital television broadcasting standards in the United States and Canada. Yet in terms of transition to the digital TV, the USA occupies a leading position. Despite the fact that originally the government's decision had caused an uproar of indignation and panic, many people had got ready for this format in advance, and most of them were elderly Americans. Unprepared were only 2.8 mln American families.

Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box in the use

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Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box
Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box
 

IVIEW 3500STBII Multi-Function Digital Converter Box

Maximum Quality, Signal, and Recording Capacity

The iView 3500STBII 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. 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. 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. 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.    

Review of IVIEW 3500STBII Multi-Function Digital Converter Box

Interesting Facts

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, this 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 the World Television Day on November 21st since 1996.

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

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IVIEW 3500STBII Multi-Function Digital Converter Box
IVIEW 3500STBII Multi-Function Digital Converter Box
 

Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB Digital Converter Box

Ample Recording Capacity

Considering the digital Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB converter we couldn't but pay attention to its ample capacities to record TV broadcasting on portable hard drives. The USB connector used for this is located at the back of the device. There are several interesting features this converter box can boast. Firstly, this tuner enables you to set the exact time for the recording start and end. The tuner will ensure automatic recording within the indicated time interval saving it on the external hard drive. Secondly, we would like to mention the Timeshift feature. Having activated this function you'll be able to pause the live broadcasting and afterwards you'll have an opportunity to come back to the same spot of viewing. In addition this feature will enable you to rewind the viewing forward and backward. Timeshift works based on background recording, which can be carried out continuously or after activation. You should keep in mind, that the longer this feature is activated, the more memory is needed on the drive where the recording is saved. This model supports external hard drives with a saving capacity of up to 2TB. If you need a signal for high-quality conversion of the digital signal into analog with ample opportunities of live transmission saving, then our team will definitely recommend you the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB converter. 

Review of Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB Digital Converter Box

Interesting Facts

It's interesting that the world's first preview trailer cost just some nine dollars. This happened on July 1, 1941, when for the first time a ten-second preview trailer was broadcast on all the TV channels in the USA. It advertised a watch manufacturing company "Bulova Watch Company". It's noteworthy that its budget of $9 included not only video broadcasting cost, but its production as well. Yet the most famous preview trailer is considered to be the "1984", dedicated to the Macintosh computer. By order of the Apple, the famous film director Ridley Scott filmed a trailer only 90 seconds long. It's stunning that this short trailer cost 900,000 dollars. One more interesting fact from the history of television is that the person who can boast of the most expensive TV contract is a famous TV presenter Oprah Winfrey. During her contract period from 1984 to 2000 the Harpo company agreed to pay her about 300 million dollars. Nowadays this very presenter has a private film studio and a TV channel, which has an acronym of her initials: OWN.  

Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB Digital Converter Box in the use

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Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB Digital Converter Box
Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB Digital Converter Box
 

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 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. But 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.

Review of Viewtv AT-163 ATSC Digital TV Converter Box

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 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 the 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 public. Approximately 580 thousand people were involved in constructive works on the TV tower, and its costs exceeded the amount of $812 mln.    

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

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Viewtv AT-163 ATSC Digital TV Converter Box
Viewtv AT-163 ATSC Digital TV Converter Box
 

RCA DTA-800B1 Digital Converter Box

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 competitors is at the highest level. The first factor that affects it is the option to set the tuner either horizontally or vertically. There are not so many converter box models that can 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. Summarizing we can affirm with certainty - this model is the absolute champion in terms of its usability.

Review of RCA DTA-800B1 Digital Converter Box

Interesting Fact

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 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.  

RCA DTA-800B1 Digital Converter Box in the use

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RCA DTA-800B1 Digital Converter Box
RCA DTA-800B1 Digital Converter Box
 

Sources:

1. Guide to Converter Boxes, eBay. March 3, 2016.

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

3. Matthew Torres What You Need To Know Before Buying a DTV Converter BoxAbout. August 11, 2016. 

4. Steve Kindig  The Digital TV Transition, Crutchfield

5. Mike Johnson How Do I Choose a Digital TV Converter? Tech in our everyday life.

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

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

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

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