Best Freesat box 2022: The best set-top boxes and recorders for free satellite TV


Get HD satellite TV subscription-free with the best Freesat receivers and recorders

If you live in an area with a weak TV signal and can't get the full range of channels, you need the best Freesat box you can afford.

For most of us, live TV now means either Freeview - with HD signals hitting our TVs or set-top boxes through the good old-fashioned aerial - or streaming via apps like BBC iPlayer on a smart TV.

But if you don't own a smart television, TV signal is poor where you live or you want to make use of an existing satellite dish without forking out for Sky, a Freesat box is the answer.

Freesat provides access to over 200 TV channels through your dish, along with a few exciting extras. Below, you'll find a comprehensive buying guide that explains both what Freesat is and how to choose the best Freesat box for you. If you already know what's what, you'll find our pick of the best Freesat boxes further down the page.

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Best Freesat boxes: At a glance

How to choose the best Freesat box for you

Before you can get Freesat up and running on your TV, you’re going to need two things: a dish, if you don’t already have one, and either a TV that supports Freesat or a set-top box. Some Samsung, LG and Panasonic TVs support Freesat directly, and all you need to do is plug in the coaxial cable coming through the wall; check the manual and look for the distinctive satellite input socket (it sticks out and has a screw thread running around it) to see if this might be the case with yours. You can also check a list on the Freesat website. If not, you need a separate set-top box.

What is Freesat and how does it compare to Freeview?

Freesat is the satellite equivalent of Freeview, delivering SD and HD programmes – along with digital radio – to your TV via a satellite dish. You get access to more than 200 channels, including all the major UK channels, some slightly more obscure UK channels, some foreign-language channels and the usual specialist sport, adult, special interest and religious odds and ends.

If you live in an area with a good Freeview signal, then we’d usually recommend getting that instead, not least because, while Freesat has all the BBC’s HD channels and ITV’s too, it’s lost access to Channel 4 HD and All 4. You will get some other HD channels to compensate, but they can’t really make up for the inability to watch The Great British Bake-Off, Derry Girls and Gogglebox. Of course, if you have a smart TV or streaming stick/box, then you can still watch them in HD through the All 4 app. Sadly, this also doesn’t seem to be available on some Freesat boxes.

If you can’t get a good Freeview signal, however, then this is the best way to get HD TV that doesn’t involve forking over a monthly subscription fee to Sky. Just be aware that, if you don’t have an existing dish you’ll need to budget for that as well. Here it’s wise to shop around and use a reputable local installer; some will charge upwards of £250 to £300 for a basic installation.

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What should you look for in a Freesat HD box?

Like their Freeview cousins, Freesat boxes are also evolving for the catch-up TV age, with the latest Freesat-branded models including an Ethernet port and/or Wi-Fi so that you can watch Netflix, iPlayer and YouTube through the box. More importantly, many will now let you watch catch-up TV without leaving the TV guide, just by scrolling to the left from the current hour and selecting whatever programme you want to watch. Not all programmes will be available this way, but it’s easier than having to switch between separate catch-up TV apps while you try to find your favourite show.

In the last year or so Freesat has begun selling its own Freesat-branded boxes, while the other manufacturers have focused more on Freeview Play devices. This means there’s not an awful lot of choice out there, so it’s lucky that the Freesat-branded units are very good indeed. There are also still some 4K TVs that come with a Freesat receiver built-in, though these will come with major limitations if you plan to record as well as view.

There are also some units available from eBay and Amazon that promise to give you free satellite TV. However, these don’t have the Freesat branding, use the same services or provide the same user-friendly interface, so you may not be able to get the UK channels you want with the picture quality you’d like. Generally speaking, we’d advise approaching these with caution and sticking to the real Freesat deal.

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Is there anything else to look out for?

Dolby 5.1 surround sound is now standard, and Freesat’s own Freesat 4K TV boxes also support Dolby Atmos. As the name suggests, these units are also 4K-ready, and while there aren’t any 4K Freesat channels at the time of writing, you can watch 4K Netflix and YouTube content from your box.

Otherwise, the main things to watch out for are picture quality and the EPG (electronic programme guide, or more simply, the menu). There are still a few older units out there running old-fashioned, clunky EPGs that look ugly and make finding a programme or setting a recording a real chore. What’s more, Freesat and the remaining Freesat box manufacturers have worked hard in the past few years to build much more stylish and functional EPGs with proper Now and Next views and additional sections where you might find a showcase of hit programmes or catch-up TV features.

Finally, don’t forget the remote control. This is one area where budget Freeview and Freesat boxes consistently go wrong, and it can make a surprisingly big difference in everyday use, particularly if it’s uncomfortable with badly positioned buttons.

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The best Freesat boxes you can buy

1. Manhattan SX: The best budget Freesat HD box

Price: £59 | Buy now from Argos

While there are a few no-brand boxes that will show all the free-to-air channels, the Manhattan SX is the cheapest unit to give you the full Freesat service. Luckily, it’s a great budget box. It’s an extremely compact set-top box with a square-ish profile and an interesting film strip effect on the front. Setting it up is as simple as plugging in the power and connecting the HDMI output – or the bundled analogue AV kit for older TVs – then running through a quick configuration process.

It’s not the most feature-packed box, with no catch-up TV services or streaming apps to mention, despite the Ethernet port at the rear. This and the single USB port are reserved for use in software updates. However, Manhattan has developed a smooth, good-looking eight-day EPG with proper Now and Next views, reminders and a filtered channel list. What’s more, both picture and sound quality are up to scratch. If you already have catch-up and streaming covered and you’re not bothered with recording, this is all the box you need to watch TV.

Key specs – Dimensions: 120 x 130 x 26.5mm; Tuners: Freesat HD; HDD: none; Smart Apps: none; Connections: Satellite in, Ethernet, HDMI, 3.5mm AV out, USB

Buy now from Argos

2. Freesat 4K TV Box (Non-Recordable): The best Freesat TV receiver

Price: £129 | Buy now from Amazon

Freesat’s own-brand STB has everything going for it, including a nicely compact design, built-in Wi-Fi and an optical out. It’s also more future-proof than previous Freesat receivers, with 4K output, Dolby Atmos audio and support for 4K Freesat broadcasts should they roll out in the future.

Right now, it’s a great receiver, with excellent picture quality and a snappy, no-nonsense user interface that’s focused on helping you find and watch your favourite programmes. It’s intuitive and easy to use, and even the remote control is up to scratch.

Our one complaint is that, while it has most catch-up TV services covered, with the option to roll back to earlier programmes from the TV guide, the on-demand options don’t include All4 or Now. Still, if you already have a TV or streaming device to cover them, then buy away.

Key specs – Dimensions: 180 x 120 x 40mm; Tuners: 1x Freesat UHD; HDD: none; Smart Apps: iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5, STV Player, BBC Sport, BBC News, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Horror Bites, France24, UKTV Play. Connections: Satellite in, Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2, optical out, 802.11n Wi-Fi

3. Freesat Recordable 4K TV Box 2TB: The best Freesat Recorder

Price: £269 | Buy now from Amazon

Freesat’s Recordable 4K TV Box gives you everything great about the non-recording version but with a choice of 500GB, 1TB or 2TB hard disks and dual Freesat tuners, so that you can record one channel while watching another at the same time. It’s easy to set up recordings, complete with series link, and the unit does a nice job of handling clashes and letting you know that there’s an HD version of a programme available when you’re about to record it in SD.

It’s just as easy to find and play your recordings, and the image quality looks just like the original broadcast – not something that all Freeview recorders are able to boast. Throw in the same catch-up TV services, built-in streaming and great, no-nonsense user interface, and this is a better Freesat recorder than the old and much-loved Humax HDR-1100S. That’s lucky, as there’s no real competition, so it’s practically the best Freesat recorder by default.

Avoid the 500GB version – you’ll run short of recording space in no time – and go straight to at least the 1TB version. The 2TB version is an extra £40 - if you like to keep your favourite programmes stored for watching later it's definitely worth the additional outlay.

Key specs – Dimensions: 250 x 150 x 35mm; Tuners: 2x Freesat UHD; HDD: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB; Smart Apps: iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5, STV Player, BBC Sport, BBC News, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Horror Bites, France24, UKTV Play; Connections: Satellite in, Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2, optical out, 802.11n Wi-Fi

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