Best Freesat Boxes And Recorders For UK TV In 2020

, By

This post may contain affiliate links*

The UK is probably one of the best countries in the world for TV cord cutters – with FreesatFreeview 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 watch Freesat, things to consider before you buy a Freesat box, and I rate the best Freesat boxes and recorders (PVRs).

2020 Update: “Humax” have stopped making Freesat boxes, and instead, there are new ‘official’ 4K Freesat boxes from “Commscope” being released gradually. While stocks are still scarce on some of the models, you can already order all of them – some on Amazon and some on Currys (see ahead).

Best Freesat Boxes 2020: Our Picks

Editor's Choice
5/5

New 4K Freesat box with catch-up apps and advanced recording capabilities

Runner Up
4.5/5

New Freesat box with 4K and catch-up apps (but without recording capabilities)

Freesat 4K TV Box (Non Recordable)

Best Value
4/5

High-quality Freesat box, excellent value for money, but no recording capabilities

Manhattan SX Freesat HD Box

Our Rating
4/5

Great picture quality, easy setup, but a bit slow and without recording capabilities

Humax HB-1100S HD TV Freesat Receiver (requires Satellite dish)

Our Rating
3/5

Budget Freesat player that can also record via a USB stick

Free TV (Lite v3) Full HD Free To Air Satellite Receiver, PVR Via USB,Video/Music Player Via USB, Receive UK Freesat Stations,Free To Air Box,12 Volt, integrated wifi on board.

What Is Freesat?

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 the 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 apps for 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

How Do I Set Up Freesat And What Do I Need?

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 some chains.

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.

In some case, you can also use your Sky dish (if you have one) for Freesat – but it depends on your specific installation, and the dish might next professional retuning.

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. If you don’t have enough HDMI ports on your TV, you can use an HDMI switch.)

You can either use a set-top Freesat box, such 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, due to cost disputes.

How To Buy The Best Freesat Box: Things To Consider

There aren’t a lot of 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.

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 (but only on 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.

Freesat With Broadband Connection

If you want to 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 your telly is not next to your router, you might still want to consider WiFi.

Cord Busters’ Best Freesat Boxes 2020

 Best Overall  

A new, advanced recorder with 4K support, catch-up apps and up to 2TB

Price
3.5/5
Features
5/5
Overall
5/5

Pros

  • Record up to 4 channels at once
  • Fast and easy to use interface
  • 4K picture quality
  • Good selection of catch-up apps

Cons

  • Expensive
  • 4K is limited to Netflix and YouTube
  • New, so doesn't have a lot of user reviews yet

Features List

  • Recording: Yes (Up to 2TB)
  • Apps: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix, YouTube and more
  • Freesat Mobile App: Yes
  • Freeesat Rollback: Catch-up on last 7 days (via apps)
  • Broadband Connections: Ethernet, WiFi
  • TV Connections: HDMI

Bottom Line

Up until a few months ago, Humax ruled the Freesat world – but their boxes were becoming slow and obsolete, until they stopped making them.

Then, after months of waiting, Freesat finally launched a new set of boxes from Commscope (formerly Arris) – so we’re finally getting a modern, fast box that also supports 4K.

This recording model can record up to 4 programmes/channels at the same time (but you need a Wideband LNB dish), and has a wide range of smart recording features. You can also use the Freesat mobile app to set recordings from your mobile phone.

The number of hours you can record depends on the model you get: 500GB (Up to 250 hours), 1TB (Up to 500 hours) or 2TB (Up to 1,000 hours!).

Freesat Recordable 4K TV Box contents 500

Other than the usual Freesat features, with its easy to use interface and Electronic Programmes Guide, the box also comes with several broadband-based streaming apps, such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube.

Keep in mind, there are no 4K broadcasts on Freesat (at least for now) – so you’ll only be able to use that feature when streaming content from Netflix (provided you have the 4K plan) and YouTube (and the occasional BBC iPlayer 4K ‘test’).

All in all, this box will give you the ultimate Freesat experience – but at a cost.

A new, adanced box with 4K support and catch-up apps (no recording)

Freesat 4K TV Box (Non Recordable)

Price
3.5/5
Features
4.5/5
Overall
5/5

Pros

  • Fast and easy to use interface
  • 4K picture quality
  • Good selection of catch-up apps

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • No recording
  • New, so doesn't have a lot of user reviews yet

Features List

  • Recording: No
  • Apps: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix, YouTube and more
  • Freesat App: Yes
  • Freeesat Rollback: Catch-up on last 7 days (via apps)
  • Broadband Connections: Ethernet, WiFi
  • TV Connections: HDMI

Bottom Line

If you don’t need recording capabilities, this ‘official’ 4K box from Freesat is your next best choice.

You get the speedy, easy to use interface and Electronic Programmes Guide, as well as the catch-up apps (providing you connect it to the internet) – BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube and more.

Freesat 4K remote

Again, remember that there are no 4K broadcasts on Freesat, so for the moment, 4K only works with Netflix and YouTube.

This Freesat box does not have a hard drive, therefore you can’t record over the air programmes (though you can use the apps and catch-up services to ‘go back in time’ on some of the channels). 

This box is set to give you an excellent Freesat experience, as long as you don’t need to record.

 Best Value  

Best value for money but no recording.

Manhattan SX Freesat HD Box

Best Value
Price
5/5
Features
3.5/5
Overall
4/5

Pros

  • Excellent price
  • Good Full-HD reception
  • Dolby Digital Plus surround sound

Cons

  • No recording
  • No Freetime (Catchup) and no apps

Features List

  • Recording: No
  • Apps: None
  • Reminders: Set a reminder for a show on the EPG, and the box will turn on automatically
  • Broadband Connections: Ethernet, WiFi (But only for software updates)
  • TV ConnectionsHDMI (SCART and RCA with supplied AV kit)

Bottom Line

If you’re after a basic Freesat box that can show you all the channels in excellent quality but doesn’t have recording or catch-up capabilities, then the Manhatten SX represents the best value for money.

What it does, it does very well – the EPG guide is easy to use and pretty swift (compared to some other Freesat boxes), it has a nifty “Reminders” feature that will let you choose an upcoming show – and the box will turn on automatically when the show starts, and it even has SD upscaling for better picture quality with SD channels.

As mentioned, there are no PVR capabilities (you can’t even record on a USB stick – the USB port is only for software updates), and there are no apps or catch-up services – the broadband connection are there, again, only for software updates.

But if you don’t need the more advanced features – this high-quality box comes at an impressive price point.

Great picture quality but no recording.

Humax HB-1100S HD TV Freesat Receiver (requires Satellite dish)

Price
4/5
Features
4/5
Overall
4/5

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
  • Records only 1 channel at a time
  • No Amazon Video or NOW TV Apps

Features List

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

Bottom Line

This older Freesat box is an excellent player: it comes packed with features and apps, the picture quality and reception are top-notch, and the interface is easy to use (though annoyingly slow.)

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 recording box.

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 some ways – but is harder to find these days, because Humax stopped making Freesat b oxes.

Basic, OK if you’re looking for a cheap Freesat player

Free TV (Lite v3) Full HD Free To Air Satellite Receiver, PVR Via USB,Video/Music Player Via USB, Receive UK Freesat Stations,Free To Air Box,12 Volt, integrated wifi on board.

Price
4.5/5
Features
3/5
Overall
3/5

Pros

  • Very cheap
  • Recording via USB
  • Full HD quality
  • Small form factor

Cons

  • Dated interface
  • No 7-days EPG
  • No apps/internet
  • Confusing manual

Features List

  • Recording: Only via USB stick
  • Apps: None
  • Freesat Rollback: None (Only what’s on NOW/NEXT)
  • Broadband Connections: WiFi (For software updates?)
  • TV Connections: HDMI / SCART

Bottom Line

This is a basic, bare-bones Freesat box, that does its job (though with fewer features), and has one thing going for it – it’s very cheap.

There are no apps and no internet connection in this box – you only get the Freesat channels (and it’s also compatible with some of the European satellite channels, in case you travel with it).

It doesn’t have a built-in hard drive, but you can use a USB stick to record and time-shift programmes. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t support the full 7-day EPG – it will only show you the name of the programme you’re watching right now, and the next one.

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

.

23 thoughts on “Best Freesat Boxes And Recorders For UK TV In 2020”

  1. Thank you so much for this review, it is most helpful. However, I am concerned that my current Sky satellite dish might not work with the satview recorder. I am cancelling my subscription with Sky and so have a dish which is there to use. I am a bit worried that your article says I..”might” be able to use the freesat box with my Sky dish…. In percentage terms, what is the liklihood that I will be able to and what would prevent me from being able to, please?
    Thank you.
    Andrew Ravasio

    Reply
    • It’s my understanding that Sky dishes that were set to work with Sky Q, would need a different LNB to work with Freesat. I would suggest you try and contact Freesat’s support with details of your specific installation, as they probably see this issue come up often.

      Reply
      • The new Aria freesat boxes work with both types of LNB. If you want to record 4 channels then you need the Sky Q wide band LND. Old LNBs only allow you to record 2 channels (and watch a third)

        Reply
  2. Have appreciated Humax hdr1100 very much – great to have the Netflix facility – until – something failed within the software which prevented the link to Netflix, all other standard and on demand channels continued to work fine. Still getting Netflix on iPad etc., but not through the Humax.
    Customer services unable to help since out of warranty !
    Considering moving on to a Freesat 4K recordable box.

    Reply
    • That’s sometimes the problem with older devices, unfortunately – they stop supporting certain apps/services that they originally came with.

      Reply
      • Yep, tried factory reset, removing power from Humax, removing power from router, discussing with Freesat, Netflix, and Humax. Overall opinion is software within the Humax box.
        Frustrating issue is that the box works perfectly with all other features, including other on demand Sources.
        Tks, John .

        Reply
  3. the freesat 4k box will be coming with a hard drive soon, according to their replies to queries on Amazon.
    great website by the way!

    Reply
  4. Shame the new Freesat boxes don’t appear to include Bluetooth audio transmit – doesn’t appear to be anything in manuals.
    Then Freesat radio can be listened to with BT headphones/speakers.
    Not very forward thinking of Commscope’s engineers.

    Reply
  5. On the freesat website, they have taken off their list of recomended PVRs.

    Somewhere on AV forums, avforums.com I read that Humax will no longer be a supplier, instead it will be Arris, and there is a Freesat statement to that effect. Arris equipment will be “3rd generation” .This statement was dated late 2019 and of course we are still waiting for these machines.
    Let’s hope these will be more like the Sky Q box, with more than 2 channels of recording available.

    Reply
    • Thank you for this update. Indeed it seems their relationship with Humax has ended – I have reached out to Freesat, and will hopefully have more information on this soon.

      Reply
  6. This post is very informative and useful except the point of where to buy. The link to the Humax Freesat box doesn’t take you to one in the Curry’s site and in actual fact they are incredibly hard to find. It would be handy to know why/where they are in this world!

    Reply
    • You are correct – for some reason, the Humax HDR-1100S is very hard to find these days… I do hope they’ll manufacture new stock soon.

      Reply
  7. Humax Freesat PVRs have not kept up with modern technology. Eg there isn’t one capable of recording 4 channels at once, like the Sky box.
    Strangely, Humax do have a freeview model FVP-5000T which does do 4 channels. Surely the technology is the same ?

    Reply
  8. I have both of the Humax brands. One HDR-1100s 1tb in the living room,one 500gb in the front room and the smaller HB-1100s in the bed room. All the boxes work well,are easy to operate and look nice. All three were well worth the money and I have plenty of recording space on the two bigger models.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Humax boxes. It’s good to know others find them useful as well.

      Reply
  9. If it’s anything like the HDR-1000S then yes, but not for the unitiated. Pretty certain recordings are encrypted with the Linus LUKS system so technically it is possble to ‘see’ and un-encrypt the files on a Linux computer. No disrespect, but for the vast majority of viewers it’s a no.

    Reply
  10. I want to know more about the recorded programmes (i.e. on Humax HDR-1100S PVR). Is the recorded programme written in a regular file(s), for instance like similar to a DVD file set? Is it possible to take out the recorded programs to review the programmes in a different place, e.g. on a small boat? Is it possible to view programme away from the PVR entirely, such as on a laptop?

    Else what would be for?

    Reply
  11. 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
  12. 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

Leave a Reply to scott Spencer-White Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.