A TV set-top box is a compact device that allows you to turn a regular TV into a smart one. That means it can be used like a computer or an entertainment media center: depending on what you want to do, you can independently select movies to watch, record your favorite TV shows, listen to the radio, read the news, check the weather, or run various popular applications on the large screen.
The main marketable features of a TV set-top box include:
- Internet surfing;
- voice search;
- streaming database;
- games and applications;
- access to messengers directly from TV.
How to choose a TV set-top box: what is important and why
The characteristics of the set-top box will determine its applicability, features, and user interface. Many criteria relate to hardware, so we’ll cover some of the hardware aspectss that will make using the set-top box comfortable over the next 5 years. The features, design, and customization options of the set-top box depend on its operating system, which we’ll review separately.
When choosing a device, you should consider the characteristics of the following parts:
- central processor;
- built-in memory;
- operating system.
The characteristics of this component determine the power of the TV set-top box, its operating speed, and its performance. It’s worth choosing models with processors from reliable manufacturers, such as Amlogic, Realtek, and Rockchip.
The Amlogic S905Y4 model is a quad-core processor based on a 64-bit architecture and has an excellent reputation It’s characterized by maximum stability, high performance, and compatibility with a large number of pieces of equipment. The processor power allows you to run primary and advanced features, such as playing video in 4K HDR, using the HEVC codec, and connecting using Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi.
Models of set-top boxes with an Amlogic S905Y4 chipset have an optimal price/quality ratio. These are the chipsets used in modern MAG TV set-top boxes produced by Infomir.
This parameter defines the speed at which applications are loaded and tasks are executed. It also determines the number of applications that can be run simultaneously without delays. To run simple games, applications, and watch large video files, 1 GB of RAM will be enough. This RAM size does not increase the cost of the device and also allows you to use the TV set-top box comfortably.
The memory determines the number of applications, movies, music tracks, and images that you can store on the set-top box. However, this feature is not always worth paying extra for. If you have a USB port, you can always connect a flash drive or hard drive and increase the memory size. With that in mind, the optimal solution would be a set-top box with 4 GB of internal memory.
Ports determine the types and number of devices that can be connected. A HDMI connector is required to connect the set-top box to the TV. USB ports allow you to connect an air mouse, flash drive, webcam, keyboard, and so on. In short, the more connectors, the better.
The smart set-top box can be connected using a standard LAN network cable or via Wi-Fi. The first option provides connection speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s, enough to watch videos in HD, Full HD, and 4K screen resolutions. However, in terms of convenience, if you don’t want to clutter a room with unnecessary cables, choose models of TV set-top boxes with a Wi-Fi module.
This defines a number of parameters, in particular the design of the interface, the capabilities of the set-top box, the features provided, and ease of use with a smartphone. The operating system of the set-top box is the most important selection criterion.
Linux, Android, and Android TV are the three most common operating systems for TV set-top boxes. Let’s tell you more about each of them.
Linux: simplicity and reliability
The original Linux operating system is used in PCs, and its adapted version is used in set-top boxes. Linux can have different interfaces and features, depending on the developer of the set-top box. The main feature of this OS is that the device manufacturer has developed it completely. That is, the design, features, and available applications are all created by the operator, which determines both the advantages and disadvantages of Linux set-top boxes.
The advantages of this OS include:
- simplicity of features;
- open source;
- the operating system has protection against attacks and threats.
Disadvantages of the Linux OS:
- less system flexibility;
- the ability to use only developer-provided applications;
- dependence of application updates on the manufacturer.
The inability to install third-party applications makes the system extremely reliable and you should choose a set-top box running Linux if security is a must for you. The system often offers a limited list of features, but they all work well.
Android (AOSP): maximum possibilities
Android is one of the most popular operating systems for mobile devices. The classic, user-friendly OS interface allows you to quickly navigate how to control the device.
Advantages of the AOSP set-top box:
- affordable price;
- ability to select applications;
- menu and notification shade, like on Android smartphones and tablets;
- ability to install launchers, programs, and widgets;
- access to the users’ applications through their personal Google Play Market account.
Disadvantages of this ОS:
- there is often no voice search;
- devices do not undergo strict certification and frequently fail;
- no protection against viruses and spyware.
Users who value the ability to install a large number of applications will obviously choose AOSP devices. The system also allows you to personalize the interface by installing launchers, choosing the sequence of applications in the menu, and placing widgets on the home screen.
Android TV: comfort and reliability
This operating system was created specifically for IPTV set-top boxes and includes all the features of using streaming services. Set-top boxes running this OS must be certified by Google and as a result are generally considered to be safe, reliable, thoughtfully designed and maximally focused on user convenience.
By purchasing such a TV set-top box, the user receives:
- convenient voice search and control;
- built-in YouTube and YouTube Music;
- full Internet surfing;
- subscriptions section and individual recommendations;
- large selection of certified applications in the official Google Play Store;
- broadcast from a smartphone to a TV box in one click using the Chromecast built-in service.
Android TV set-top boxes are premium-class devices, so the only downside is the high cost of the gadgets.
Based on the hardware characteristics, you should choose set-top boxes with 1–2 GB of RAM and 4–8 GB of internal memory. Among the chipsets, we recommend paying attention to models with the Amlogic S905Y4 processor, used in MAG IPTV set-top boxes.
The operating system should be chosen based on what you need from the set-top box. Android AOSP offers a familiar interface and the ability to customize it yourself. Choose Linux if your priority is that of maximum reliability, security, and turning a regular TV into a smart one. For the best comfort, design, and voice search one can find, consider set-top boxes on the Android TV platform.