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Best Freesat Boxes And Recorders For UK TV In 2018

The UK is probably one of the best countries in the world for TV cord cutters – with Freesat, Freeview and YouView, it’s easier than ever to watch plenty of free channels, without any subscriptions.

Freesat is the satellite-based free TV solution. As such, it often offers the best reception, and best of all, you’re not relying on questionable signals in your area, but get your TV straight from… space. So if you’ve been struggling with Freeview reception and problematic aerials, Freesat might be the answer for you (plus, it offers more channels than Freeview.)

In this article, I’ll take a look at the things you need in order to get Freesat, things to consider before you buy a Freesat box, and I rate the best Freesat boxes and recorders (PVRs).

RankFreesat BoxOur RatingPrice
1Humax HDR-1100S PVR⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES
2Humax HB-1100S⭐⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES
3Revez HDTS850⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES
4SMBOX HD Freesat⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES

Best Freesat Boxes

What Is Freesat, And What Do I Need To Make It Work?

Freesat is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV, that’s been around since 2008. It offers more than 200 free-to-air TV channels and radio stations, all transmitted via digital satellite.

While similar to Freeview, Freesat was created as a solution for places where standard aerial reception is lacking. Instead of having to rely on aerial transmitters in your area, you just point your small satellite dish (usually placed on your roof) to the sky, connect that to a tuner inside the house, and you’re good to go. (There are some rare cases when your house might be blocked from facing the right direction in the sky.)

Because of the better reception and wider bandwidth, the Freesat service can offer more channels than Freeview – 20 of which are in HD. Those channels come with an easy to use Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), which shows you the TV schedule for up to 8 days in advance.

Additionally, some Freesat boxes also offer the standard streaming services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub – though you get these via your broadband connection, and not through the satellite.

Satellite in space over earth

In order to be able to watch Freesat, you need two main components:

1. A Satellite Dish: You need a dish on the roof, which will receive the transmissions from the satellite up in space. If you have an old Sky dish you might be able to use it even if you’re no longer subscribed to Sky. Otherwise, you will need to buy and install your own dish.

You can either buy a dish yourself (on Amazon for example) and then arrange an installation separately, or you can arrange an installation along with your purchase, in chains such as Currys.

Keep in mind that if you live in a rented property, conservation area or a listed building, there may be restrictions on installing satellite equipment.

2. A Freesat Tuner – The satellite dish needs to connect to a device in your house, which will translate the signals and pass them on to your telly (usually via an HDMI cable.)

You can either use a set-top Freesat box, as the ones I review in this guide, or you can get a telly with a Freesat tuner built-in – Amazon offer some very good ones from LG, Samsung and Panasonic(While All TVs manufactured and sold in the UK since 2010 should have a Freeview tuner built-in, that’s not the case with Freesat.)

Man installing TV set top box700

If you’re looking to use your Freesat box as a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and record programmes, and if you plan to use streaming apps like BBC iPlayer, you’ll also need to connect your Freesat box to the internet – either by WiFi, or with an Ethernet cable to your router. (If your TV is not in the same room as the router, you can use a Powerline Adapter – see my reviews here.)

Freesat VS. Freeview VS. YouView – What’s the difference?

I’ve mentioned Freeview already, but there’s also YouView, and they’re both different from Freesat… Confused? Don’t be.

  • Freeview: Operated by a joint venture of the BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva, Freeview provides access to almost 100 free, over-the-air channels and radio stations. To get it, you need an aerial – either one on your roof, or a cheap indoor aerial – and a Freeview tuner – either one built-into your TV, or a set-top box one which also offers recording capabilities. Read my full Freeview Guide right here.
  • YouView: A “hybrid” service that combines over-the-air Freeview channels, and catch-up TV streamed to you via your broadband connection. Some YouView boxes also offer additional pay-per-view channels and programmes, but with many Freeview boxes also offering catch-up TV these days (with FreeviewPlay), the two services have become almost identical. As with Freeview, you’ll need an aerial for the reception – and you’ll also need a broadband connection (WiFi or Ethernet) for the catch-up services.

The main difference between Freesat and Freeview/YouView is the reception – in most cases, you’ll get better reception with a satellite dish than with an aerial (especially when compared to a small, indoor aerial.) The downside, however, is that you need a satellite dish installed on your roof.

One more thing to consider, is that Channel 4 unfortunately removed their HD channel and their catch-up app from the Freesat service this year, due to cost disputes.

Buying The Best Freesat Box: Things To Consider

There aren’t many good Freesat boxes out there – but there are still distinct differences between the ones that are available – both in features and cost.

PVR And Recording: Some Freesat boxes come with a built-in hard drive, allowing you to record TV programmes for later viewing (and you can record one programme while watching another one on a different channel). Conveniently, you can also use the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) to choose future-programmes to record, so you’ll never miss your favourite shows.

If you mostly use the streaming TV apps (such as BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub), you might not need a recording box – but keep in mind that most of the UK streaming apps are catch-up services, and the programmes expire after a set number of days (28 days with the BBC iPlayer, for example).

If you are planning to record live TV shows, you also need to choose how much storage space you want your Freesat box to have, as that will determine how many hours of TV you can record.

Freesat Freetime EPG

Freesat Freetime – 7 Day Rollback: Some boxes support Freesat’s “Freetime” catch-up service, which lets you use the EPG to watch programmes that aired during the last 7 days (on 26 specific channels).

Additional Apps: As mentioned, some Freesat boxes can also be used as internet streamers, in which case you’ll want them to have the relevant apps. Some boxes also have a Netflix app built-in, which will prevent the need to get another streaming box just for Netflix.

TV Connections: All Freesat boxes come with an HDMI connection, but if you have an older telly, you might need a SCART connection instead – so check if the box you’re looking to buy has one.

Broadband Connection: If you want to record programmes and use the streaming apps, you’ll also need to connect the Freesat box to the internet. Some boxes come with an Ethernet port, which you connect directly to your router, and some also come with a WiFi connection. Connecting via an Ethernet cable is usually more stable and provides better speeds – but if you’re telly is not next to your router, you might still want to consider WiFi.

Cord Busters’ Best Freesat Boxes 2018

RankFreesat BoxOur RatingPrice
1Humax HDR-1100S PVR⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES
2Humax HB-1100S⭐⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES
3Revez HDTS850⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES
4SMBOX HD Freesat⭐⭐⭐CHECK PRICES

Price

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Quality

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Overall

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pros

  • Two tuners – Records two different channels
  • Excellent HD picture quality
  • Good selection of apps
  • Stream content from home PC

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • Slow interface
  • No Amazon Video or NOW TV Apps

Extra Features:

  • Recording: 500GB, 1TB or 2TB
  • Apps: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix and more
  • Freesat App: Control the device via your phone
  • Freeesat Rollback: Catch-up on last 7 days (“Freetime”)
  • Broadband Connections: Ethernet, WiFi
  • TV Connections: HDMI, Composite

Bottom Line

You usually can’t go wrong with a Humax set-top box for your TV, and the HDR-1100S clearly shows why – it’s an excellent Freesat box, with top notch HD picture quality, useful apps, and easy to use recording capabilities.

This box is very similar to the HB-1100S, with two major differences – it has a built-in hard drive, and TWO LNB ports (meaning two connections to the satellite dish), so you can record two different channels at the same time.

The basic hard drive is 500GB – that will give you 120 HD recording hours. If you need more, you can get the 1TB model, which provides 250 HD recording hours. And there’s even a 2TB model, with 500 HD recording hours.

Humax HDR-1100S Screen

Setting up the HDR-1100S is very easy, and the Freesat EPG is a joy to use. It offers a 7-day catch-up service, allowing you to watch previously aired programmes from 26 channels. Of course, you can also choose programmes to record via the EPG, and those will remain on your hard drive indefinitely (until you delete them).

The device also comes with a useful bunch of apps, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV, Netflix, YouTube and several others. As is often the case, there are no Amazon Prime Video or NOW TV apps as of this writing. Additionally, you can use the HDR-1100S to stream content (music, photos and video) from your home computer, via WiFi.

The only downside? The price. It’s not overly expensive, but not cheap either – so your main question should be whether you need the recording capabilities or not. Other than that, this is an excellent device for serious Freesat usage.

Price

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Quality

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Overall

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pros

  • Excellent HD picture quality
  • Good selection of apps
  • Easy to setup
  • Stream content from home PC
  • USB Recording

Cons

  • Slow interface
  • No internal hard-drive
  • Record only 1 channel at a time
  • No Amazon Video or NOW TV Apps

Extra Features:

  • Recording: Via USB
  • Apps: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix and more
  • Freesat App: Control the device via your phone
  • Freeesat Rollback: Catch-up on last 7 days (“Freetime”)
  • Broadband Connections: Ethernet, WiFi
  • TV Connections: HDMI, Composite

Bottom Line

Humax are a well known brand in the world of TV set-top boxes, and for good reason. This Freesat box is an excellent player: it comes packed with features and apps, the picture quality and reception is top notch, and the interface is easy to use (though annoyingly slow.)

The main difference between this player and our Editor’s Choice (other than the price), are the recording capabilities – the HB-1100S doesn’t come with a built-in hard drive, and while you can connect an external one via USB, if you’re planning on using it frequently as a recorder, you’re better off with the HDR-1100S.

Setting this box up is a breeze once you connect it to your satellite dish, and the Freesat EPG is a joy to use. it also offers a 7-day catch-up service – you select programmes that aired during that time, via the EPG, and you get to magically watch them – it’s like your very own PVR in the cloud (but only for 7 days, and only on 26 channels at this time.)

The device also comes with a useful bunch of apps – from UK channels (such as BBC iPlayer, ITV, and Channel 5), to Netflix and YouTube and several others. Alas, as is often the case, there are no Amazon Prime Video or NOW TV apps as of this writing.

So while the HB-1100S costs a little more than the more basic boxes on this list, it’s better in a whole lot of ways, and should at least be your main living-room box (as long as you don’t do a lot of recording.)

Price

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Quality

⭐⭐⭐

Overall

⭐⭐⭐

Pros

  • Freesat AND Freeview in one box
  • Cheap
  • USB Recording

Cons

  • No apps
  • No internet connection
  • Slow
  • Confusing user manual

Extra Features:

  • Recording: Only via USB stick
  • Apps: None
  • Broadband Connections: None
  • TV Connections: HDMI, SCART

Bottom Line

This is another basic, bare-bones Freesat box (though it’s not as hard to setup as the SMBox), with one unique feature – it serves both Freesat AND Freeview (if you connect it to an aerial.) While there’s no reason to use both simultaneously, it does save you a box in case your needs change, or you move it between places that have either Freesat or Freeview connections.

There are no apps and no internet connection in this box – you only get the Freesat (and Freeview) channels. It doesn’t have a built-in hard drive, but you can use a USB stick to record and time-shift programmes. And the SCART connection means it’ll work with older TVs.

If you’re only interested in getting the free channels, without a lot of fanfare, this is a solid, cheap box.

Price

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Quality

⭐⭐⭐

Overall

⭐⭐⭐

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Good Full-HD reception
  • USB Recording

Cons

  • Poor user manual
  • Difficult to set-up
  • Complicated user interface

Extra Features:

  • Recording: Only via USB stick
  • Apps: YouTube, Google Maps, DLNA Streaming
  • Broadband Connections: Ethernet, WiFi
  • TV ConnectionsHDMI, SCART

Bottom Line

Truth be told, I was a little hesitant on whether or not to include this box: Several buyers reported a difficult setup process, and the badly translated manual certainly doesn’t help. Then again, most Freesat boxes are pretty expensive, and this one is super cheap – and once you get it to work, it works fine – so it CAN be the right choice for those looking for a bargain.

The low price means this box doesn’t come with a built-in hard drive, but you can still record programmes, by connecting a USB stick. The WiFi connection is also a nice touch, so you don’t have to run an Ethernet cable through your living room.

The inclusion of a YouTube app is nice, and you can also use this box as a streaming device from your home computer. Do note, however, that as of this writing the box doesn’t come with the BBC iPlayer app – and while there are workarounds for this, that’s an important point for some.

Still, If you’re looking for a bare-bones, basic Freesat box that does what it says on the tin, and doesn’t cost much – you should at least consider this one.

Writer and news editor based in London, I cut the TV cord back in 2014 and never looked back. I watch A LOT of TV, and thankfully I can choose whatever I want to watch without depending on archaic channels.

2 Comments

  1. Derek wINDER

    Hi,i am new to humax.I bought a second hand box,which is great for recording.The model is Foxsat-hdr with no on demand.Why didn’t humax keep up with the technology enabling a software update to fix
    this problem? Is their no way at all to get on demand then? Thnks,Des

    Reply
  2. scott Spencer-White

    Excellent Information Or, I’m currently struggling with interference (have tried filters & variable db boosters etc.) in the digital terrestrial UK service so am looking at setting up free sat. – Great read!

    Reply

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