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(Pocket-lint) - Freeview is easy to take for granted here in the UK, but it's absolutely fantastic. The free-to-air system ensures that you can watch TV for free, through most compatible TVs.

However, it really comes to life if you get yourself a Freeview Play box of which there are plenty to choose from. These set-top boxes let you record programmes and also give you a smoother way to enjoy all the Freeview channels you could want. Some will even give you access to on-demand apps and YouTube.

We've gathered together the very best options on the market right now, for you to choose from. 


What is the best Freeview box? Currently, our top pick is the Manhattan T3-R. However, we also recommend taking a look at the Humax FVP-5000T, Manhattan T1, Manhattan T3 and the Digi-Link Scart Freeview Receiver.


Our Top Pick: Best Freeview Box

ManhattanBest Freeview Play box for 2020: Record and watch free TV photo 2

Manhattan T3-R

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For

  • Storage options up to 1TB
  • Snappy quad-core CPU
  • YouTube app

Against

  • No recording indicator on the box

As you'll see the more we go through this list, Manhattan is pretty much the biggest name when it comes to Freeview Play boxes. 

Its T3-R is the most premium box it makes and is 4K HDR-capable, although it's still not exactly luxury in its pricing, and it gives you a great suite of options including the ability to record programmes to a 1TB hard drive (a 500GB version is also available). Catch-up is easy to access and it's even got a YouTube (and YouTube Kids) app for convenience. This is as good as a Freeview Play box can get, in our view. 

Freeview boxes we also recommend

While we think the Manhattan T3-R is a perfect choice for a lot of people, not everyone will need such a feature-packed and capable Freeview box. So, here are some other top options that we recommend.

HumaxBest Freeview Play box for 2020: Record and watch free TV photo 3

Humax FVP-5000T

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For

  • Available with a massive 2TB storage
  • UPnP compatibility
  • Record up to 3 channels simultaneously

Against

  • Long boot-up times

Humax provides good competition for Manhattan with this box, which matches many of the T3-R's features.

You can also upgrade to a pricey 2TB version of the FVP-5000T, which is the best capacity you'll find on the standard market. It's got all the major catch-up services on board and it's easy to set up your recordings, which is really all you need. 

ManhattanBest Freeview Play box for 2020: Record and watch free TV photo 4

Manhattan T1

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For

  • Very affordable
  • HD picture quality
  • Scart and RCA compatible

Against

  • Doesn't record, pause or rewind

Manhattan's next option on our list is drastically different in terms of price point from the previous two options, and would be a seriously great choice for anyone who isn't concerned about recording or catch-up. As it doesn't have catch-up, the T1 is a Freeview HD box, not a Freeview Play one. 

If all you're looking for is a simple and elegant way to access live TV and check out the different options for you at any given moment, the T1 gets it done for a great price. 

ManhattanBest Freeview Play box for 2020: Record and watch free TV photo 5

Manhattan T3

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For

  • Lots of smart apps
  • UHD and HDR support (with apps)
  • Responsive performance

Against

  • No recording

Here's the hat-trick for Manhattan, with its third box on our list, and this one is a bit of a middle ground compared to the T3-R and the T1. 

While you still can't record TV on the T3, you do have access to a range of catch-up services to ensure that you don't have to worry if you miss a show. It's a great box that probably has the features that most people want, short of recording. 

AmazonBest Freeview Play box for 2020: Record and watch free TV photo 6

Digi-Link Scart Freeview Receiver

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For

  • Nice and cheap
  • Easy to hide due to small size
  • Compatible with Scart and HDMI

Against

  • Guide navigation is sluggish

A slightly different choice, but if you're looking to hook up an old TV to Freeview HD, then this simple Scart attachment might be a good bet. Again, this doesn't have catch-up capabilities so it isn't a Freeview Play receiver. 

It's far from elegant, and most people with more recent TVs will want one of the boxes we've featured so far, but this little bit of tech could help prolong the shelf-life of a TV for an older relative or in other situations, which makes it worth highlighting in our eyes. 

Other Freeview boxes we've considered

When initially deciding what we believe to be the best Freeview boxes currently available, we spent hours testing and researching. No matter the subject area, we always consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices - and apply the same process before a new device enters our top five selections. We don't just take into account our own testing, either, but also consumer reviews, brand quality and value.

In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.

How to choose a Freeview box

With such a wealth of options to pick from, it can be hard to know what to look out for when buying a Freeview box. With that in mind, here are a few things that we think are worth considering before you make your decision.

What is Freeview Play?

Freeview Play is Freeview's connected TV platform. In addition to all of your usual Freeview channels, you get on-demand and catch-up TV built right into the programme guide without the need to launch additional apps.

Freeview Play uses a standard digital TV ariel for live broadcasts and relies on an internet connection for catch-up and on-demand services.

There is a competing service called YouView that offers essentially the same functionality.

Will you need to record?

If you want to record, pause or rewind live TV, you'll need a Freeview box that is capable of this. These boxes are called PVRs, DVRs or sometimes just Recorders. Not everyone needs to record TV, and if that's the case, then you can save a chunk of change by choosing a Freeview Receiver rather than a Freeview Recorder.

The easiest way to tell if the Freeview box you are looking at can record TV is by checking if it has a stated hard drive capacity.

How much storage are you likely to need?

If you're choosing a Freeview Box with recording capabilities, the next step is deciding on how much storage you're going to need.

This all depends on the user, if you're the type of person who likes to hoard entire seasons, then the more storage the better. On the other hand, if you only really care about pausing and rewinding live TV then you can get away with barely any storage at all.

More about this story

Every product in this list has been assessed thoroughly to ensure it will perform exactly as a recommended pick should.

We've thought about everything, factoring in how each model will perform when being used for playback, recording and when connected with a variety of different televisions. This meant diving into the key specs and features, like hard drive capacity, processor speeds, connectivity and more. From there, we've then crossed our judgements with each individual price tag to ensure they represent good value for money, too. 

As with any roundup, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user, but we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.

What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each freeview box is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.
Sections TV