If you’ve recently ditched your Sky subscription and are looking for an alternative to that bulky Sky box that’s currently sitting under your TV, the Manhattan SX Freesat HD Box might be just what you need to upgrade your viewing experience.
Costing just £49, the box is an unashamedly no-frills, non-recording satellite receiver which has one single purpose – to let you continue watching non-subscription channels such as BBC One, ITV and Channel 4 (and their High Definition (HD) versions) without having to endure the frustration of wading through a programme guide littered with Sky channels that you can no longer receive.
Setting-up the SX is a doddle – simply connect the cable from your dish into the back, connect the power lead, choose whether you want to use a SCART, HDMI or RCA AV cable to connect the box to your telly, and then simply follow the on-screen prompts.
Note: The above assumes you’re switching from an older-style Sky+ HD box; the newer Sky Q boxes use a different form of LNB (the device on the end of the dish’s ‘arm’) which is incompatible with Freesat and if you’re switching from a Sky Q installation you’ll need to arrange for the LNB to be changed in order to use any Freesat box.
There’s also the option to connect the box to your home broadband either via WiFi or Ethernet cable, though this is only used for software updates.
The User Experience
Once you’ve completed the set-up process, which includes a quick scan for available channels and selecting a parental PIN, you’re ready to start watching.
As a standalone receiver, the SX’s only screen for you to routinely interact with is the programme guide (EPG) which offers a clear, easy to read experience and allows you to see what’s coming up over the next 8 days and to set reminders for anything you might fancy watching.
Inside the guide you can filter channels by category – such as Favourites, Music, News, HD, Entertainment – by clicking the remote control’s Yellow button which reveals a dropdown list.
The EPG screen also offers a mini-screen so you can carry on watching your current channel while seeing what else is on. Next to the mini-screen you’ll see the description of whichever programme is currently highlighted in the guide.
There’s also a separate menu screen which includes options to create your Favourite channels list, to PIN protect channels and to delete any channels you don’t want cluttering up your guide, as well as options to set your TV resolution, switch between different sound output modes, retune Freesat channels and manually add any channels currently airing unencrypted but not part of the Freesat channel line-up.
While watching any channel you can bring up the mini-guide by pressing the OK button on the remote, this will display the current and next programme for the channel you’re watching and shows how far through the current programme is.
Scrolling up and down shows the same information for other channels, and you can also hop through the listings for your Favourite channels by pressing the Yellow button while the mini-guide is active.
The remote control also gives you one button access to Subtitles and Audio Description where offered by broadcasters.
The box is your standard black ‘lozenge’ and is roughly the same size as an Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire TV. In keeping with most set boxes these days there’s no front display, just a single LED indicator to show when the box is on.
On the back you’ll find the ‘Dish In’ socket for connecting the cable from your satellite dish.
Assuming you’re moving from a recording Sky box (Sky+ HD) your cable will have two connectors at the set top box end but only one of these can be connected to the SX box – this is because the second connection is what allows the Sky+ box (and Freesat recording boxes) to record one channel while letting you watch a second. As the SX is a non-recording box, it doesn’t need both connections.
You’ll also find the ethernet port for connecting the box to your broadband router, and next to this a HDMI port for connecting the box to your TV. If you want to receive HD channels this is the connection you’ll want to use, but Manhattan has catered for those with older TVs by also fitting a 3.5mm Analogue AV port, along with a RCA AV cable and RCA to SCART adapter.
There’s also the connection for the power adapter and, on the side, a USB slot, though this can only be used for software updates.
Some Things To Note
Unlike other Freesat boxes on the market, the Manhattan SX doesn’t include catch-up apps such as BBC iPlayer or All4 and is firmly positioned as being all about keeping you watching your favourite channels rather than being a ‘smart TV’ device.
Given the wide availability of these apps on Smart TVs, streaming sticks and game consoles, we think Manhattan’s made the right decision to focus on providing a ‘core’ Freesat experience at a price-point so low that most former Sky customers will start saving money almost as soon as they cancel their subscription and ditch their old Sky box.
For anyone who doesn’t already have access to the catch-up apps, they can be easily and cheaply added to your TV by spending £20 on a NOW TV Smart Stick which will also give you two months access to Sky’s entertainment channels.
Going down that route, you’d still spend less on the Manhattan SX and NOW TV Smart Stick combined than on the nearest competing Freesat box, and you’d have a wider choice of apps.
It’s also worth noting that as well as being a non-recording box, the SX doesn’t support the pausing or rewinding of live TV.
Again, we think this is a fair trade-off for the price and as an ex-Sky box also won’t record or live-pause, you’re not losing any functionality as a result of switching to Manhattan’s box, but you will gain a tidier programme guide designed to showcase the programmes you can watch rather then one that forces you to scroll through ones you can’t.
Should You Buy One?
For an RRP of under £50 (half the price of the competition) you get a solidly preforming box which offers an unfussy, hassle-free way to keep watching TV with the dish you already have installed, and which is backed by a 2-year warranty (provided you register within 30 days of purchase), giving you peace of mind in case something goes wrong.
Manhattan have also, and impressively, ensured the box works with the widest number of TVs by catering for all those non-HDMI sets still sitting in the nation’s lounges and bedrooms rather than follow the trend to only cater for those with the latest tech.
As a package, that represents great value for money and makes it easy to recommend the box to anyone looking to swap out that aging Sky box for something more modern and dedicated to the task at hand.
Buy the Manhattan SX Freesat HD Box from Amazon.co.uk