Free TV How do I get HD TV channels?

Watch high definition channels on Freesat HD

Freeview HD is a television service that gives you high-definition channels via your existing TV aerial. The channels are free once you have bought Freeview HD equipment – you don't need to sign up to a monthly subscription or contract. 

To watch Freeview HD, you'll need one of the following:

  • a Freeview HD set-top box
  • a Freeview HD personal video recorder (PVR)
  • a TV with built-in Freeview HD

Freesat HD is a similar service, though the signal for the TV channels comes through a satellite rather than the aerial.

To watch Freesat HD, you'll need one of the following:

  • a Freesat HD set-top box
  • a Freesat HD personal video recorder (PVR)
  • a TV with built-in Freesat HD

Take a look at our Best Buy Freeview HD and Freesat HD PVRs.

What are the benefits of HD TV?

HD TV is a new standard of TV with better picture and sound quality than standard-definition TV – more like the quality you'd see at a cinema. HD offers more colour and a higher picture resolution. This can make HD TV images clearer, sharper, more detailed and more lifelike.

HD is one of the most significant developments in TV in recent years but remember, in order to watch it, you'll need an HD-ready TV. 

See how the latest HD-ready models rated in our lab tests in the Which? LCD and plasma TV reviews.

Which HD channels are available on Freeview HD and Freesat HD?

HD channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are available on both services, along with S4C HD in Wales. Not all programmes from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are broadcast in HD, but there’s a wide range of content available, from wildlife documentaries to sporting events. 

The BBC One HD channel shows high-definition versions of BBC One shows, whilst BBC HD currently shows nine hours of HD programmes daily between 4pm and 1am, including popular shows such as Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing. ITV1 HD shows some programmes in Full HD, while others are remastered to give you sharper, clearer pictures. 4HD includes films and a mix of UK and US shows. 

In addition to the HD channels, Freeview gives you access around 50 channels in standard definition, Freesat customers get around 165 channels.

FreeviewHD logo

Get 50 standard definition and 4 high definition channels through your aerial

Freeview HD coverage

Freeview HD transmissions began in December 2009 in London and were rolled out to Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle in 2010. 

The rest of the country received the service in line with their digital switchover dates. Freeview claim that over 3 million households have access to Freeview HD. If you're considering this service too be sure to check coverage in your area first by using the checker on the Freeview website.

Until relatively recently, HD wasn’t possible on Freeview because there was insufficient airwave spectrum available. The digital switchover means that analogue channels are being switched off, freeing up airwave space and making an HD signal via Freeview possible.

What TV equipment do you need to get Freeview HD?

The first Freeview HD equipment hit the shops in February 2010 when Humax launched the HD FOX T2, the first Freeview HD box for sale in the UK, at a cost of around £180. Freeview HD set-top boxes are now available from other manufacturers such as Bush, Sagem and Metronic. There are also Freeview HD PVRs available, if you'd like to record your favourite shows in high definition.

The main TV manufacturers, including Panasonic, Toshiba, LG, Sony, Sharp and Samsung, have all launched TVs with integrated Freeview HD tuners. This is a more expensive option than buying a set-top box or PVR, but might be worth considering if you're looking to buy a new TV anyway. Whilst TVs with Freeview HD tuners were sold at a premium initially, we would expect the technology to be integrated into more and more models and become standard within a couple of years.

Other HD TV options

Other HD services are available from Sky and Virgin Media, but unlike Freeview HD these will require either a satellite dish or access to cable TV:

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