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TV Converter Box Alternatives: Satellite, Cable, Netflix, Hulu, & More

The digital transition has come and gone and although converter boxes were a short term fixed that helped many people make the transition without spending a bunch of money, they have largely been a failure. Many of them worked for awhile been ended up breaking and people have been forced to purchase new ones or find an alternative way through which to meet their television viewing needs. As of the digital transition consumers didn't have a ton of options outside of getting a paid service, but over the last few years the market has exploded with different options. There are of course still the traditional paid services such as cable and satellite but there is much more now. If you are looking to get away from your TV converter box or simply make a switch in your services you can see the abundance of different options below. Over the last several years the market has absolutely exploded with hundreds of different choice and we have merely scratched the surface with some of the most popular ones.


Alternatives To Getting A TV Converter Box 
  • Subscribe To Satellite TV Service - One of the quickest, easiest, and best alternatives is to simply subscribe to satellite TV service with either Dish Network or DirecTV. With super quick and easy professional installation you can make the switch in just a couple days with ease. No more messing with reception, digital antennas, wires, or broken converter boxes. With satellite you also get some of the best programming options in the world with up to 200 channels, the most HD channels, exclusive programming packages including movie channels and NFL Sunday Ticket, along with much more. Satellite provides the most features of any paid television service, but of course it comes at a price. You can get service starting at $19.99 per month and it ranges all the way up to around $125 for a premium package. You are also expected to sign a two year contract in order to get your equipment and installation for free. Both Dish and DirecTV offer slightly different packaging and prices so it's important to check out a comparison of them if you do decide to go with satellite TV.
  • Subscribe To Cable TV Service - Another option that is very similar to satellite is to get service with your local cable provider. The two largest companies in the United States are Comcast and Time Warner cable. Generally each residence has only one cable provider so you will be limited on what company you can go with. Cable setup is very easy and your company will provide professional installation that will allow you to be up and running right away. With cable you will have alot more programming options than free over-the-air broadcasting but it is generally less than you get with satellite. Cable will however can cost quite a bit with smaller 70 channel packages costing 40-$60 per month and premium packages costing well over $100 per month. Cable providers often offer bundled cable, home phone and internet service which allows you to get a substantial discount and combine all of these services into.
  • Subscribe To A Fiber Optics Television Service - Many people don't know exactly what these are yet but they have been around for a few years now. Most people think they are another form of cable, and they are close but the technology behind their delivery is different. They include services such as Verizon Fios TV, AT&T Uverse, and CenturyLink Prism TV. They are very similar to cable and satellite services in regards to their programming options and pricing structure. The major players specialize in giving you a good deal by packaging three services (TV, internet, and phone) into one lower monthly bill than if you were to get each of them separately. The service is super easy to setup and uses a box that is just like a satellite receiver or cable box. You can either set it up yourself or choose professional installation. The benefits of fiber optic services over cable include more HD channels and quicker speeds for internet, digital phone, and streaming services that will continue to grow rapidly over the next decade.
  • Subscribe To An On Demand Streaming Service - This isn't exactly television but it's the next best thing. Hulu offers a very basic free service that includes older shows that have aired some time again along with various movies. Beyond that you can get Hulu+ or Netflix which offer new TV shows and a large number of recent and popular movies. You won't get any movies that were just released but generally when they become available on DVD you can find them on Hulu Plus or Netflix. Again, they don't have every title and you can never be 100% certain what they are going to get, but they have a pretty wide selection of various stuff. Hulu Plus and Netflix both cost just $7.99 per month. Netflix also offers a more expensive family plan for $11.99 per month that allows for it to be used on up to 4 devices at once. Sharing this service with four friends is a great way to reduce your cost. Netflix and Hulu can be watched via your computer along with there being several ways to get the stream onto your television: either directly via your computer and HDMI, by using a set top box (see below), or straight through your TV apps if you have a newer wifi enabled television. They are a great option to augment free over-the-air channels or an excellent cheap alternative to cable or satellite. Netflix also offers a rental program for $7.99 per month where you can rent unlimited DVDs that automatically mailed to you with prepaid, pre-addressed return envelopes. Another streaming option is Amazon prime and Amazon Instant Video. Amazon prime offers similar services but at a yearly rate of $79. This averages out to $6.59 per month but the consensus it that their selection of shows and movies is much smaller and it is worth the extra $1.50 per month to go with Hulu or Netflix. Amazon Instant Video gives users the option to pay for 24 hour or lifetime rentals of various movies and next day television shows. These generally run at around $2-$3 for one day rentals and $15 for lifetime access.
  • Buy A Set Top Box - The streaming services discussed above are a great segue into set-top boxes, which are generally used to help users access all of their media services through a single platform. Things seems to get a little confusing here as they can be used to access your streaming services, cable, satellite, and over-the-air signals. You can basically pick and choose what different forms of media you want and access all of them via the boxes platform. It's essentially a way to take any type of streaming that is on your computer and put it onto your TV, quickly and easily. I actually know someone that uses a set-top box and subscribers to both Netflix and Hulu Plus along with making rentals via Amazon Instant Video and Blockbuster on Demand. They also have an outdoor digital antenna that they use for watching local channels. It's actually a very simple setup that gets them local channels and everything Hulu and Netflix have to offer for just $16 per month. This is all done through one of the more popular set-top boxes knows as the Roku streaming player. Of course there are many different ones to choose from and we have highlighted two of the more popular ones below.
  • Roku Box - With the Roku you can stream or watch any of the services above along with many other free streams such as HBO GO, Pandora, Spotify, MGO Movies & TV, Crackle, Watch ESPN, PBS, Fox New streaming, NBC news, and much much more. Basically put, just about anything that is streamed over the internet can quickly and easily be pulled up for your viewing via the Roku platform. There are four different Roku boxes, the Roku 1, Roku 2, Roku 3, and Roku LT. Each of them varies just a bit but generally provides the same functions. The service does not come with a subscription fee but rather it is a one-time cost just to purchase device. Depending on which model you choose the price ranges from $50-$100. 
  • Apple TV - Apple TV allows you to stream anything directly to your television from Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, Youtube, WSJ Live, Watch ABC, Skynews, MLB Soccer, NBA, NHL Gamecenter, Vevo, Vimeo, and much more. Their abundance of options is very similar to Roku but there are a few added benefits to the Apple TV if you have other Apple products. For example, if you have a Mac or any iOS device such as a iPhone or iPad you can automatically show it on your TV by using Apples AirPlay technology. It is super small and efficient, using very little energy and fitting in the palm of your hand. It is also very easy to setup, just plug the power cord into an outlet and the Apple TV to your television using an HDMI cable. With Apple TV you can also purchase shows and movies from iTunes and watch them directly on your TV. The device comes at a one-time cost of $99.
  • Get Google Chromecast - Google has come out with the Chromecast which allows you to stream from Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play directly from your laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet and put it straight onto your television screen. Google Play's extensive online movie and music libraries make it very appealing and provide a wide range of programming options. At this point it is simply a more basic version of the Apple TV or Roku and as such it costs just $35. One drawback with Chromecast is that you cannot play any locally stored media of your own as you can with most other set-top boxes. 
  • Get An Android TV Box or Dongle - Android TV appears to be Googles replacement to their failed experiment with Google TV and it is similar to both Chromecast and set-top boxes in that it can function as either. You simply need a box or HDMI stick that runs the Android operating system and you can start using Android TV. Each dongle is essentially a mini computer that allows you to run the Android operating system directly on your TV and basically turns it into a computer. This allows you to access movies, android games, Youtube, Showbox, Netflix, Hulu, XBMC, and the Google Play store. It also allows you to access the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, 1Channel, Icefilms, Whatsapp, Enamel, MSN, Spotify, and much more. There are many different Android TV dongles ad boxes that can be used with their prices varying greatly.
  • Use Your Video Game Console - Newer video game consoles are more limited than set-top boxes but they are able to do a lot of the same things. For example, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii, and Wii U all allow you to stream anything from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu, or any other compatible video apps. You can also play any local media that you have by putting in on a USB stick. In fact, the new Xbox One got its name after being touted by the company as a truly all-in-one entertainment system for games, movies, music, sports, and live TV.

Satellite TV vs. Cable TV Comparision Chart

Below we have provided a comparison chart that lists the differences between satellite and cable television. Each of these services has its own advantages and disadvantages. In general you get mostly the same programming with each, however there are some subtle differences that could make all the difference depending on your viewing habits. Do you want more HD channels? Is sports programming the most important thing to you? Or are you looking for simple and basic TV that doesn't require any cable box, receiver, DVR, satellite dish or any other equipment? These are all important things to consider when making a decision. Still, for some it won't make much of difference at all. It is in your best interest to look into all options carefully before making a decision. Especially if you decide to go with satellite, since it generally requires a contract.

The process of choosing a television service provider can be quite difficult and confusing and our chart should make things just a bit easier for you. Of course, going with a paid service is not a must, and you could always settle for free over-the-air TV with a digital TV converter box or a newer TV with a built in digital tuner..

*This chart has been updated as of February 2014. All Information Contained Within This Chart Is Deemed Reliable But Not Guaranteed Due To The Ever Changing Nature Of The Television Industry. We will however make every effort to update this chart whenever changes occur.



Satellite TVCable TV
Total Number Of SubscribersOver 30 million subscribers40 million subscribers
Signal Technology100% digitalAnalog and digital
Equipment NeededSatellite dish and receiverAnalog - none, digital - cable box
Start up CostsAll equipment and installation free with a 2 year contactFree or small activation fee
Contract OptionsContract almost always required - Includes discounted prices for the first year of serviceGenerally month-to-month with discounted prices for the first 6-12 months
Number of HD Channels200 full-time HDTV channelsUp to 200 HD channels but generally less than Satellite
Programming PackagesPrices starting at $20 for as little as 55 channels and ranging all the way up to over 285 channels for $92.99 per month (Reg. $129.99)Prices starting at $30 for as little as 15-20 channels and ranging all the way up to over $100 for 200+ channels.
Pricing ComparisonLower intro packages and lower on a per channel basis. Higher overall bill if you go with the premium or several add on packages.Generally more expensive on a per channel basis.
Average Price For 100 Channel Package$30$50
Movie PackagesHBO The Works, STARZ Super Pack, Showtime Unlimited, CinemaxHBO The Works, STARZ, Showtime, Cinemax
Sports PackagesClear leader in sports program offerings with Sunday NFL Ticket, MLB Extra Innings, NCAA Mega March Madness, NBA League Pass, NHL Center Ice, ESPN Full Court and MLS Direct Kick.Wide range of various local, regional, and national sports packages. More limited than satellite offerings
Local ChannelsIncluded for free with all packagesIncluded for free with all packages
Geographical AvailabilityAvailable anywhere nationwide via satellite signalsOnly available where wiring and infrastructure is already set up
Customer Service AvailabilityOutsourced. 24 hours per day via email, chat, or phone. 7 days a week. (phone hours limited)Walk In Stores. 24 hours per day via email, chat, or phone. 7 days a week. (phone hours limited)
Customer Service RatingFairly high but limited without the ability to walk into a store meet directly with customer service repsRated higher than satellite due to storefronts that provide the ability to meet directly with service reps
Equipment WarrantyUsually 12 months6-12 months
Special DiscountsExtremely aggressive discounts in the first year for all two year contracts with regular prices for the second yearOften offers an introductory special for 6-12 months then regular price for the rest of the time you have service
Online Streaming OptionsStreaming of some live and previously aired programsVery limited streaming options
DVR OptionsStandard and Premium DVR services offered for an additional feeStandard and Premium DVR services offered for an additional fee
Online Streaming OptionsStream most shows the day after they air along with thousands of on demand programming options.Thousands of live and on demand options
Cost For Additional Receivers/Digital Box$5-$7 per month$5-$10 per month

Features Comparison Chart Of 100s Of Different TV Converter Boxes

Brand Model S-Video Analog pass
Through
Smart antenna Universal Remote


Other features
Access HD DTA1010-U No No Yes Yes


D, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1010-D No No Yes No


D, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1020-U No No No Yes


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1020-D No No No No


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1020A-U No Yes No Yes


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1020A-D No Yes No No


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1030-U No Yes No Yes


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1030-D No Yes No No


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1050-U No Yes No Yes


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1050-D No Yes No No


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1080-U No Yes No Yes


D, E, L, -N, V
Access HD DTA1080-D No Yes No No


D, E, L, -N, V
Airlink 101 ATVC101 No No No No


C
Airlink 101 ATVC102 No Yes No No


C
ALPHA DIGITAL AT-2016 No Yes Yes No


D, V

AMTC AT-2016 No No Yes No




Apex DT250 Yes Yes Yes No


C, D, L, V

Apex DT502 Yes Yes Yes No


C, D, L, -N, R, V

Apex DT1001 Yes No Yes No


C, U
Apex DT250A Yes Yes Yes No




Apex DT502A Yes Yes Yes No




Apex DTA250A Yes Yes Yes No




Apex DT1002 No No No No




Apex DTA205A No Yes No No




Apex DT150 No No No No




Apex DT500 No Yes No No




Artec T3A No No No No


D, E
Artec T3AP No Yes No No


C, D, E
Artec T3Ap Pro No Yes No No


D, E
AVION ATB 7707 No No No No




CADENCE DTVC-9 No No Yes No




CASTi CAX-02 Unknown Yes Unknown Unknown


C, P

CASTi CAX-01 No No No No


C, D, P, V
CASTi CAX-03 No Yes No Yes


C, D, L, V
CASTi CAX-04 No Yes No Yes


C, D, L, V
Channel Master CM-7000 Yes No No No


D, L, V
Clear Tech CTDCB100 Unknown No Unknown Unknown




COSHIP N9900T No No No No




COSHIP N9988T No No No No


D, L, V
Craig CVD508 No Yes Yes No


D, V
Daewoo DAC-100 No No No No


D
Daytek CAX-01 No No No No


C, D, P
Denca NL8118 Unknown No Unknown No


C, P
Denca NL8119 Unknown No Unknown No


C, P
Denca TBX1005A Unknown No No Unknown




Digital Stream DX8700 Unknown Yes Yes Unknown


C, P
Brand Model S-Video Analog pass
Through
Smart antenna Universal Remote


Other features
Digital Stream DSP6500R Unknown No Unknown Unknown


C, P
Digital Stream DSP7700T No No Yes Unknown


C, P
Digital Stream DSP7700P No Yes No Yes


C, P
Digital Stream DSP7500T No No No Unknown


C, P
Digital Stream DTX9900 No No No Yes


C, D, L, P, V
Digital Stream DTX9950 No Yes No Yes


C, D, L, P, V
DISH Network DTVPal No Yes No No


D, E, T, R, V
DISH Network DTVPal Plus No Yes No No


D, E, T, R, V
EchoStar TR-40 CRA No Yes No No


D, E, T, R, V
Falcon FT-200 Unknown Unknown Unknown No


C, P
Fuyai ATSC 630 Unknown No No Unknown




GE 22729 No No Yes No


C, D, L, R, V
GE 22730 No No No No


C, R, V
GE 23333 No Yes Yes No


C, D, L, R, V
GE 23334 No Yes No No


C, D, L, R, V
Goodmind DTA980 Unknown No Unknown No


C
Goodmind DTA900 No No No No


C
Goodmind DTA1000 No No Yes No


C
Gridlink GLT-200
GLT-200
No No No No




Gridlink GLT-300 No No No No




iNET Access SSR1921 No Yes Yes No


D, L
Insignia NS-DXA1 No No No No


C, D, L, P, -S, V
Insignia NS-DXA1-APT No Yes No No


C, D, L, P, V
Jiuzhou DTT6000 Unknown No Unknown No




Jiuzhou DTT9001 Unknown Yes Unknown No




jWIN Electronic Corp JD-TV1000 Unknown No Unknown No




Kingbox K8V1 No No No No




Kingbox K8V8 No No No No




Lasonic LTA-260 No No No No




Magnavox TB100MG9 No Yes No No


D, L
Magnavox TB100MW9 No No No No


C, D, L, P
Magnavox TB100MW9A No Yes No No


C, D, L, P
MaxMedia MMDTVB03 Yes Yes Yes No




MaxMedia MMDTVB02 Unknown Unknown Unknown No




MaxMedia LuTRO No Yes No No


T
MicroGEM MG2000 No No No No


D, E, L, V
Microprose MPI-500 No No No No


E, V
Microprose MPI-500PT No Yes No No


E, V
Mustek MAT-K50 No No Yes No




Olevia DTA100 Unknown No Unknown No




Philco TB150HH9 No Yes Yes No


D
Philco TB100HH9 No Yes No No


C, D, L
RCA DTA800A No No No No


C, -N, P
RCA DTA800B No No Yes Yes


C, D, L, -N, P
RCA DTA800B1 No Yes Yes Yes


C, D, L, -N, P
RCA DTA809 No Yes Yes Yes


C, D, L, P
RCA DTA809L No Yes Yes Yes


C, D, L, P
RCA STB7766G1 No Yes No Yes


C, D, L, P
Sansonic FT300RT No No No No


C, E, P
Sansonic FT300A No No No No


C, E, P
Skardin DTR-0727L Unknown Yes Unknown No


C, P
Sunkey SK-801ATSC No Yes No No


D, E, C, L, V
SVA DAC100 Unknown No Unknown No




Synergy Global Supply SYN2009 Unknown No Unknown No




TATUNG TDB3000 No No Yes No


E
TATUNG TDB3001 No Yes Yes No




Tivax STB-T9 No No Yes No


D, E, L, V
Tivax STB-T8 No Yes Yes No


C, D, L, V
Tunbow E60010 No No No No




Venturer STB7766G No No No Yes


E, L
Venturer STB7766G1 No Yes No No


E, L, V
Winegard RC-DT09 No No No No


C, D, E, L, -S, V
Winegard RC-DT09A No Yes No No


C, D, E, L, -S, V
Zenith DTT900 No No No No


C, D, L, P, -S, V


Zenith


DTT901
No Yes No Yes


C, D, L, P, V
Zentech DF2000 No No No No


C, D, E, L, V
Zentech DF2000L No Yes No No


C, D, E, L, V
Zinwell ZAT-756A Unknown No Unknown No




Zinwell ZAT-736 No No No No




Zinwell ZAT-856 No No No No




Zinwell ZAT-950 No No No No


C, D, E, L, T
Zinwell ZAT-857 No No No No




Zinwell ZAT-950A No Yes No No


C, D, E, L, T
Zinwell ZAT-970 No No No No


C, D, E, L, T
Zinwell ZAT-970A No Yes No No


C, D, E, L, T