At a glance, Freeview, Freesat and YouView look pretty similar; they all offer a set top box that delivers dozens of free-to-air TV channels and catch-up services without a subscription fee. Thing is, there are quite a few important differences between them. But which is the best choice for you?
Battle of the boxes
Freeview comes in many different forms; from a set top box, to a dinky little thing that barely even qualifies as a box, to a telly that already has it built in. Plenty of electronics manufacturers make them so you’ll be spoiled for choice. To get started with Freeview, simply hook it up to your aerial - and broadband, if you want to use smart TV - and you’re good to go.
Freesat is broadcast via satellite and boasts a lot of TV at a super low cost. That said, if you don’t already have a satellite dish, it can be a hassle getting one put in - not to mention, expensive. Still, it’s a good choice if you have bad TV signal in your area, or already have a satellite dish installed.
If you're a BT TV or TalkTalk TV subscriber, you'll get a free YouView box with various extras like entertainment channels, movies, and sports built in. It’s growing in popularity all the time, with over three million set-top boxes and digital devices across the country. But is it any good?
Let’s take a closer look at all three.
You can pick up a basic Freeview box, without recording functionality, for less than £20, making it the cheapest of the three. Alternatively, Freeview HD TVs start at around £170, and most of the big brand manufacturers make them.
Freesat and Freeview are similar on the cost-front, although you will end up paying more to get a satellite dish installed if you don’t already have one, which can be pricey - we’re talking around £80. A basic Freesat box by itself will likely set you back around £45, but if you’re feeling lavish, you can get the latest Freesat box with recording and OnDemand functionality for £179.
I guess you can’t have it all. Still, here's some current deals to see how they compare:
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Freeview takes this one.
Now to the important bit - how many channels can you get?
Freeview offers more than 70 channels of TV and radio. That said, YouView has the same number of channels, plus a lot more if you get it as part of a pay TV service from BT or TalkTalk. And there’s a huge list of those to choose from.
TalkTalk's Sky Cinema boost, for example, includes the most popular movie channels like Premiere, Disney, Thriller and hundreds of films live and on demand. And, if you’re after something for the kids, you can add on nine channels for kids’ TV and seven on demand too, including Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
But in the end, if we’re talking quantity, Freesat comes out on top, with a whopping 200+ TV and radio channels for your eyes and ears to feast on .
Freesat takes the trophy here.
All three of our contenders recognise that viewers want to put their expensive TVs to good use, and watch their favourite shows in stunning HD - but how do they compare?
Well, YouView has 13 HD channels, Freesat offers 13, and Freeview boasts an impressive 15 HD channels each.
That said, by opting for YouView, you’ll access get bolt-ons from Sky TV and BT.
Freeview and YouView take this one.
Freeview, Freesat and YouView all let you record, pause, and rewind live TV, as well as offer boxes that let you save between 500GB or 1TB of telly.
This one’s a tie
Nowadays, TV just isn’t TV without on demand or catch up. All three of our competitors offer catch up functionality, here’s how they fare:
- Freeview: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5, All 4, UKTV Play and STV Player.
- YouView: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, STV Player, Milkshake, UKTV Play, S4C, Quest. Plus BBC and TalkTalk offer extra on demand options depending on your package.
- Freesat: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5.
It's all about YouView.
So, you’ve chosen your box. Next thing, how do you use it?
I mean, you don't want to spend precious viewing time cursing at a remote control, do you?
Freesat offers a seven-day catch up service called Freetime that lets you organise your recordings, as well as go back and watch the shows you’ve missed. It's simple enough to use, but it doesn’t come as standard; you will have to double check that the box you choose supports Freetime.
When it comes to Freeview, different manufacturers and TVs will have different interfaces for the service, so it’s difficult to give a straight answer on this one. What I can say though, is that it’s very easy to set-up.
Then there’s YouView. YouView prides itself on user-friendly, accessible features; catch-up is integrated into the TV guide, and it’s easy to switch on subtitles or audio descriptions. Plus, there’s an interactive zoom feature that makes the TV guide that much easier to read, along with audio feedback and a high contrast user interface.
In short, YouView trumps this one.
YouView wins for usability.
Freeview alone doesn’t offer a lot of movies, although it is compatible with Smart TV services. So, if you have the right TV and broadband connection, you can access aps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Now TV, plus much more.
Freesat has the fewest movie services, although you can add on demand services like Netflix.
Meanwhile, a standalone YouView box lets you use Netflix, Now TV, and Prime Video to buy and rent movies. With BT TV, you’ll get all of those and BT Box Office, as well as the Sky Cinema bolt-on, and you can also add all of Sky's movie channels to a TalkTalk TV package at any time. If you’re with TalkTalk, you’ll get access to Sky Cinema; eleven dedicated movie channels and over 1,200 on demand movies.
This one's a no-brainer.
YouView takes it.
Sorry sports fans, but you’re probably not going to be blown away by what our three contenders have to offer, here. That said, YouView goes some way in picking up the slack for the other two; TalkTalk TV, for example, lets you add on the full suite of Sky Sports channels as a Boost (the provider's fancy word for its add-ons). You can get BT Sport too .
Naturally, BT Sport is also available on YouView from BT TV, and a Sky Sports Bolt-on can be added and removed whenever you like.
YouView scoops the trophy.
Sure, Freesat may have the most channels, and Freeview might well be the kindest to your wallet, but in our mind, there’s only one clear winner, and that’s YouView. With an easy-to-user interface and a great range of HD channels, you’re bound to have a great TV experience. Plus, you can get loads of extra channels and hours of on demand extras if you get the box via a BT TV or TalkTalk TV package.