Freeview Face-Off: Manhattan T4 And T4-R vs T3 And T3-R

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The wait is finally over for Freeview fans in the UK: Manhattan’s new T4 and T4-R set-top boxes are here, replacing the popular but ageing T3 and T3-R models.

For many Freeview fans, Manhattan’s T3 / T3-R set-top boxes have been the go-to choice for years. While most modern TVs come with Freeview built-in, a dedicated box offers an enhanced viewing experience and additional features – especially if you choose a recording box.

With the popular T3 and T3-R models now discontinued, all eyes are on their successors, the T4 and T4-R, to see if they can fill those big shoes.

Both devices promise a range of improvements over the T3 series, including a redesigned EPG with genre and channel views, expanded recording storage of up to 2TB on the T4-R, a faster quad-core processor, and a more customisable user interface.

Manhattan T4-R lifestyle official

I’ve spent some time with both models, but this isn’t my full review just yet – that will be coming very soon – but rather a comprehensive comparison to help you decide whether an upgrade from the T3/T3-R is worthwhile, or if you should even consider a Manhattan Freeview box for the first time.

Manhattan’s Freeview Journey

Manhattan, a UK-based company, has been a prominent player in the Freeview market for over a decade with their line of Freeview (and Freesat) boxes.

The T3, launched in 2019, was Manhattan’s first Freeview Play box, combining live TV with catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub.

Manhattan T3 What's in the box
Manhattan T3

In my original review, I praised it for its speedy interface and ease of use, though obviously it was somewhat limited without any recording functions.

The T3-R shortly followed, adding the ability to record live TV to a 500GB or 1TB hard drive, along with Freeview Play’s streaming and catch-up support.

The T3-R quickly became a fan favourite, offering somewhat of an alternative to subscription services like Sky or Virgin Media for those who primarily watched free-to-air channels.

Manhattan T3-R
Manhattan T3-R

The Road to the T4 and T4-R

As popular as the T3 and T3-R were, they were slowly getting old, and what was once a snappy interface started to feel a bit sluggish.

Manhattan set out to address these concerns and more with the T4 line, first teased in early 2023.

However, the journey from announcement to shelf hasn’t been entirely smooth. The boxes have faced several delays, with Manhattan citing global supply chain issues as well as testing and certification delays. 

These delays have tested the patience of some Freeview enthusiasts, particularly as the T3 and T3-R started to become harder to find after their discontinuation

But both the T4 and T4-R are finally with us – and while there are still a few early-day stock issues, the devices are now widely available on Amazon and other retailers.

Manhattan T4-R and T4
Manhattan T4 and T4-R

The question now is whether they’ve been worth the wait – and whether T3/T3-R owners should upgrade.

The T4, like its predecessor, is a non-recording Freeview Play box, while the T4-R adds recording to the mix.

Both promise a range of improvements over the T3 series, from a redesigned EPG to faster hardware to more customization options.

Of course, the T4 and T4-R are entering a market that looks quite different from the one the T3 launched into.

Streaming services have exploded in popularity, and smart TVs with built-in apps are now the norm. And with Ofcom considering major changes to the Freeview platform, the long-term future of these boxes is perhaps less certain than it once was.

Then there’s Freely – the new broadband-based replacement for Freeview.

Freely aims to become the future of free-to-watch TV in the UK, but for now, it’s quite limited with only a handful of supported TVs and streaming channels – but it’s backed by Everyone TV, the company behind Freeview and Freesat.

At launch, the Manhattan T4 and T4-R do not support Freely (nor do any other set-top boxes). They may get Freely support in the future – but that’s still a big unknown.

Still, for the sizable group of viewers who prefer the simplicity and reliability of a dedicated Freeview box, and who value the ability to record live TV (and skip adverts!), the T4 and T4-R look like promising options.

Let’s dive into what’s new and improved in these latest offerings from Manhattan.

EPG and Content Discovery: A New Coat of Paint

One of the most noticeable changes in the T4/T4-R series is the revamped EPG.

While the T3 boxes had robust EPGs, the T4’s offering does look like a meaningful step up in terms of content discovery – and, yes, it’s prettier. 

In addition to the classic Grid View that we all know from Freeview EPGs (now with a seventh channel visible), there’s a new Genre View that groups programmes by type, and a Channel View that shows a week’s worth of upcoming content for a single channel.

Manhattan T4-R T4 genre view

With printed TV Guides of old slowly disappearing from our lives, finding what to watch – across 100+ channels – can become a real chore.

These new EPG “views” certainly help with that – although, keep in mind that you’re at the mercy of Everyone TV’s EPG editors (or more likely the channels themselves), who need to categorise content correctly.

Accessibility also gets a boost, with the ability to filter for subtitles, audio description, and sign language across all views. There are also clearer recording icons and status indicators.

The Featured and Watchlist sections have also been overhauled. A new design shows programme info without needing to press OK, and categories are easier to browse.

Manhattan T4 T4-R Watchlist

On-demand content can now be started with a single button press, which should reduce some clicking and scrolling.

Overall, the ‘Freeview Play’ section, with its featured content and straightforward programme selection, feels a lot like a modern streaming service.

Smarter Recording and Playback: Evolutionary, not Revolutionary

Recording is, of course, the T4-R’s signature feature, and it’s largely an iterative improvement on the T3-R.

To the disappointment of some, there are still only two tuners – so you can record two channels while watching a third (as long as that third is on the same multiplex).

Since this multiplex part is confusing for anyone but hardcore Freeview enthusiasts, the T4-R has a setting that lets you mark “Unavailable” channels that are on a separate multiplex while you’re recording two channels.

In terms of storage, you now have the option to go up to 2TB (the T3-R maxed out at 1TB).

Manhattan has also added some appreciated quality-of-life features: auto-playing the next episode of a recorded series (yep, you can binge-watch on Freeview now), a ‘Continue’ section for recordings you’ve already started watching, more granular sorting and filtering options, and a spruced-up ‘Scheduled’ section that provides a 7-day look at upcoming recordings.

Manhattan T4 Featured
Manhattan T4

The T4 now gains the ability to pause and rewind live TV, thanks to its on-board memory. Impressively, you can pause live TV for up to 90 minutes on the T4.

If we compare it to Freely TVs, for example – they only have a Live Pause feature of up to 15 minutes, and only on a small number of channels (for now).

Under the Hood: Beefed-Up Specs, but Will You Notice?

Both the T4 and T4-R benefit from hardware upgrades compared to their predecessors.

Manhattan says the new boxes feature quad-core processors, which should make navigating menus and loading apps feel snappier than ever (and that’s very much the case, having used them for a few days already).

The T4 series also boasts double the RAM of the T3, which should contribute to a smoother overall experience.

The T4-R benefits from expanded recording drive options, supporting both 3.5″ and 2.5″ HDDs, with capacities of up to 2TB available.

The T4-R also adds a physical LED to indicate when a recording is in progress, addressing a common complaint about the T3-R.

Manhattan T4-R remote official
Manhattan T4-R

As for picture quality, Ultra HD (4K) / HDR are still here (as they were on the T3 and T3-R), though, as before, this is only useful on BBC iPlayer for now.

Size and Weight: Compact and Lightweight

When it comes to the physical dimensions and weight of the T4 and T4-R, there are some notable differences compared to their predecessors.

The T4-R, the larger of the two new models due to its built-in hard drive, measures 272mm wide, 46mm high, and 197mm deep.

This makes it slightly wider and shallower than the T3-R, which measured 265mm wide, 53mm high, and 207mm deep.

The T4-R’s weight varies depending on the storage capacity: the 500GB model weighs 0.77kg, the 1TB model 1.10kg, and the 2TB model 1.05kg. In comparison, the T3-R 500GB weighed 678g.

The T4, being a non-recording model, is significantly more compact than its predecessor.

It measures just 125mm wide, 37mm high, and 137mm deep, making it about half the size of the T3, which was 210mm wide, 46mm high, and 188mm deep.

The T4 is also lighter, weighing only 192g compared to the T3’s 368g.

Manhattan T4 on T4-R
Manhattan T4 and T4-R

The reduced size and weight of the T4 make it an even more discreet and portable option for those who don’t require recording capabilities, while the T4-R remains relatively compact despite its expanded storage options.

Streaming Apps

One area where the T4 and T4-R offer a bit of a mixed bag is in their selection of streaming apps.

Like their predecessors, the new boxes support all the major Freeview Play catch-up services, including BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, My5, Great! Player, Watch Free UK, UKTV Play, PBS America, POP Player, BBC Sounds, STV Player, and S4C / Clic.

This means you’ll have access to a wide range of on-demand content from the UK’s major broadcasters, all integrated seamlessly into the EPG.

This feature has always been a strength of Manhattan’s Freeview Play boxes, and it’s especially useful when you combine streaming catch-up with the T4-R’s recording capabilities – so it’s good to see these carried forward into the T4/T4-R line.

However, there’s one notable omission compared to the T3 and T3-R, and that’s the absence of YouTube. The popular video platform was available on the older boxes, but it’s currently missing from the T4 and T4-R at launch.

YouTube on TV
Photo: – Deposit Photos – Vantagedrones

Manhattan says they are working to bring YouTube to the new boxes later this year, but it’s still a bit disappointing for those who enjoyed the convenience of having YouTube access directly on their Freeview device.

Perhaps more importantly, the T4 and T4-R still don’t include any of the major streaming services like Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, or Disney+.

This has been a longstanding gap in Manhattan’s Freeview Play offering, and it’s one that feels increasingly glaring as these services continue to dominate the TV landscape.

While it’s understandable that Manhattan wants to focus on delivering the best possible Freeview experience (and small manufacturers also face app licensing issues), the absence of these popular streaming apps does limit the T4 and T4-R’s ability to serve as all-in-one TV solutions.

Many users will still need to switch to a separate device or their Smart TV’s built-in apps for their Netflix fix.

Remote and Customization: Small Touches

The T4 series’ remote has been redesigned with ergonomics in mind, and while it’s not a game-changer, users will appreciate the improved button layout and support for pairing multiple boxes in the same room (useful for multi-Freeview households, or if you decide to keep your old T3-R around).

Manhattan T3-R remote next to T4-R remote
Manhattan T3-R Remote (Left) And T4-R Remote

Manhattan has also expanded the settings menus, providing more options to customize the interface and recording behaviour to your liking.

This includes a much-requested option to have the T4-R’s recording LED stay off in standby mode.

One thing that’s still missing is a companion smartphone app that can be used to set recordings remotely.

This is something that T3-R users have long requested, and it seems T4-R users will have to keep waiting as well. However, I’m told the app is a priority for Manhattan, and hopefully, we’ll see it later this year.

The Bottom Line

For all their improvements, the T4 and T4-R still feel like iterative updates rather than a major leap forward.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – the T3 series was well-liked, and building on that foundation is a sensible move.

Manhattan T4-R next to T3-R with boxes

Plus, let’s face it – there haven’t been many major advancements in the Freeview world in recent years, especially now with all eyes set on Freely.

So, should owners of the T3 and T3-R upgrade to the T4 series? You can check my final judgement in my in-depth T4-R review – but for now, go over the list of features, and see if they’re enough for you to consider an upgrade.

For new customers who don’t currently have a Freeview recorder at all, I’ll say this – if you’re in the market for a recorder, the T4-R is certainly the best upgrade you can get for your Freeview experience (over a built-in Freeview Play TV, for example).

Buying The Manhattan T4 / T4-R

The T4 Freeview Play box is priced at £69.99, while the T4-R recorder starts at £169.99 for 500GB, going up to £199 for 1TB and £229 for 2TB.

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2 thoughts on “Freeview Face-Off: Manhattan T4 And T4-R vs T3 And T3-R”

  1. There’s nothing in the t4r that makes me want to drop my existing Freesat box.

    Considering the boxes were significantly delayed they should have sorted additional streaming services.

    Why would I drop a 4k Freesat box with virtually all the streaming services for this?

    Reply
  2. Or Goren
    Having owned a t3r for some 18 months now, one area I personally will be interested in is the player apps accessed directly via the “F” home button has I have found using the apps all to be rather clunky and intermittent in their operation ( via the epg is ok ish ) I put this down, rightly or wrongly, to the onboard cpu and memory, I have contacted Manhattan who emailed me a ” fix ” but this had little effect overall, I also have a firestick 4K which is very slick in its operation, so I can only assume this is down to the t3r not being up to scratch in this area so i will be looking forward to your in depth review in this particular regard.

    Reply

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