Or Goren | Sep 26, 2018 | 2
People often ask me about the reasoning for buying a dedicated Freeview box, when all UK TVs manufactured after 2010 already have Freeview built in. Well, the Manhattan T2-R Freeview Recorder is the answer, at least for some.
With an incredibly fast interface (better than on most tellies), the ability to record up to 300 hours (SD) from two separate channels at once, skipping adverts, and a couple of smart recording tricks – the T2-R will definitely upgrade your Freeview viewing experience.
However – it’s still not perfect for everyone – so let’s dive in.
Manhattan T2-R 500GB Review
Who is it for: People looking for a better Freeview experience, with recordings and a fast interface.
Interface & Usage
Value For Money
Overall Rating: 90%
- Speedy, easy to use interface
- Excellent recording quality (IF your reception is good)
- Smart recording features
- Impressive design in a small box
- SCART/RCA Need a separate AV kit
- No Streaming Apps
- No WiFi
- 70+ SD Freeview Channels, 15 HD, 25+ Radio Stations
- 8-Day Electronic TV Guide
- 500GB – Record up to 300 SD hours 130 HD hours
- Pause and Rewind live TV
- Two Tuners – Record two channels at once (with smart suggestions for more)
- Smart Recording: Record a full series, automatically switch to HD recording, and more
- Remote can control some TV features
An excellent Freeview recording box with all the bells and whistles you could ask for (smart HD switching and recording, hard drive space management, a learning remote) – except for streaming apps. If you’re in the market for an improved Freeview experience (or your older telly doesn’t have Freeview at all), the T2-R ticks a lot of boxes for a decent price.
Who Is The Manhattan T2-R For?
There are two major annoyances when using and watching Freeview that is built-into a TV: The interface’s speed is usually awful, and (in most cases) there are no built-in recording capabilities or any extra features.
What is Freeview? First established in 2002, Freeview is the commercial name for the United Kingdom’s digital terrestrial television platform.
The service provides access to free-to-air TV channels and radio stations, including more than 70 standard channels and 15 HD channels – and that number keeps growing every year.
The range goes from all the BBC channels (including HD), ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, The Food Network, CBS Action, QVC and many others.
And the best part: there’s no monthly cost – you buy the equipment once, and can enjoy the free programming forever. You do, however, need to pay the yearly TV licence fee in most cases.
In order to be able to watch Freeview channels, you need two main components: A TV Aerial (see the ones I recommend here), and A Freeview Receiver.
A good dedicated Freeview recorder, like the Manhattan T2-R, can solve the speed issue, and offer some smart recording capabilities.
And of course – if you have an older TV that doesn’t have any Freeview support, you would need an external Freeview box either way.
But do you need a box that costs upwards of £100? That depends on your usage patterns.
If you mostly watch streaming TV (such as Netflix), get your BBC fix via iPlayer and your ITV via their online hub, and you rarely glance at other Freeview channels, then getting a costly Freeview recording box is overkill. You can either skip it altogether, or get a cheap model without recording capabilities (see more Freeview box recommendations here).
However, if you love flipping live channels, but still want to record programmes and watch them on your own time – then a box like the Manhattan T2-R can be perfect for you, with no-fuss smart recording capabilities and a big hard drive.
Keep in mind two things, though –
- You still need a Freeview aerial (either on your roof or an indoor one) with good reception
- The T2-R doesn’t have support for streaming apps – so you’ll need another box (or a Smart TV) for regular streaming
Connecting The Manhattan T2-R
The T2-R is surprisingly small (265x53x207mm), light (682g), sleek-looking, and will fit nicely on your TV stand. The box also comes with a remote control, batteries for the remote (which is a nice touch), an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a “Get Started” guide.
On the back of the box, you’ll find the power socket, an optical audio port (for connecting directly to speakers/soundbar), an AV minijack, an aerial socket where you plug a coaxial TV aerial cable (from your indoor or outdoor antenna), Ethernet and USB ports, and the HDMI port.
As you’ll notice, there are no SCART or RCA connections – if you’re buying this for an older TV which doesn’t have an HDMI connection, you would need to buy the optional Manhattan Analogue AV Kit, which would let you connect SCART and RCA via the minijack.
That’s a bit of a shame, since people who have older TVs – ones that don’t have Freeview built-in – are exactly the right audience for this box, so having to buy another adapter is a bit of a hassle.
Since the T2-R doesn’t support streaming apps, you might wonder what the Ethernet and USB ports are for. For some reason, the “Get Started” manual ignores these ports, but an added leaflet explains that they’re used to update the box’ software. There used to be an over-the-air Freeview updating service called “The Engineering Channel”, but it was shut down this year – so having another way to update the T2-R software is good.
If you can connect the device directly to your router with an Ethernet cable (you can use a powerline adapter if your router is on a different floor), it’ll download the updates from the internet. Otherwise, you can download them manually from Manhattan’s website, and apply via a USB stick. The USB port, unfortunately, can’t be used for anything else (so you can’t connect an external hard drive, for example.)
If you connect the device to the internet, you’ll also get a few additional Freeview features and channels – the BBC’s red-button for example, or the “Box Nation” pay-tv channel.
Of course, WiFi would have been a nice touch, but upping the costs mainly for software updates is indeed not very cost-effective.
Using The Manhattan T2-R
When you turn on the T2-R for the first time, and assuming you’ve connected it to the aerial, it immediately starts scanning for Freeview channels.
In areas with bad reception, some channels might not look good, or worse – they might not even get found. But if everything goes well, after a couple of minutes you can start watching.
The T2-R’s remote is fairly easy to use, and doesn’t suffer from the Chinese-Remote-Syndrome, where you get millions of small buttons in impossible locations. It’s a “Learning Remote”, so you can also use it to control your telly’s basic functions – on/off, volume control and input selection.
The interface – and controlling it with the remote – is pretty easy to use and nice to look at. As someone who, by this point, is used to mostly watching content-on-demand via Netflix and the like, going back to flipping channels and checking TV schedules was weird – but the T2-R makes it all feel very snappy.
I can’t stress the importance of the speed factor enough – Freeview on many TVs, as well as on cheaper dedicated boxes, is often an excruciating experience due to the interface’s speed. On my Samsung Smart TV, when you want to check what’s on via the Electronic Programme Guide, for example, you have to wait a couple of seconds for the interface to load up, then moving around it is painfully slow, and every button press brings with it another wait.
Things are very different, however, on the T2-R – the programme guide comes up instantly when you press the remote, jumping between days and channels is also very quick, and the whole thing just feels as snappy as it should in this day and age.
The EPG lets you see the TV schedule up to 8 days in advance. Once you see a show you’re interested in, you can either set a reminder for it – which will pop up once you’re watching other channels – or ask the T2-R to record it.
If the show you want to record is part of series, you can easily ask the device to record the whole series. Then, whenever there’s another episode, it’ll be recorded automatically at the right time. (This depends on the shows being tagged correctly by the Freeview EPG folks – which sometimes doesn’t happen. But in most cases, recording a series goes well.)
The device doesn’t have to be on to record – as long as it’s connected, and on standby, it’ll record everything you set it to, at the right time. With dual tuners, it can record up to two simultaneous programmes on two different channels. If you try to record a program on a THIRD channel, the T2-R’s smart recording function will try to find a different time when that programme is on – and record it then.
While most Freeview channels are still unfortunately in Standard Definition, there are 15 HD channels – so if you set a recording of an SD show that also has an HD version on the equivalent channel, the TR-2 will automatically record the HD version, which is a nice touch.
Similarly, if you’re watching an SD channel (such as BBC 1) that also has an HD version, the device will note that on-screen, and ask whether you want to jump to the HD version of the channel.
One thing to remember about Freeview recordings, is that the recording is as good as your reception. So if the reception goes bad – for example if you move your aerial, or during a bad thunderstorm – you’ll find out later that you have a stuttering, garbled recording.
The TR-2 also continuously records the channel you’re on right now – up to two hours. That means you can live-pause anything you’re watching (when you get that important phone call, for example), and you can also decide you want to record and keep a show you’re watching – even after it had started.
Watching Recorded Content
Press the “Recordings” button on your remote, and you instantly get into your very own VOD library of all the programmes, series and movies you’ve recorded (and it even knows to categorise them like that).
As you would expect, playback also lets you fast forward and rewind, and by pressing the “Right” button you can also instantly jump 30 seconds ahead – which is wonderful for skipping those annoying adverts. If you keep pressing that button, playback will jump ahead in bigger increments.
Skipping forward (or back) is surprisingly smooth, and playback will stutter for less than a second.
Additionally, a “Go To” button lets you jump to an exact point in the recorded content – very useful if you’re looking for something specific.
Once the hard drive gets full, the T2-R will start erasing older shows automatically, to make room for new recordings – but if there are shows you want to keep, you can mark them as protected.
Another important aspect are the subtitles – if you watch a show with subtitles (which can be turned on and off easily with a dedicated button), recording that show will keep the subtitles available – and you can again turn them on and off with the press of a button. The same goes for Audio Description, when available.
Bottom Line – Is The Manhattan T2-R For Me?
I was pleasantly surprised by the T2-R’s performance. While it’s not really a cheap Freeview box, it’s still cheaper than some of the competing boxes, without passing on important functionality.
The interface is beautiful and most importantly – fast. The “smart” recording features are useful, and navigating your recordings is easy. Picture quality is great, but – as always – depends a lot on your aerial reception.
The one downside? No streaming apps (such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, etc’) – which means you have to get another streaming device for those. While apps would have probably raised the price of the device, it’s still something to consider when you’re shopping around.
Note: The T2-R was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.