Best Freesat box to replace Sky – [Best in The UK]
Once upon a time, TV viewers had 5 terrestrial channels from which to choose and if they wanted anything more than that, then effectively, their only choice was Sky. Then digital TV and broadband internet appeared to save people from this expensive prison. Over the course of a few years, the great British public went from having a maximum of five free channels to a minimum of 70, if they had Freeview or 200 if they had Freesat, plus a huge range of streaming video services some of which were free, some of which were pay-as-you-go and some of which operated on a subscription basis but without the long-term contract, which Sky demanded.
Some of these companies have deep pockets themselves and have been using their own financial might to eat away at Sky’s dominance. For example, Sky used to be the only non-terrestrial channel with rights to EPL matches, but now both BT and Amazon have claimed a share of broadcasting rights, which means that football fans can no longer simply buy a Sky subscription to be sure of seeing all the EPL action, they will need to sign up for BT and Amazon as well. The good news for football fans is that Sky has now accepted the reality of pay per view and Sky Sports is now accessible on a rolling subscription via its online on-demand service Now TV, BT has announced that it is developing a pay per view offering (we’d suspect it will want to launch in time to offer its EPL football coverage on it) and Amazon Video has always worked on the basis of a rolling subscription which you could cancel at any time.
What’s more, Sky’s big entertainment draw, Game of Thrones, is due to air its (short) last season in 2019 (and it’s odds on that this will be shown on Now TV anyway). Once this is over, it’s hard to see how Sky will find something big enough for people to justify paying a long-term subscription, especially not since commercial reality is likely to dictate that any major shows are also made accessible through Sky’s Now TV platform. In short, it looks like even the major players, who have spent years persuading people to buy long-term subscriptions, have accepted that those days are over and that going forward, people will use Freeview or Freesat as their core entertainment option and supplement it with video-streaming services as, when and if they see fit. In order to do this, people will need a freesat receiver and the good news is that these are widely available at very affordable prices. Here is a list of our favourites.
Best Freesat box to replace SkyFree TV (Lite v2) Full HD Free To Air Satellite Receiver by Edision
Free TV Full HD Free To Air Satellite Receiver (Full Version V2), by Edision
The only difference between the Lite version and the Full version of this freesat receiver is that the full version can support automatic channel updates over WiFi (although you need your own dongle) and it also comes with an an IR blaster /AV 3.5 output cable. Otherwise these two freesat receivers both offer the same level of functionality, which could reasonably be described as basic, but often sufficient. What this means in practice is that these Freesat boxes can not only play programmes (including programmes in HD), but can also record them if you attach an external hard drive to the USB port. We suspect that is all a lot of people will care about, especially when devices are as budget-friendly as these options from Edision. At the more premium end of the market, we might grumble about the clunky menu structure and/or the fact that the electronic programme guide only covers the current programmes and the following programmes, but at this price point, these are minor issues which can reasonably be overlooked.
Humax HDR-1100S 500 GB Freesat with Freetime HD TV Recorder
Humax HDR-1100S 1TB Freesat with Freetime HD TV Recorder – Black
The only difference between these two models is the size of the hard drive, which is 500 GB and 1TB respectively. Otherwise, they are, in our opinion, jointly the two best top-of-the-range options for the home consumer market. Menu structures are intuitive and the EPG covers the 8 previous days and the 7 days ahead (in addition to the actual day), plus it puts the catch-up channels at your fingertips and creates a “Showcase” of curated content for you, basically viewing suggestions.
In addition to the on-demand app, there is also a Freesat app, which allows your Freesat box to be controlled from a mobile device. Officially, this allows you to access your Freesat box when you are out of your home, thereby allowing you to take care of anything you’ve forgotten, like setting it to record your favourite programmes before you go on holiday. We rather suspect it will probably be used more as an alternative to finding the remote control, but we still think it’s a handy feature. Assuming you do remember where you put the remote, you’ll find it comes with a range of smart controls, our favourite being the ability to return to where you were before you were interrupted.
With the hard drives coming in at massive and even more massive, you’d expect these devices to have the ability to record programmes and indeed they do. In fact they can record two programmes at once – and play back a previously-recorded programme while they’re at it.
Manhattan SX Freesat HD Zapper
The Manhattan SX Freesat HD Zapper brings us back to the budget end of the market, in fact this offering is so budget it doesn’t record at all, the USB port is purely to apply software updates. Some people may see this as a significant minus, although in these days of catch-up TV, we’d say that it was rather less of an issue than it used to be. Other people, however, will see it as nothing to worry about or even a potential bonus. The Manhattan’s natural home is in places like guest rooms and children’s rooms, where you want the occupants to be able to enjoy watching TV, but either don’t want to pay for extra recording functionality or don’t want the occupants to be able to record programmes without you knowing about it.
This device is small and while we wouldn’t go as far as describing it as chic, we would describe it as discreet and able to fit into most decor schemes. The Manhattan option is set up with HDTV in mind, meaning that it only has an HDMI plug, however it will happily work with older TVs by means of an adaptor.
Technomate TM-5402 HD M3, 1080p Digital Satellite Receiver
The Technomate TM-5402 is an interesting option since it offers more functionality than the Edision or Manhattan models, although not quite as much as the Humax, but the absence of an integrated hard drive helps to keep the price down. It also offers a bit more flexibility in how you use the device. With the Humax, once the hard drive is full, your options are, basically, empty it or stop recording and while both options have substantial hard drive capacity, video files are bulk and HDTV files are the bulkiest of the lot and can easily guzzle up capacity on even the biggest drives. With the Technomate, you can simply change out drives as and when you want/need to. It’s also worth noting that, although the Humax has more overall functionality, the Technomate does beat it on one point, it can record up to three programmes at once while playing back another.