What Set-Top Boxes can I use with my Dumb TV?

By Bradly Spicer •  Updated: 09/26/20 •  6 min read

If you’ve been trying to turn your normal ‘dumb’ TV into a Smart TV, Set-top boxes are perfect, but which one should you go for and why? With so many on the market, it can be difficult to pick one out.

In this article, I’m going to show you our choices, which ones to avoid and some of the perks of each Set-top box.

Set-top boxes with pre-installed apps

BT YouView Box

BT YouView Set-Top Box

The BT YouView HD Box boasts UHD DTR Freeview with 7 days worth of Catch up TV. It has some fairly good reviews and allows up to 300 hours of recorded TV (Although I’m not sure on how much of that can be UHD). The free-view menu seems a tad dated for a product at around £170, however, it does come with the following apps:

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4k Set-Top Box

This device comes in two models both have different amounts of onboard storage (32GB and 64GB). If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, this is quite possibly the better option to have as it allows you to view photos and videos from your iPhone / iPad on your TV. It has Siri voice search on the remote, supports Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 Surround Sound and 4K HDR10 / Dolby Vision for quality.

The apps this device come with are:

Now TV

Now TV Streaming Stick Set-Top Box

Whilst I no longer use Now TV (Thanks to Game of Thrones), I do have to recommend the Now TV Smart Stick. It’s a great little tool for anyone who just wants to get their TV connected to the internet on a budget. It doesn’t boast any amazing features like 4K or UHD streaming but it does give you access to these great apps:

TalkTalk YouView

Talk Talk YouView Set-Top Box

I may be wrong here, but I’m fairly certain the TalkTalk YouView is just the original YouView box but rebranded as the TalkTalk TV Box (Confusing I know). If you want this box, you will need to buy it second hand or directly from a vendor on Amazon or be a TalkTalk customer. I can’t really recommend this due to that alone. Regardless, the apps it has are:

Sky Q

Sky Q Set-Top Box

Sky has always been pretty reliable for streaming TV, they were the big boys back in the day and are still fairly popular in the streaming field now. Even if that’s likely out of contractual convenience.

So, other than Sky TV, what apps can you use via the Sky Q?

Virgin Media TV Box

Virgin Media TV Set-Top Box

Another big dog trying to get into the world of Streaming. Virgin have always had either mediocre or good products in this industry, nothing really bad (Other than Virgin holidays and work ethics). You will need to use a service with Virgin for this, as such If you’re not using a Virgin Media service, just avoid this product.

The apps this product uses are:

Streaming Devices that help you turn your dumb TV into a Smart TV

Not looking for a streaming box? Not a problem, just chuck a stick in the back of your TV and be on your way, it’s so easy. A lot of these will be duplicates of the prior section of this guide due to them meeting multiple criteria

Amazon Fire Stick

Amazon Fire Stick 4K Dolby Set-Top Box

Quite honestly, my favourite device. I’ve had a few issues with it like overheating and losing internet connection. But generally speaking, it’s got the best User Interface and has the best apps by default. Not to mention you can install Plex and stream directly from your local media server.

It comes with the following apps by default, but there are over 5,000 apps you can download directly:

Apple TV

Apple TV 4k Set-Top Box

The Apple TV box is a difficult one, I consider it a set-top box but also a streaming device as it connects to the WiFi to do it’s work. As I mentioned prior, it’s great if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem and has access to these apps:

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast Set-Top Box

My second favourite in the ecosystem, if you’ve read my blog you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of the Google Ecosystem because of the way they axe companies they take over.

But, the Chromecast is pretty damn good at what it does, just like the Amazon Firestick, you just plug it in directly to the HDMI port of the TV, sign into your Google account and it’ll just work.

Apps it contains use:


Roku Streaming Stick Set-Top Box

Roku has two options, there’s a streaming stick or the Roku Box. Both of these options directly plug into your HDMI port, Roku used to be the big underdog in the streaming world. I recall everyone trying to keep hush about it due to the illegal streaming sites you could run off it directly.

Whilst this is still possible, the current Apps include:

You can install a lot more channels and apps directly on the Roku device, there’s an increasing amount every day up to around 2000 in total.

Games Consoles

Stream from Xbox & Playstation

Ever since the Xbox 360 with Windows Media Center, most modern gaming consoles have had the ability to allow you to install apps and stream directly to your TV.

Some of these devices even allow for “Watch Parties”, the major consoles that allow some form of streaming are:

Netflix isn’t available on the Wii anymore as it was discontinued on January 30th 2019.

WiFi connected Blu-Ray Players

A lot of Blu-Ray players nower days can connect to the internet. This means if your device allows it, it will likely have Netflix or Amazon Prime by default.

It really does depend on which device you go with.

Bradly Spicer

I'm a Smart Home and IT Enthusiast that loves to check out new technology and gadgets! I enjoy reading your experiences and news, so if you want to share anything or chat smart homes, definitely send me an email!