Freeview Play has long offered a way for those of us unwilling to shell out for a Sky or Virgin subscription to keep up to date with our favourite shows, and now that the service has largely improved its electronic program guides (EPGs) and user interfaces, as well as adding bonus content such as streaming services, catch-up, and universal search, Freeview has become a vital bit of kit for any home.
Forget what you remember from the days of Freeview boxes unable to handle HD channels or content you’d – gasp – have to navigate or search for. Things have changed significantly, with tasks like searching across various platforms, recording several things at once, and streaming in high definition all well within the devices’ remit today.
Whether you’re looking for something as simple as a way to watch live Freeview channels, or you want to be able to record, stream and watch everything in a single place, we’ve found some of the best options out there.
The best Freeview boxes to buy from £35
Manhattan T1 Freeview HD Receiver
Price: £35 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re looking for something basic and compact, then the Manhattan T1 might be the one for you. The box allows you to watch 70 HD and SD channels (plus 25 radio stations) with Dolby Digital sound to your heart’s content, but the downside is that you won’t be able to use it to record or watch streaming services. The EPG is fairly responsive, though, so choosing and switching channels thankfully isn’t a chore in itself. You can also create favourite channels lists, and set reminders for certain programs.
Price: £49 | Buy now from Amazon
The Netgem NetBox is one of the first and only Freeview boxes to combine decent hardware and Freeview Play without breaking the bank – the compact design and user-friendly interface combine to make this one of the best budget options available. Streaming content is a huge bonus, but be aware that the box currently doesn’t support Netflix. If you’re happy with Amazon Prime and the main catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, then you can also record series via a USB hard disc and pair the box with Alexa devices.
Price: £118 | Buy now from Amazon
A brilliantly comprehensive TV viewing device, the BTYouview+ Set Top Box allows you to watch pretty much anything you want, how and when you want to. The user interface has been redesigned to be even better than before, letting you quickly record, catch-up on missed shows, access streaming apps including Netflix, and use universal search to find a specific program amidst the many, many available channels and services. The picture quality is also top-notch, though potential drawbacks include no in-built Wi-Fi (so you’ll need to connect via Ethernet) and a (still-massive) 500GB cap on recorded content.
Price: £189 | Buy now from Amazon
More of an HD recorder with Freeview Play than a traditional Freeview box, the Panasonic DMR-HWT150EB still offers a lot of impressive features including an 8-day EPG with live TV, streaming and catch-up services, in addition to apps such as YouTube And Netflix, and the ability to stream live broadcasts to other devices such as tablets. A huge bonus is an in-built Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to fiddle around with ethernet cables, and you can even steam in 4K from a USB. You can even boost the capacity from an adequate 500GB to 1TB if you wish.
Price: £219 | Buy now from Amazon
Fitting in not one, not two, but three HD tuners, the Humax FVP-5000T is a bit of a beast and worth every penny. The multiple tuners mean you’re able to watch one channel while recording between two and four shows at the same time. The EPG is also as great as you’d expect, and the 1TB hard drive gives you more than enough space to store all your favourites before you get to them. Humax even has a dedicated app for iOS and Android that allows you to set reminders and schedule recordings straight from your phone.