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26 April 2021

Freesat vs Freeview: which should you choose?

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.
Martin Pratt
Freesat logo

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

PVRs are the more advanced of the two, as they allow you to pause, rewind and record TV shows directly to the box. TV streamers, such as Google Chromecasts and Amazon Fire TV Sticks, which stream content from catch up and on demand services are also worth considering.

Know what you want already? Then check out our PVR and set-top box reviews.

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 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 onto a built-in hard drive.

Read our what is Freesat? guide to discover more about subscription-free satellite TV.

Freeview

How do I get it? any new TV you buy will have a Freeview tuner, otherwise you need to buy a Freeview set-top box or PVR. 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.

What will I be able to watch? there are close to 100 free channels available in both SD and HD, as well as some radio stations. Take a look at the Freeview TV guide to get an idea of what's available.

Can I record live TV? 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.

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.