Set-top Box : The Technology Behind

Set-top box or STB in short is a consumer electronics product with which a TV is connected and it offers the user additional usages than direct cable line. Some types of Set-top Box also require a satellite receiver for proper function of the main unit. There are different types of interfaces in these Set-top Box models in order to connect to the television sets and additional Set-top Box recorders.


Set-top Box : The Basics


As this article on Set-top Box is for the consumers, not really of our niche, we will not to much technical details. We will touch the major important points. There are basically three types of Set-top Box modules:


  1. Active : Provides the basic functions. The name active is actually a misnomer.
  2. Passive : Adds the capabilities of the basic Active unit, but that do not themselves provide new features.
  3. Bidirectional : Provides both active and passive functions like all types of recording options.


Set-top Box can play media like DVD if they are interactive, the recording of received data varies widely (like satellite , internet etc.) or methods (digital, analog, encrypted or non encrypted). Nowadays there are TV models with integrated DVD drives, or DVB -receiver (s) so Set-top Box selection is an important point. Exotic Set-top Box receives data from weather stations and at least has basic Internet access option. And external advertising filter and home automation controls are usually provided.


Set-top Box : Connectors


Set-top Box
Image : Semi-Shattered image of a Set-top box, adapted from Wikimedia and modified by Dr. Abhishek Ghosh by labeling. Licensed under GNU GPL 2.0.

There are different types of interfaces in order to connect to the television sets and Set-top Box. The classic universal method is to use a UHF modulator via a coaxial antenna cable. So there are analog connector and protocol as well as S-video option. Audio inputs and outputs are often through RCA jacks or running plugs. For digital image and data transfer, the industry relies on DVI, FireWire (IEEE 1394), Ethernet, HD-SDI and HDMI. For information on these connectors, please read our specific article on Audio and Video Connectors.


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