The best Freeview box: HD, 4K, recorders and smart streaming

We've rounded up the best Freeview boxes, HD set-top boxes and Freeview recorders

Freeview Boxes

by William Lobley |

A Freeview box is a simple, versatile way of watching TV for free. Offering over 70 channels in most regions, on-box recording, and streaming and catch up apps, you’ll have a hard time finding a reason not to pick up one of these boxes. The only trouble you might have is deciding which one is best for you. Read on to see our round-up of the best Freeview boxes, no matter your budget or requirements.

The best Freeview boxes shortlist:

What common features are found on Freeview boxes?

Couple of people watching TV

Programme Guides

At the very least, you’re going to find your Freeview box has HD connectivity and a well-presented electronic programme guide, or as it’s sometimes known, EPG. This gives you instant access to the upcoming television schedule and allows you to set reminders for shows that you can’t afford to miss.

Catch up with Freeview Play

Boxes that have incorporated Freeview Play into the mix offer you even more value and entertainment options. This service combines standard Freeview functions with catch-up systems - you’ll be able to scroll back over the previous week's schedule and watch anything you want with the touch of a button. Just be aware that to use Freeview Play, you will require an internet connection.

Recording, rewinding and pausing

Some boxes have onboard memory, sometimes known as hard drives (HDD), which will allow you to pause, rewind and record live TV. These Freeview recorders come with varying storage capacities, but even with the smallest, you’ll be able to store hundreds of hours of television. Depending on the Freeview recorder, you’ll also be able to record as many as four channels at the same time, even while watching a fifth.

Streaming and on-demand

A more recent feature of many Freeview set-top boxes is the inclusion of smart apps. Similar to a smart TV or media streaming device, like a Fire TV Stick or Roku Express, Freeview boxes with smart apps will provide you with access to a multitude of on-demand streams and catch-up services. These include the likes of Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and YouTube. While access to these features does require an internet connection, the amount of extra entertainment options provided is staggering. And that’s before you start to combine them with recording and Freeview Play capabilities.

What else?

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider (and we haven’t even mentioned 4K UHD or smartphone streaming yet). While all of the features listed above are excellent, not every one of them is going to be suitable for, well, everyone. Luckily, Freeview boxes and Freeview recorders come in all shapes and sizes, with various combinations of the above-listed features. To help you find the option that carries all the features you need, we’ve put together a list of the best Freeview boxes below.

If you’d like some more information on some of the features, you’ll find a quick FAQ at the bottom of this page discussing indoor aerials, internet connections and how to hook up these new boxes to older, non-HD and analogue TVs.

Related: The best 40-inch smart TVs | The best Blu-ray players

All of these Freeview boxes have been hand-selected by What's The Best shopping experts. Our team has spent hours investigating and researching Freeview boxes so that you can choose the best one. Plus, we'd never recommend a product we don't believe in. Find out why you should trust us here.

Manhattan T1 Freeview HD Box

Manhattan’s T1 Freeview HD Box is a really simple and accessible set-top box. It offers access to 70 Freeview channels (15 of which are HD) and over 25 radio stations. There's a clear and concise eight-day programme guide, from which you can check on the TV listings and set reminders. As well as an aerial connection, you can plug an ethernet cable into the T1 to access additional internet channels. A nice little feature with the T1 is that it upscales standard channels content so that it looks sharper on full-HD TV sets.

Specifications
Connections HDMI, Ethernet
Features EPG, Dolby Digital Surround Sound
Pros Cons
• Cheap, cheerful and reliable • No on-demand or streaming features

Manhattan T2-R Freeview Recorder

The T2-R has much of the same functionality as the smaller Manhattan T1 Freeview HD Box, with an eight-day EPG, ethernet connection for internet channels and HD upscaling. However, as the name would suggest, the T2-R can pause and record live television. The internal storage can hold 300-hours of recordings, so there’s plenty of space for box sets, films and documentaries. Recorded content is organised automatically for easy navigation. You can record two programs at once, and planning isn’t a problem, as you can arrange the whole series to record with a single button press.

Specifications
Connections HDMI, Ethernet
Features EPG, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Recording, Pause TV, 500GB internal memory
Pros Cons
• Simple to use • No streaming or Freeview Play
• Reliable recording

Humax FVP-5000T Freeview Play HD Recorder

The Humax is certainly one of our favourite set-top boxes. Its EPG is cleanly presented, with programme information and other related details being all present and correct. Thanks to the inbuilt memory, you can pause and rewind live TV. When it comes to recording, the Humax shines, being capable of recording four shows at once, while you watch a fifth from your pre-recorded catalogue. This particular variant has a 500GB memory, suitable for 250-hours of HD TV recording, though those looking for even more storage can opt for the 1TB for 500-hours or 2TB variant for 1,000-hours of recording.

As a Freeview Play device, once the 5000T is hooked up to the internet you’ll be able to get on-demand catch-up of any programme aired in the past week. Linking up with the world wide web also allows you access to an array of streaming and catch-up apps, including Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. You’ll never have to say “there’s nothing on” ever again.

The Humax has great connectivity too. There’s an additional app that’ll stream recorded TV to your smartphone and USB-ports for watching films and home videos from external storage devices. The box also has built-in WiFi, so no need for an ethernet cable.

Specifications
Connections HDMI, Ethernet, WiFi, USB 2.0
Features EPG, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Freeview Play, Streaming, Humax streaming app
Pros Cons
• Loaded with useful and exciting features • Expensive if you’re not using the extra features

Manhattan T3 Freeview Play 4K UHD Box

If you like the sound of Freeview Play and having access to catch-up and streaming apps, but you’re not particularly fussed about on-board recording, then the Manhattan T3 Freeview Play 4K UHD Box is for you. In addition to standard Freeview and Freeview Play features, you’ll have access to the likes of Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, UKTV Play and more.

Another exciting feature of the T3 is that it can handle 4K UHD content, so if you’ve got a TV that’s up to the task, you’ll be able to watch 4K content from compatible apps, like BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix. While 4K content isn't abundant unless you hunt for it, it’s a nice bit of future-proofing. Don’t worry if you’ve just got a standard 1080p HD TV - everything on the box will still work for you.

Specifications
Connections HDMI, Ethernet, WiFi
Features EPG, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Streaming, 4K Ultra HD, Freeview Play
Pros Cons
• Gives access to live TV and streaming services • You can’t pause live TV

Humax Aura Android TV Freeview Play Smart 4K Ultra HD Digital TV Recorder with Google Assistant

The Humax Aura is the ultimate Freeview box and TV recorder. Firstly, its 2TB storage leaves you enough space for 1,000 hours of recording - enough for even the most avid TV-watcher. Secondly, it carries in its shell an Android OS, which means that a wide range of streaming platforms like YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Prime Video are easily accessible. Thirdly, the Aura is 4K-UHD, meaning that it can access the crispest, cleanest visuals offered by streaming services for your viewing delight.

But wait, there’s more. Google Assistant is also here, embedded into the remote control. This means that you can control the Humax Aura via voice command, asking it to play shows from specific platforms, check the news and weather, or command other smart devices like the Google Nest. Chromecast is the final piece of the puzzle - this app lets you stream your screen directly from a smartphone to the box, letting you view phone content on a TV.

The fact that all of these features are in addition to the excellent free services of Freeview Play and Freeview HD makes this the ultimate TV entertainment gadget.

Specifications
Connections HDMI, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB, Bluetooth
Features 2TB HDD, 4K UHD resolution, Android OS, Google Assistant and Chromecast, four-channel recording, Freeview Play and Freeview HD
Pros Cons
• All-in-one Freeview, 4K steaming and recording • Expensive for casual TV users
• Android operating system is excellent
• Google Assistant and Chromecast

Related: The best 65-inch TV under £1,000 | The best TV wall mounts

Frequently asked questions: Freeview boxes

Watching TV

Can I connect a HD box to an analogue TV?

Yes, you can connect a HD Freeview box to an analogue TV set. However, to do so, you will need to purchase an adapter.

To connect any HDMI device to a Scart connection, you’ll need a convertor like the Benfei HDMI to Scart Adapter.

To connect any HDMI device to an RCA connection, you’ll need a convertor like the Gana HDMI to RCA Composite Cable Adapter.

Note that, though the box and channels may be HD, by running the display through a convertor/adapter and an analogue TV, the image will no longer be in high-definition. If you’d like to purchase an affordable HD TV, you can read our guide to the best 32-inch TVs.

Related: The best USB sticks for smart TVs

Do I need an aerial to watch Freeview?

Yes, an aerial is required to receive Freeview’s digital terrestrial channels.

Can I use my Freeview box with an indoor aerial?

Yes, you can, but many manufacturers advise against this method as indoor or portable ariels are prone to interference and are far less reliable than standard outdoor home aerials. Freeview recommends the following on its website:

“To get the best results, we recommend that you use a wideband aerial. Also known as Type T (for 'total') or Type W (for 'wideband'), these cover the entire range of signals used to transmit digital TV and continue to work even if there are changes to your TV signals”.

What is Freeview Play?

Freeview Play is a service that combines digital terrestrial channels and catch-up television streaming into one place, allowing you to browse forward to see what’s upcoming, and backward to see shows from the previous week. You can watch the video below for more information:

Do I need an aerial to watch Freeview Play, or can I use an internet connection?

Yes, an aerial is required to watch Freeview Play. Live TV is received through an aerial, as it is with standard Freeview. Only the on-demand and catch-up features require an internet connection. According to Freeview, you’ll need a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps.

Related: Best 43-inch smart TVs

Does a Freeview box need an internet connection?

No, to watch Freeview, you do not require an internet connection. However, if you have Freeview Play, an internet connection will need to access the on-demand features.

An internet connection will also be required to access any smart features that your Freeview box may carry, such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

Related: The best TV recorder

What about internet channels and ethernet connections?

The overwhelming majority of channels received by Freeview boxes are digital terrestrial, and therefore transmitted to you via an aerial connection. However, even on boxes without smart/catch-up features, there's a niche selection of internet channels available through a hardwired ethernet connection (which is a way of connecting to the internet). These internet channels include the likes of Ketchup TV, Box Nation and Planet Knowledge.

If you don’t have an internet/ethernet connection, don’t worry. These additional channels are optional, and your Freeview box will still be able to receive standard major TV channels, including from the BBC, ITV and UKTV.

William Lobley is a Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming, and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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