Where Is the Digital TV Tuner?

Tuners may be built-in or external

Any television bought after March 2007 probably has a built-in digital tuner, although a few TVs sold after that date do not. The digital TV tuner makes it possible for your television to receive and display a digital signal. All over-the-air broadcasts in the U.S. have been digital since 2009, so to watch TV, you need a television with a digital tuner to watch even free broadcast shows. A tuner might be built-in, be an external digital TV tuner box connected to the TV, or be built into a set-top box provided by a cable or satellite company.

Cable and satellite companies scramble digital signals from and require a tuner to view them. In contrast, broadcast TV stations do not encrypt digital TV signals, and your TV tuner can process them.

This information applies to almost every television manufacturer, including but not limited to LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Zenith.

Old television on stand, in front of curtain
Steven Errico / Getty Images​Owner

Where Is the Digital TV Tuner?

When you are watching broadcast digital TV signals on an older analog TV, the digital TV tuner is in the DTV converter box.

When you are watching broadcast digital TV signals on digital or high-definition television, then the digital tuner is inside the TV.

An exception occurs if your digital TV is a digital monitor.

For cable and satellite subscribers, the digital TV tuner is in the set-top box that your provider gave you unless you are one of the few people who use a CableCard. Then the tuner is the CableCard.

How to Tell If Your Older TV Has a Built-in Digital TV Tuner

If you aren't sure if your TV has a tuner, there are a few ways you can find out.

  • Check the owner's manual that came with your TV. 
  • Look on the front and back of the TV for a marking that indicates a digital tuner. It might say ATSC, DTV, HDTV, Digital Ready, HD Ready, Digital Tuner, Digital Receiver, Digital Tuner Built-in or Integrated Digital Tuner.
  • Locate the model number of the TV and check the specifications on the manufacturer's website.

About External Tuners

If you find out your television predates internal tuners and you don't have a cable or satellite set-top box that contains a tuner, you need an external digital TV tuner. Most big box and electronic stores carry a good selection. Some allow the recording of digital content.

External TV tuners require a strong signal to provide excellent reception. Digital signals are more sensitive to distance and obstructions than older analog signals are. If you live in a remote area, you might be able to amplify a weak existing signal using an antenna made for this purpose.

If there is no signal at all, an antenna won't help. It also won't allow you to watch TV without a digital tuner, and it won't turn your old analog TV into an HDTV or Ultra TV

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