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Freesat vs Freeview: key features explained

By Lewis Skinner

If you want to watch TV without being tied into a subscription, then a free-to-air service like Freeview or Freesat could be right for you.

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All new TVs come with a digital tuner built-in that will let you access free-TV channels, but if you have an older TV you'll need a PVR or set-top box. 

PVRs are generally the preferred option, as they allow you to pause, rewind and record TV shows directly to the box. Internet TV boxes which stream content from catch up and on demand services are also worth considering.

Know what you want already? Then check out all of our PVR and set-top box Best Buys right here.

Freesat

How do I get it?: You need a TV with a built-in Freesat tuner or a separate Freesat set-top box or PVR. Freesat boxes range from around £50 to £250 and are available from manufacturers such as Humax, Grundig, Goodmans, Logik, Bush and Manhattan.

The Freesat signal is received via a satellite dish. If you don’t already have a satellite dish you can order one when you buy your Freesat box, either in store or online. Expect to pay around £80 for a standard installation.

What will I be able to watch? Freesat offers over 200 TV and radio channels, including BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5. For an up-to-date list of channels offered see the Freesat website.

Can I record live TV? Yes, if you have a Freesat PVR. This gives you access to the Freesat channels but also functions as a personal video recorder that lets you pause and rewind live TV, as well as record programmes.

Can I get high-definition TV? The Freesat HD service gives you access to high-definition channels from the likes of BBC, ITV and Channel 4. You’ll need a Freesat HD box and an HD-ready TV to connect it to.

Discover more about subscription-free satellite TV with our What is Freesat? guide.

Freeview

How do I get it? You need to buy a Freeview set-top box or PVR, unless you already have a TV with built-in Freeview. Set-top boxes start from around £20 for a basic model and go up to around £200. Boxes are available from manufacturers such as Humax, Goodmans and Panasonic.

The Freeview box plugs into the back of your TV and your regular TV aerial - you may have to upgrade your aerial if it’s very old. Once you’ve bought the box the programmes are free.

Can I record live TV? Most set-top boxes aren't able to record live TV. Instead you'll need a Freeview+ PVR. This gives you access to the Freeview channels but also functions as a personal video recorder that lets you pause and rewind live TV, as well as record programmes.

Can I get high-definition TV? There is a Freeview HD service that gives you access to high-definition channels from BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Some set-top boxes aren't able to access HD TV so make sure you check the specifications before buying one, you'll also need an HD-ready TV.

Everything you need to know about digital terrestrial TV with our What is Freeview? guide.

Now you know what you're after, go to our PVR and set-top box reviews for more details.

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