In an era where smart TVs are positioning themselves as all-in-one solutions for entertainment, one may wonder if there is still a need for cable boxes.
Cable boxes come from your cable TV provider at a monthly cost, or you can buy your own.
Considering the seemingly endless entertainment possibilities available on smart TVs, do you still need a cable box these days?
Here’s What You Need to Know about Smart TVs and Cable Boxes:
Cable boxes are used to broadcast cable channels from a provider live on your TV. Smart TVs can also show programs from streaming services using an Internet connection. Streaming services rely on Internet stability, while cable does not.
1. What Exactly Is a Cable Box?
A cable box is an electronic device that you plug into your TV so that you can receive cable channels from a provider.
Most TVs nowadays are cable ready, but cable companies still provide cable boxes for subscribers to access premium content, such as pay-per-view events.
2. Do You Need a Cable Box for a Smart TV?
You need a cable box for your smart TV if you want to gain access to cable TV channels or access premium cable content.
Be aware that many cable channels have corresponding apps that you can access for a minimal fee in the app store of your smart TV.
Some of these apps have fees that are bundled with your cable TV subscription.
3. What Is Cable-Ready?
Cable-ready is a term used for TVs that can be connected to cable without the need for a cable box.
This term was introduced in the era of analog TVs as manufacturers developed models that were compatible with cable.
Although smart TVs are cable-ready, the trend now has shifted to Interactive Digital Cable Ready (IDCR).
IDCR is used for smart TVs that can accept signals from digital cable and other functions found in modern cable boxes.
These features include access to pay-per-view, program guides, and video-on-demand content.
4. What’s the Difference Between a Cable Box and a Digital Box?
A cable box converts cable TV signals to a compatible frequency for your smart TV, whereas digital boxes convert over-the-air high definition or digital signals into a compatible frequency that your TV can understand.
Digital boxes are used for TVs that cannot accept high definition signals. These are usually for older TVs that can only show content in standard definition.
5. Are Cable Boxes and Satellite Boxes the Same?
Cable boxes are not the same as satellite boxes or receivers.
Cable boxes use a wired connection to receive broadcasts, while satellite boxes receive signals through a satellite dish.
While both offer the same channels, these devices decode different signals.
What makes them similar, aside from the channels they provide, is that they can also offer Internet connections.
6. How Do You Connect a Smart TV to a Cable Box?
Modern cable boxes have the option for coaxial or HDMI connection.
You can use either port to connect your cable box to your smart TV.
When connecting, make sure both devices are off for safety.
7. My Smart TV is Connected to the Cable Box But Has No Sound.
If your TV is connected to your cable box but the audio isn’t working, the first thing you can do is turn off your TV and cable box, then restart it.
If you are using the HDMI port to connect the TV and cable box, check your cable box’s audio settings. Make sure it is set to HDMI.
8. My Smart TV is Connected to a Cable Box but Has No Signal.
If your TV is connected to your cable box but has no signal, there is a network reception problem.
You don’t need to call your cable TV provider just yet, since you can do some troubleshooting on your end.
- The first thing you can do is turn off your TV and cable box for a few minutes. Then restart the two devices again.
- If that does not work, check the cable box. Some cable boxes have firmware updates that automatically update. You may encounter a No Signal issue during the update. Turn off the cable box and TV and wait for a few minutes before turning on again.
- The next thing to check is your HDMI cable and port. If you have other devices that use HDMI, such as a laptop, you might want to test your cable there to see if it connects.
- Check the port itself, and try other HDMI ports on your smart TV. If there is physical damage to your HDMI port, that can be fixed by a TV technician.
Damages to HDMI ports can happen with regular, repeated use. You can invest in self-locking HDMI cables to prevent unnecessary damage.
9. Can I Get Cable Internet to My Smart TV without a Box?
If you are using cable internet for your connection at home, you can still connect your smart TV to the web without the cable box, because a smart TV relies on a modem to connect to the Internet.
But, take note that some cable boxes double as modems for the Internet connection, which means you need to connect your router or computer to the cable box, but not have the TV function operational when using the Internet connection.
10. How Fast Should the Internet Connection Be for a Smart TV?
The Internet speed you need depends on the quality of broadcast you want.
Ideally, you need at least 3 Mbps to watch content in Standard Definition.
The required internet speed gets higher when you increase the resolution.
You will need at least five Mbps to watch content in 1080p resolution, while 25 Mbps is the least recommended speed to watch content in 4k resolution.
11. Can You Connect Smart TVs to a Coax Cable Box?
You can connect a smart TV to a coaxial cable box if it supports a coaxial connection.
12. Why Is My Smart TV Not Recognizing My Cable Box?
Here are possible reasons why your smart TV does not recognize your cable box.
Using the wrong channel or frequency
If you connect your cable box using the coaxial cable, you might want to check the channel it’s set to.
Coaxial connections work on a particular channel, which means your smart TV must be set to that channel.
Wrong HDMI port
Check that your smart TV’s HDMI port is tuned to the port where your cable box is connected. You might have changed which HDMI port you have on screen.
Check the cables and plugs
This is especially true for those who use coaxial cable to connect cable boxes to a smart TV. Unlike HDMI cables, coaxial cables rely on a thin strand of copper wire to provide a signal to your smart TV.
If that strand of copper wire gets bent or broken, your smart TV may not recognize your cable box.
A good fix here is to install a coaxial adapter, which uses a sturdier strand to connect the cable box and smart TV. It does not “screw-on” the TV’s coaxial jack but rather slides in like a regular plug.
However, even if you use HDMI, check your cables! Faulty cables might be the reason why your smart TV does not recognize your cable box.
13. Should I Still Get Cable Even if I Have a Smart TV?
If you have a smart TV, you may still want to get cable—it’s a personal preference that depends on your viewing habits.
If you prefer consuming entertainment content through services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, then you might be better off without a cable connection.
With streaming services, you can bookmark, pause, and play whenever you choose. Streaming services also give you the choice of which services you subscribe to.
Instead of paying for cable TV, on which you will probably watch a fraction of the channels regularly, you can choose which streaming services to subscribe to and cancel those that don’t meet your entertainment needs.
But the downside of streaming services is their reliance on the stability of your Internet connection.
To fully enjoy streamed programs, you must have a reliable Internet plan that matches the bandwidth requirements of your streaming services, especially when you want to watch content at 4k resolutions.
When it comes to the stability of broadcast, cable TV trumps streaming services.
Unlike on-demand services like Netflix, cable TV can display programs that are stable when broadcasted. It does not depend on the Internet.
If you live in an area with weak Internet connectivity or your Internet provider just isn’t reliable, cable can be a great option.
Cable does not give you the option to stop or skip programs, nor does it have on-demand streaming. But cable plans are the cheaper option, as a smart TV requires you to pay for a competent internet connection, plus each streaming service you subscribe to.
It is worth noting that some cable TV offerings are also crossing-over to streaming services, such as HBO. There are also TV news channels that have entered the streaming arena.
All things considered, both services have their respective advantages and disadvantages.