What Is a Digital Converter Box? Do You Really Need It?

What Is a Digital Converter Box? Do You Really Need It?


Digital Converter Boxes go by a few different names. Sometimes they are referred to as cable converter boxes or television converter boxes, but at the end of the day, they all perform the same function. There’s been quite a bit of buzz surrounding these interesting devices lately and in an age where everyone is upgrading their TVs and home theater equipment, it’s fair for some to ask if a digital converter box should be next on their shopping list.

So, do you need a digital converter box for yourself? Let’s find out.

What Does a Digital Converter Box Do?

A digital converter box is a device that takes an electronic signal from one location and translates it into an analog signal. This allows television sets that are not designed with certain electronic components to be able to receive digital or electronic signals from certain content providers like cable television.

What Is a Digital Converter Box? Do You Really Need It?

Not too long ago it was common for the majority of households to use these digital converter boxes that were given to them by a cable provider upon signing up for a subscription. These were colloquially referred to as ‘cable boxes’ but they really were just the most popular kind of digital converter boxes around. Even today many people who use a cable service still use these cable boxes.

How Do You Know if You Need a Digital Converter Box?

There are a few general rules of thumb to follow to know if your TV requires a digital converter box. Generally speaking, newer TVs made from the past decade are very likely to be digital-ready as most high definition television sets are made with built-in digital tuners that do not require the external box.

Checking the year that your TV set was manufactured is another way to check if your TV is already digital-ready. High definition TVs made after 2005 are almost guaranteed to be digital-ready.

It’s important to note a distinction between full HD TVs and televisions that are labeled as HD-ready. HD-ready TVs mean that they are capable of higher resolutions but only with external applications like digital converters. So if you own an ‘HD ready’ TV that was made in 2003, it may end up requiring a digital converter box.

Are All Smart TVs Digital Ready?

Because Smart TVs are a relatively new phenomenon compared to how old TV sets actually are, one may assume that all Smart TVs are already digital-ready and don’t require a digital converter box. Believe it or not, this is not actually the case.

Are All Smart TVs Digital Ready?

While the vast majority of Smart TVs do have built-in digital tuners, a small minority do not. This is because Smart TVs and Digital TVs are not necessarily the same thing.

A Smart TV is a television that can access the internet and have certain apps downloaded onto it, much like a smartphone. A digital TV is essentially one with a built-in digital tuner. Notice the difference? That means that not all Smart TVs are also digital TVs, even though most of them are.

How do I know if my TV has a digital tuner?

If you have a Smart TV and you want to verify if it has a digital tuner then there are a couple of things you can do.

First check your actual TV set for any stickers. They are usually located on the back of the casing but are sometimes placed on the front. If you see a sticker that says anything like “Digital Tuner” or “Digital Receiver” or even anything like “HDTV,” “DTV” or “ATSC” then you can be sure that it has a digital tuner.

If you could not find any stickers on your set then feel free to look up the owner’s manual that came with your Smart TV. If any of the above terms show up or if the manual lists it under the features section then your TV will not require a digital converter box.

What Channels Can You Receive With a Digital Converter Box?

If you don’t have cable or satellite set up and are only using your digital converter box then you won’t be able to get as many channels as with a paid subscription to a service. There are however a few channels that you will be able to get for free.

Every major area has what’s called OTA or Over The Air programming. These OTA channels are broadcasted from signal towers many miles away. With a digital converter box, your TV will be able to pick up these signals and access public television channels for free. What kinds of channels, as well as the number of channels you’ll be receiving, is dependent on where you live.

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In the United States, many major national networks will broadcast their main channels as well as a few sub-channels dedicated to local news, sports, weather, and other programs. But these are national broadcasters like PBS, Fox, ABC, and others that are found all over the country. The only way to see what other channels your area will receive is to either look up the local broadcasts in your area online or simply channel surf with your TV once it is hooked up to a digital converter box.

Does a Smart TV Need a Digital Converter Box?

Most Smart TVs these days are already built with an internal digital tuner inside of the television set. Because Smart TVs have wi-fi capabilities and the ability to install apps, they almost always also have the ability to access digital signals without an external device.

If you own a Smart TV that was made within the past decade then in all likelihood it possesses an internal digital tuner.

However, there are some HD-ready or Smart TVs that have wi-fi capabilities or internet browsers but surprisingly do not have a digital tuner and therefore require a digital converter box. If you own a TV that was made around 2005 then you will want to double-check to see if it does indeed require a digital converter box. It wasn’t until March 1st of 2007 that the FCC made a mandate that required all televisions in the US to be sold with a digital tuner.

So because there are some wi-fi or Smart TVs made in 2006, if you own such a model then it may in fact not have a built-in tuner and will need a digital converter box.

But if your Smart TV was made after 2007 or so then you can rest assured that it has a digital tuner, as these devices are now considered mandatory components of modern-day HDTVs.

Last update on 2024-04-16 at 15:17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

About the Author Edwin

Edwin "The Streaming Dutchman" has been streaming IPTV and grabbing the latest media from torrents and Usenet for countless years. When he isn't streaming (or writing about it), he enjoys cooking and traveling.

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