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Smart Set-Top Boxes

Looking to easily and affordably expand your entertainment choices at home? A smart set-top box can give you instant access to streaming movies, TV shows, videos and music on your HDTV and home audio system. Many of them also let you view personal photo albums, read news and sports info, use social networking sites and much more, right on your HDTV.

What is a smart set-top box?

At its most basic, a smart set-top box is a digital media receiver that can access videos, audio, photos and other content from Internet-connected apps optimized for your TV. Some advanced smart set-top boxes have a web browser that allows you to surf the Web and search for the content you want. Many can also access content from connected devices in a home network (like from your computer). The smart set-top box then sends the content to display on a connected HDTV, or play over a connected audio system.

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What are the benefits of owning one?

  • Turn your existing TV into a smart TV
  • Access a huge catalog of streaming movies, music and other entertainment, personal photos and other Web content through one device, without the need for a cable or satellite TV subscription
  • Display content up to full HD 1080p resolution on your HDTV
  • Display personal media, like photos and videos, on your HDTV via USB connection*
  • Listen to music and movie sound over your home audio system
  • Search for specific content available through the Web or connected apps.*
  • Get access to advanced DVR capabilities*

*Not available on all boxes.

What kind of content can I get?

The services that are available differ from device to device, but a few of the most common possibilities include:

  • Streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix (subscription required), CinemaNow, Hulu Plus and many other services
  • Watching videos from YouTube
  • Streaming music from Pandora
  • Accessing Facebook and Twitter
  • Watching live sports, including subscription baseball and basketball services
  • Viewing photos on Flickr
  • Stream live TV from a Slingbox*
  • Studying fantasy sports info and league stats
  • Reading news, weather, sports and financial info

Some services may require a subscription.
*Not available on all boxes.

What do I need to connect a smart set-top box?

You will need an HDTV to connect the box to (an HDMI cable, typically not included with the box, will provide the best connection), and you will need an existing high-speed Internet connection (10Mbps is our minimum recommendation to properly stream HD video, and we recommend 20Mbps for advanced capabilities). Without the proper Internet speed, your HD movies will likely often stop and start due to buffering.

While connecting your smart set-top box directly to your router will provide the best streaming experience, almost all boxes come with built-in wireless connectivity. So you can place your box anywhere in the home that gets a dependable wireless signal. A few devices require a special adapter if you want to create a wireless connection, so be sure to read the product specifications.

After you connect your smart set-top box to your HDTV and Internet connection (and home network devices, depending on usage), you will need to complete a simple setup process using your HDTV display. The process will be different for each manufacturer's device, so refer to your manual if you run into difficulty. Boxes with DVR capabilities will have extra steps for connecting to cable or satellite TV. Generally, though, you should find the setup process for most smart set-top boxes very straightforward.

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