As streaming turns into extra common, the way in which wherein we eat content material is altering as folks transfer in the direction of OTT video providers. However the set-top field is evolving with the instances to compete with something media streamers can throw at them.
Set-top containers include a big selection of performance, with help for 4K UHD content material, HDR content material and multi-room performance. In addition to that, you’ll be able to select totally different storage choices for individuals who prefer to file and preserve content material they watch. In any case, not everybody has time to observe the most recent reveals as and once they come out.
The likes of Sky, BT, Virgin, Humax and Manhattan all produce set-top containers, and we’ve reviewed loads of them over time. This checklist options the perfect set-top containers we’ve examined just lately, and we choose how good they’re by assessing their video and audio efficiency, navigating their interfaces to see how simple they’re to traverse and testing out their recoding options.
Many set-top containers additionally embody streaming providers, and so we’ll look and assess which of them the set-top containers have for individuals who need entry to the providers together with their extra ‘conventional’ TV providers.
Beneath are choices for Freeview and satellite tv for pc customers, so if you happen to’re seeking to transfer from one TV supplier to a different, take a look under to see what’s on provide.
If a set-top field doesn’t pique your curiosity simply but, then take a look at our greatest streaming units if you wish to ditch PVR and satellite tv for pc altogether.
Greatest set-top containers at a look
How we check
We watch numerous TV on these set-top containers, being attentive to the picture and sound high quality. When potential, we evaluate that image high quality to what’s anticipated from the tv itself, to gauge what, if something, these set-top containers are bringing to the image.
Interface is an enormous a part of how we overview set-top containers. Is the distant simple to make use of and aware of presses. Is the person interface intuitive? Is it simple to navigate and what types of navigation does it help? All these items will assist decide how good the person expertise is.
And what about content material? How a lot content material is out there, which apps are supported and is help by way of options as much as the requirements we’d count on. If a set-top field says it helps apps in 4K HDR, we’ll be searching for apps that truly carry help for these options.
Different options we glance out for are the variety of tuners supported, connectivity and the way do the catch-up options work. Smarts are to be anticipated, and we’ll check these to guage whether or not they’re applied properly and dwell as much as expectations
Lastly, each component is judged towards the worth. If a machine represents good worth usually, we’ll be a little bit extra lenient on a foul distant. Pricier machines, nonetheless, had higher be nice.
- Watch virtually every thing anyplace
- Highly effective interface
- Recordings will be stored ceaselessly
- Numerous Extremely HD content material
- HDR and Dolby Atmos
- Not low cost
- HDR help restricted
- Dolby Atmos doesn’t work in apps
- Requires a satellite tv for pc dish
The Sky Q is a brilliant trying field, with a design that arguably set the tone for all of the set-top containers that adopted just like the BT TV Field Professional. Its kind issue is way more engaging than the utilitarian design of the Virgin V6 field.
Sky’s UI is among the finest within the enterprise in our opinion, providing a handy technique of discovering on-demand content material, recordings and searching its TV information. It’s clear in look, loaded with photos for a extra visual-based technique of interplay in addition to handy textual content descriptions. There are devoted sub-menus for various classes or varieties of programming, which comes useful for extra particular searches.
Sky Q helps a multi-room configuration with extra Mini containers. These are small units that hook up with different TVs to stream content material from the primary field. The Mini Packing containers solely help HD although, whereas the primary Q field streams in 4K. We discovered that to be a disappointing growth, particularly if the Mini field is linked to a 4K TV.
Sky’s vary of content material is huge and arguably the perfect on this checklist, with US dramas, comedies, movies, 1000’s of TV box-sets and sport within the Premier League and Method One however the subscriptions usually are not significantly low cost – that is very a a lot a premium service. The UHD content material is best than another service present we’ve reviewed, and there’s paid content material although the Sky Retailer that gives entry to immediate downloads.
Our reviewer discovered image high quality to be excellent, with HD programming offered in sharp element, and UHD content material trying improbable (though it will rely on the TV its watched on). Sky has additionally added HDR help, that brings higher distinction and color constancy to content material.
On the audio entrance there’s help for Dolby Atmos, which we discovered produced a step-up in high quality with further top and width to audio. Simply among the finest set-top containers if you happen to can afford Sky’s premium subscriptions.
There may be now the choice of Sky Stream, which incorporates Atmos and Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR amongst its specs, for individuals who need a streaming-based resolution.
Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Evaluation: Sky Q
Greatest Freeview field
- Straightforward to make use of
- Nice image when recording HD TV channels
- Quiet HDD operation
- Private Watchlist for on-demand content material
- Restricted simultaneous channel recording
- No Netflix or Amazon Prime Video
The Manhattan T3-R Freeview Play is a brilliant trying, compact field that may simply match beneath a telly. We discovered connectivity to be good with HDMI, aerial, optical digital audio output, Ethernet and Wi-Fi current. There’s a USB port but it surely’s just for energy.
The T3-R comes with 4K HDR help with HDR10 and HLG included for watching in HDR in apps equivalent to iPlayer and YouTube. We discovered setup was handy, a easy story of hooking the field to a TV and going by way of the method of tuning the channel checklist. The interface was simple to make use of and perceive, making certain that even essentially the most technophobic will have the ability to discover their manner around the interface.
Freeview Play affords 85 channels, though most of those are in commonplace definition. On TVs lower than 50-inches in dimension and the prevalence of normal definition content material received’t be as large an issue because it may very well be on 65-inch TVs and greater. Alongside dwell TV, Freeview Play has UK streaming catch-up and on-demand apps equivalent to iPlayer, All4 and My5, however on the time of overview there was no signal of Netflix, Prime Video or Disney+.
There’s a selection of both a 500GB or 1TB arduous drive for storing domestically recorded programmes, with 500GB mannequin providing a capability of round 300 hours for normal definition programming with series-linking and dwell pause included, which is good to have. The T3-R can now file two channels concurrently, with the power to observe a 3rd.
The T3-R is a stable performer for viewing dwell tv. Our reviewer discovered that HD channels equivalent to NHK look sharp with none artefacts, providing some nice texture and depth. SD content material is respectable by way of image constancy however will rely in your high quality of your TV’s upscaling. The T3-R has been discontinued, however two new fashions within the T4 and T4-R are set to reach August 2023. We’ll be seeking to overview them if we get the prospect.
Maintain an eye fixed out for our Humax Aura overview, which is coming within the subsequent few weeks to see if that may problem the Manhattan field.
Reviewer: Steve Could
Full Evaluation: Manhattan T3-R
Freesat 4K TV Recorder
Greatest Freesat field
- Document as much as 4 reveals
- Easy interface
- Helps HDR and Extremely HD
- Channel 4 not in HD
- No Dolby Imaginative and prescient
If Sky Q is just too costly, then the Freesat 4K TV Recorder is a extra inexpensive satellite tv for pc different. It’s a neat trying field, with virtually every thing you would wish by way of connections with an HDMI port, Ethernet, a digital audio port for audio, and a pair of satellite tv for pc inputs.
How these satellite tv for pc inputs are used relies on which kind of LNB (Low Noise Block) the satellite tv for pc dish has. A typical LNB permits for 2 channels to be watched concurrently, whereas wideband affords as much as 4. There’s additionally Wi-Fi for streaming over the Web.
Throughout testing we discovered the interface to be responsive and intuitive, with the minimally designed menus that includes handy entry to on-demand apps, dwell programming and saved recordings. We additionally discovered a wide variety of dwell channels with 180 made obtainable though solely 24 are broadcast in HD.
On-demand content material constitutes of BBC iPlayer, My5, STV Participant and UKTV Play, giving entry to many of the most important free-to-air channels. There’s additional comfort with a cell app that permits for recording reveals once you’re exterior the home, though it’s price noting it takes as much as half-hour for recordings to seem on the field itself.
In relation to visible high quality, we discovered the Freesat conveyed HD channels in an in depth and sharp with no artefacts. With SD content material, there’s the standard softness across the edges of individuals and objects issues, though the Freesat field does a good job of lowering artefacts the place potential.
In contrast to Sky Q, Extremely HD isn’t obtainable on Freesat platform itself, with solely Netflix and YouTube help 4K HDR. Watching Netflix in 4K HDR and our reviewer famous extra affect by way of wonderful element and hues with extra subtleties in tone. A stable field and a extra inexpensive value than Sky, though with out as a lot content material.
Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Evaluation: Freesat 4K TV Recorder
We additionally thought-about…
Virgin’s 4K TiVo is able to battle Sky Q
Sure, that’s more and more a chance on set-top containers, although not all containers help the primary apps.
Sure, the times of simply HD help is being left behind as extra set-top containers help 4K and HDR10
That determine relies on the set-top field itself. Some may have as much as 7 tuners for recording, others 4 and a few have fewer than that.
First Reviewed Date
345 x 210 x 43 MM
2TB Extremely HD field
3840 x 2160
HDMI, Satellite tv for pc, USB, Optical S/PIDF, LAN
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, AirPlay
Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+ (Atmos)
BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Disney Plus, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Discovery+, Vevo, Roxi, XITE, FiiT, YouTube, YouTube Youngsters, Roku, Purple Bull TV, BBC Sounds, Play.works, Beehive Bedlam, Intellectual, Tastemade
265 x 207 x 52 MM
3840 x 2160
LAN, Aerial, HDMI enter, Optical, USB
Stereo, Dolby Digital+
BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5, UKTV Play, BBC Information & Sport, CBS Catch-up and Horror Bites, YouTube, YouTube children
Freesat 4K TV Recorder
512GB, 1TB, 2TB
250 x 150 x 35 MM
1TB, 2TB, Non-recordable model
3840 x 2160
HDMI, Digital Optical Audio, LAN
Dolby Digital, Dolby Atmos
BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, My5, STV Participant, BritBox, Netflix, Eros Now, CBS Catchup, UKTV Play, BBC Sounds, YouTube, YouTube Youngsters, Pop Participant, France 24, Horror Bites, Amazon Prime Video