New Freeview Box?
February 23, 2016 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Our Freeview (UK broadcast TV) box is old and mostly broken. What are your recommendations for a modern replacement?

We have a Dell monitor in our kitchen that we use to watch Freeview, using an old set-top box that's now growing a bit flaky and unreliable. However, in the years since we bought it, Freeview decoders have mostly been integrated in to the TV itself, so the market for set-top boxes has mostly disappeared.

The alternatives for a replacement seem to be ...
  • Buy a new set-top box from the limited selection available
  • Buy a DVR with integrated Freeview, which tend to be expensive and would look out of place in a kitchen
  • Buy a cheap and small TV to replace the monitor, which may not look as sleek

... though more left-field suggestions are also welcome. Can you decode Freeview with a compute stick?

Nice-to-haves: My family seems to have decided that we would like to keep the current monitor if we can, as it's mounted on a pole and it looks pretty swish. We would also like a something that can change channels faster than our old slow box.
posted by Eleven to Technology (4 answers total)
Can you decode Freeview with a compute stick? Yes but you would need a tiny PC of some kind as well.
posted by crocomancer at 8:45 AM on February 23, 2016

(Man, searching Amazon is a pain for things like this. Why can’t they order weighted by number of reviews as well as positivity? Infuriating.)

How about this beast? A mere £22 gets you a Freeview SD and HD (ie T/T2) with HDMI output. Naturally for that price you’ll have to upgrade the firmware yourself & the reviews suggest it has a few "quirks", but nothing that jumps out as a deal breaker.

Scanning the 'what people ended up buying after looking at this' like doesn’t show anything that looks obviously better.
posted by pharm at 1:41 PM on February 23, 2016

Or buy a USB T2 freeview stick, a Raspberry Pi 2 and stick Koki on the Pi. Will cost you more, but you get the play value & the Pi will play other stuff as well. You’ll need to unlock the Mpeg2 decoder in the Pi for an extra £1 or so (is that still required?) in order to watch SD broadcasts though.
posted by pharm at 1:48 PM on February 23, 2016

I'd be tempted to do the following:

- Have a quick look at reviews and then just get a Freeview box. I haven't bought one for ages but the last time I did the £100 Humax box with all the good reviews was naff, the £25 Goodview impulse buy from a bargain bin at Comet was exactly what I was after; they're all "much of a muchness" and the suitability of the interfaces tend to be personal taste, so if possible go out and try them.

- You can use Kodi or XBian or similar on a Raspberry Pi with a USB stick connected to the aerial, but in my experience the reception isn't as good as a dedicated freeview box, also that definitely wouldn't answer your requirement for rapid channel flicking... and also a remote *might* work, whereas it definitely will for a Freeview box.

- Stick with the monitor you like. The distinction between a TV and a monitor is becoming increasingly blurred - both will take VGA and HDMI inputs, TV content is available online so will be accessed by a computer over the Internet anyway, broadcast signals can be decoded with PCs as per Kodi, and so on.... these days a TV seems to be the monitor you want but thicker, with lots of "smart" functionality you didn't want that runs too slow and will rapidly become out of date. A modular approach, where a box interprets the signal, and the monitor displays it, is the way to go - that way you can upgrade either without losing any functionality you like.
posted by DancingYear at 2:25 AM on February 24, 2016

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