Last updated: August 12, 2021

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Welcome to ReviewBox! To make your television work perfectly, there are many device options on the market. Do you know how to choose a decoder, converter or digital receiver? If the answer is no and you don't even know the differences between them, rest assured!

Since Brazilian TV started its transition from analogue to digital, much has been said about devices like these. Today, there are many reasons for you to have one in your home. In this article, we will bring several guidelines and information about each one of them. You will be able to acquire the best model for your needs.




Summary

  • The set-top box is a device that receives the pay-TV signal and transforms it to be displayed on the TV set. It also has several other multimedia and programming control features that are quite important.
  • Unlike a set-top box, digital receivers and converters can also be very important, each in its own way and with its own uses.
  • Using a decoder to receive a pay-TV signal without subscribing to one is a crime and can result in serious legal sanctions.

The Best Decoder: Our Picks

Buying Guide

Now, calmly, we're going to answer all your questions about decoders, receivers and digital converters! It's time to tell you what each one of these devices can offer you!

We've selected the most frequently asked questions we've found on the subject and put together an ideal buying guide to bring you lots of useful information.

Imagem mostra um homem assistindo a um jogo da seleção brasileira em uma televisão.

With a good decoder, you have a new experience watching TV. (Source: Gustavo Ferreira/ Unsplash.com)

What is a decoder?

Decoders, converters and digital receivers are devices capable of transforming a signal that comes from an external source, usually an antenna or cable, and turn it into an image for television.

Having one of these devices is basically indispensable nowadays, since practically every television needs an intermediary device to tune the channels, and the old practice of connecting it directly to the cable coming down from the antenna is becoming rare.

Those who have older televisions need to transform the digital image to make it compatible with the analog system, and those who subscribe to cable or fiber optic services need a device that decodes the channels and displays them in a way compatible with the contracted plan.

Therefore, almost every household has a device such as a decoder, converter or digital receiver. To receive quality image, you need to understand which one is the most suitable!

Did you know that cable TV in Brazil emerged from a decree? In 1988, the then president José Sarney regulated what was known at the time as "Serviço Especial de Televisão por Assinatura".

Initially, channels offered their services separately. The first ones launched were the so-called Canal +, which retransmitted the content of the North American ESPN, and Super Canal, compressing CNN, RAI and TVM.

What are the differences between decoder, receiver and digital converter?

We've talked a lot about the existence of digital decoders, receivers and converters. It's time, then, to explain what the differences are.

  • Decoder: It is mainly related to pay-TV services. It is the device that receives the signal and transmits it to the television, also allowing several types of adjustments and settings.
  • Receiver: A device similar to the decoder, however, related to the parabolic antenna. It can be analogical, digital or HD, depending on the television characteristics. It also offers some configuration possibilities, but less than a decoder.
  • Digital converter: It is the device responsible for receiving a digital signal and transforming it into analogical. Important for old television sets since the end of analogical transmission in the Brazilian territory.

So, although physically similar, the devices have different functions. We prepared a table to explain the subject a little more didactically:

Decoder Receiver Digital converter
Main function Receive and decode pay TV signal Receive signal from satellite dish Transform digital TV signal into analogical
Indication of use For pay TV subscribers For those who use satellite dish Who makes use of old TV sets

Which of these devices is ideal for my home?

To know exactly which device you need to have in your home, there is a question to be asked: What is the origin of the television signal it receives?

If it is via pay TV, you need a decoder. Most of the time, the operators already offer this device for free, but eventually you may want to upgrade.

For a satellite dish, the receiver is the right choice. And there are a few subdivisions: analogue, digital or HD models.

If you have an old television, the analogue receiver is ideal. For models that are already compatible with digital signals, but are not so modern, go for the digital one. And if your device is really modern, an HD can do miracles with the image!

The digital converter is used for traditional signal, via common antenna, and for old television sets, compatible only with analogical image.

Nothing stops you from having more than one! For example, if you are a cable TV subscriber, but with only one point, you can have a decoder for this point and a converter for an old TV that is in another room.

What are the advantages of a decoder?

Having a good decoder can bring you a number of advantages. Picture quality, security and control of TV settings are the main ones.

You will need to buy a decoder if you already subscribe to a pay TV operator and want to upgrade the equipment yourself. In this case, it will need to be compatible with the television set and can greatly improve your experience.

The decoder can bring you much higher definition pictures, it can allow you to block channels unsuitable for children, it can help you with recording or repeating programmes, it can give you access to picture mosaics and much more.

It doesn't do the work of a receiver or converter (unless it's a two-in-one or three-in-one device), so you need to choose the right one.

Many times, the operator itself already offers a good decoder, which may make it not recommendable to invest in a new one. Only make this purchase if you feel you really need to improve your equipment a lot.

See the table below for the main advantages and disadvantages of a decoder:

Advantages
  • Ensures high level image
  • Offers a wide range of adjustments and settings
  • Allows unsuitable programs to be blocked
  • Makes program recordings and repeats possible
Disadvantages
  • Most cable TV operators already offer quality decoders
  • Does not work as a receiver or digital converter
  • Needs to be compatible with the TV set

What types of decoders are legal in Brazil?

It is perfectly legal to buy a compatible decoder with your cable TV operator, insert your user data and use it in place of the device initially provided by the company. In this case, you are just upgrading your equipment.

Using a decoder without subscribing to the respective cable TV service is illegal

However, there are some situations in which using the decoder is illegal and may result in criminal charges against you. This is, of course, the case if you do not subscribe to any cable TV service.

There are some decoders that promise to be able to receive the signal from pay TV operators without you contracting the service. Anyone using one of these models can be prosecuted for piracy and copyright and image infringement.

How much does it cost and where to buy a decoder?

Decoders, receivers and digital converters are devices with similar price ranges. The first ones are a little more expensive, varying between £300 and £500. The others rarely cost more than £250, and most of the models are around £150.

Shops specializing in electronics and telecommunications devices may have good models of receivers, converters and decoders. You can also make your purchase over the Internet: Brazilian Amazon has excellent options, as well as Amazon international and Mercado Livre.

Purchase criteria: What to take into consideration when choosing a set-top box

As well as knowing which device is ideal for your home, it is also important to know what the main technical criteria involved in decoders are. For this reason, we have selected four key issues:

We discuss each of them in more detail below:

TV compatibility

There's no point in buying a receiver or set-top box that's ideal for HD TVs if you don't have one. No matter what type of device you need, it always needs to be compatible with your TV!

Read carefully what the compatibility specifications of the set you're going to buy are. Is it ideal for analogue TVs? LED? HD? Full HD? That way, you won't run the risk of opting for something that doesn't work and having a completely unnecessary loss!

Imagem mostra um decodificador ao lado de um controle remoto.

The decoder always needs to be compatible with the television. (Source: irynal / 123rf.com)

Carrier compatibility

When choosing a decoder, TV compatibility is not the only thing that matters: The device also needs to suit your cable TV operator. A model suitable for use with Oi will not work with NET, and so on!

The device also needs to be compatible with the access key of your plan. If the identification is made via smart card, for example, it must have an access card slot.

Check both if the decoder fits your operator, and if it uses the same technologies applied in your contracted plan!

Inputs

Technology does not stop evolving and there are more and more types of inputs on multimedia devices. A recent television has several possibilities of connections and experiences for the user and any device that connects to it needs to be at least a little aligned to this modernity.

Inputs such as HDMI and RCA are important in such things as set-top boxes and receivers

If you are going to buy a set-top box or HD receiver, it is important to check the presence of important inputs such as HDMI and RCA. They ensure better picture and sound quality as their transmissions are very efficient.

Ethernet and USB ports can also help if you want to give other dimensions to your device and allow them to have the ability to connect to the internet.

Multimedia features

The more multimedia features a set-top box has, the more it can help you. This ranges from functions that help with everyday practicality like programme recorders, mosaics and programming diagrams, to more serious issues like parental control.

The best decoders allow channels or specific programs to be blocked and can only be accessed with a password, preventing children from accessing inappropriate content, and parents have a way to know what was recently watched on a particular television.

(Source of the highlighted image: Alekseeva:137265418/ 123rf.com)

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