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The user-friendly set-top box for your parents

The user-friendly set-top box for your parents

Have you taught your parents to sign up for Netflix and Hulu? Did you download a few movies from Amazon, so they could watch, even with their grandchildren? Have you started to doubt whether the Disney movie marathons or binge-watching some shows they like best on their laptop or tablet will be a good idea? In that case, it's best to start thinking about convincing them to buy a set-top box and start using the Internet on their HDTV or 4K.

Trust us, it's a good decision. Even if you find it difficult to choose since there is already a considerable range on offer, you have to admit that the most difficult in this choice comes down to only two questions:

  1. What do they want to see?
  2. What do they want to do with the Android TV box?

If they want to watch their favorite shows or listen to their favorite music, most applications, such as Netflix or Spotify, have versions for almost all platforms available. What if they want to see their own videos and pictures, or listen to their MP3s, or use the phone as a remote control? Choosing a set-top box is something that requires a certain balance between features and content, and the right choice is difficult to find if you are missing something.

In this article, we're not going to tell you which Android TV box you should suggest they buy, but we can help you choose the best one for your parents' needs. Let us help you see which features and applications are most important to them.

First things, first

The television industry is changing rapidly. Both hardware, software and the content we usually call television. And this change is so fast that consumers are rightly wary of investing in new technology that may be obsolete next year. (3D TVs, anyone?)

And because clients who are paralyzed by change are not customers, companies are starting to get worried and think of something like "protection for the future", a form of insurance against innovation. Samsung has a number of TVs that connect to the internet and even suggest what you should watch. But the South Korean company goes further; so as not to lose its customers it began to ensure that if you buy a high-end device, you can upgrade it next year with a "smart evolution" cartridge that fits on the back of the TV.

But this kind of electronic subterfuge proves that the future is a game for fools. Screen quality, the most important feature of any television, cannot be upgraded without buying a brand-new device, and there are easier ways to keep up with the latest applications connected to the Internet.

This customer paralysis is well demonstrated by an NPD Group study which states that in relation to the early adopters of Smart TVs in the United States, less than half used the internet connection. In fact, one of the conclusions of the study is quite clear in saying that "Internet-connected TVs are used to watch TV." And this conclusion says it all.

All have some kind of solution

The best solution, at least for consumers, is to separate the waters. TV makers should stop dazzling people with the intelligence of their televisions. Instead, they should focus on the quality of their screen and the connectivity of the device, presenting many input ports to connect other devices more dedicated to the content. This, by the way, is not a new solution, since most people already receive their cable TV signal through a set-top box, and it is inevitable that consumers will choose to get their favorite applications, such as Netflix and Hulu, this way too.

There is more and more content to be transmitted online. The most direct approach to accessing these contents on your television is simply to connect a computer to the TV. But most people find this somewhat impractical and, to be honest, few people have a computer to spare at home. Then there are the offers from Samsung and other TV manufacturers, but the interfaces, though better, continue to alienate the user, and even if you want to customize them, the software will not.

The idea of modularity in your living room allows you to save more money and make the system much more flexible. Set-top boxes, Android TV boxes to be precise, are the modular solution to this problem. Each has its own limitations, but they are inexpensive, easy to use and can easily be transported and connected to any other television you have.

Choosing a set-top box

When you buy a set-top box, you'll see that one of the great advantages is the remote control designed to make it easier to see your favorite programs through your favorite applications, like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc. Another advantage is the very intuitive interface created to easily manage all the broadcasting features, including the search for satellite channels or on-air channels if you opt for a hybrid Android TV. This is of the utmost importance when you are choosing something for your parents or children to use.

Ultimately, no set-top box is useful if it does not help you find what you want to see. If it does not allow you to view the videos you've made and if it does not allow you to listen to music, whether it's downloaded or streamed, what is it? As there is a great chance your parents' TV is connected to the best sound system in your home (we reckon you think about quality when you offer something to your parents, of course!), so it's wise to use it for them to listen to their music and see the videos of the grandchildren you made, in all their splendour.

Storage

If they're only interested in television broadcasting, they may not need storage space, but if you've created a library of music and movies for your kids (their grandchildren), you might want a device that stores and plays those files too.

Buying an Android TV box with internal storage has benefits: you can download all your media files and watch on your TV screen.

Games

If you want your children to play at your parents' house, plus everything else on your set-top box, there are some great options. First of all, there are, of course, the usual consoles: Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which have the same features available on your hardware as a set-top box.

If your priority is the television function, and the ability to play comes in second, you can count on many options and some hybrid set-top boxes that include gamepads, so you can enjoy the best of their abilities.

Interface

The "Babysitter Test" is often mentioned when talking about remote controls and it is very important when it comes to interfaces for a set-top box. Can you turn on the TV, put the remote control in someone's hand and have them figure out how to use the box? Can you figure this out on your own? There's a balance between simplicity, features and usability, and where you can place your remote control at the center of this Venn diagram; then you have reason to be glad you found a set-top box for your parents to buy.

File Support

If your parents buy an Android TV box with an internal storage system or a local wireless transmission support, make sure the set-top box can actually play your files.

When you evaluate a set-top box for them to buy, think about the type of video and sound files it supports. You have to be sure that Android TV box supports the files you need, such as MPEG-4, AVC, MVC (for video), MP3, AAC or FLAC (for audio). The greater the variety of different formats, the better for you and them. Because in that way you can look at your library of movies and music differently and with some hope.