The best Set Top Boxes are from Roku, Apple, and satellite providers Dish and Directv. HDMI "sticks" have fewer features, so for now we are not recommending them. Overall we like Roku: they have the best interface, with over 1,000 channels. Local HD channels can be found via an antenna. We also like Blue-Ray players; because web content can also be found using one of the new ones that have the web and Set Top functions built-in, such as Netflix, Hulu, and so on.
The Best Set Top Boxes Are:
Set Top boxes have many variations. The simplest ones give you access to some websites, for streaming. Typically that is Netflix, Hulu, and a few others. You don't get local channels, and you don't really get enough channels to have all your favorite shows. The full experience of TV is still best achieved by Satellite TV (Dish or DirectV).
Set Top boxes are used with Satellite, Cable, and over-the-air systems. They provide video, audio, web access, and even games. Closed Captioning is typically done by the TV set itself but Set Top Boxes may also have the V-chip which gives program control over content ratings, to protect children. Professional Set Top Boxes are not for home use; they are for professional studios, and are often rack-mounted. In Europe, the tuner might be external to the Set Top Box. We have a streaming website that may someday work with Set Top Boxes: MovieStreaming.com
Historically the Set Top Box was so named because it sat on top of the 'set' - the TV Set. But now that flat panels are so common, Set Top Boxes now typically sit below the TV on a table or a shelf.
If you are on a tight budget, you can put up an over-the-air HD antenna to get your local and some HD channels; and then get a Set Top box of some kind for Netflix movies. This can be a good choice for many people.
A nice middle-ground are Blue-Ray DVD players. The newer ones not only play Blue-Ray HD movies, but have Netflix, Hulu, and more built in; and Wifi and a browser, too. With Wifi you can access most of the websites that you might with your computer. So having a satellite tv provider, and a Blue-Ray player with Netflix and a browser, is an ideal combination.
If you know of an awesome Set-Top box, please contact us and we will look into it.
There is a good comparison of Set Top Boxes at Wikipedia. You can also visit our site, MovieStreaming.com.
Set Top Boxes will continue to evolve, particularly in providing more internet connectivity, games, and apps. So as they say, "Stay Tuned"!
Originally there were only 13 channels in the US. As that grew over time, UHF receivers were developed to tune them in. There were no remote controls; often the children in a household performed that function - and, no batteries needed. In 1964, the FCC required that all TV's have a UHF receiver built in. Now, we have gone to the next level, having even more channels, standards, and devices - so we once again have a box outside of the TV.