Home Sky Freesat review
If you are confused over free digital TV choices in the UK, this article will help. In it we compare the various Freesat services from Sky and the BBC to Freeview and Freeview HD, providing help and advice for choosing the right subscription-free digital TV service in the UK, either by satellite or via your existing TV aerial.
In direct competition with Sky Freesat and the subscription based Sky HD services, the BBC and ITV now jointly offer a Freesat HDTV service, which provides 5 subscription-free High Definition TV channels (HDTV) comprising BBC1 HD, BBC2 HD, ITV1 HD, Channel 4 HD and NHK World HD, as well as around 150 free Standard Definition digital TV and radio channels.
Freesat HD offers the best of BBC and ITV programming in HD and is broadcast via the Astra satellite at 28.2E (the same orbital position as used by the Sky Digital platform - making it possible to use an existing Sky dish to receive the new HD service). No viewing card is needed.
To complement Freesat HD, Humax has launched a Freesat+ HD PVR which offers similar features to the Sky+ HD recorder, but without the need for a monthly subscription.
Sky Freesat HD
Freeview & Freeview HD
Humax HD-FOX T2
Humax Foxsat HDR
Freeview HD Set Top Box
Best Price £130.00
To clarify things let's compare the UK's free digital TV services:
Freeview is subscription free digital TV via your aerial requiring a Set Top Box or IDTV (Integrated Digital TV) whereas, by comparison, Sky Freesat and Freesat HD both offer free digital TV channels via a satellite dish. As explained earlier, Sky's Freesat service requires a Sky Digibox and viewing card, whereas Freesat HD requires a Freesat HD box or PVR. Both services provide free-to-air digital satellite TV to UK viewers.
To compare Freesat services, Freesat from Sky still offers more free digital TV and radio channels than Freeview or the BBC / ITV run Freesat service - although it doesn't currently offer any HD TV channels - so you'll have to purchase the subscription based Sky HD service in order to gain access to Sky's 50 HD channels or consider Freesat HD which is the free to view ITV/BBC run service now offering 4 HD channels (BBC1 HD, BBC2 HD, ITV1 HD and Channel 4 HD) without a monthly subscription - independent of Sky. Channel 4 joins Freesat in April 2011 too.
So how do the satellite based digital TV services compare to Freeview which is received via your aerial? Well, in comparison, Freeview channel density is limited by the number of available UHF channels for broadcasting the terrestrial digital TV service - so not surprisingly Freeview via your aerial will offer significantly fewer TV channels for the forseeable future until UK Digital Switchover (DSO).
Freesat from Sky and the separate BBC run HD Freesat service, by contrast have access to multiple Astra satellite transponders and are able to offer more channels. Sky Freesat now features around 240 free digital TV channels to your home delivered via a satellite dish. This compares to around 50 free digital TV channels on the DVB-T Freeview TV service via an aerial.
Freeview terrestrial digital TV reception is currently only possible in around 80% of the UK via an conventional aerial, due to the lower power of the digital terrestrial TV service. The new Freeview HD service is also becoming available in more parts of the UK.
Whereas digital TV reception via satellite (including the Sky HD subscription service, Sky Freesat and BBC Freesat) is possible in around 98% of the UK. Around 2% of UK locations, particularly homes in deep valleys or surrounded by tall trees to the south east obstructing the view of the Astra 28.2 satellite, will not be able to receive Sky TV. Visit our Sky TV reception problem page for more help and advice.
If you don't have Sky TV already, for a one-off fee you can purchase a Sky Freesat installation for £175 to receive a good choice of free to air digital TV channels, without paying a monthly subscription. Alternatively as an existing Sky TV subscriber, you could cancel your monthly subscription, subject to the conditions of your Sky contract - in which case your existing viewing card will usually be downgraded to a Freesat card at no additional cost. See cancelling your Sky subscription above for help on this topic.
To get Freesat from Sky if there is no existing Sky TV box or satellite dish (minidish) installed at your UK address, you will need to buy a new Sky Freesat installation, by calling 08442 410 595. A trained Sky engineer will then fully install a Sky box and minidish at your property and provide a Freesat viewing card for a one time payment (currently £175). After this one off payment, there is currently no monthly Sky subscription for Freesat.
Alternatively, you can buy a second hand Sky box on Amazon (or buy one new) and install it yourself using a suitable satellite alignment meter or get a friend or local Sky installer to install it, then all you need to pay Sky is a one-off payment of £25 for a Sky Freesat card, including service activation.
Note: You may also need to buy a cheap satellite dish alignment meter.
The one off £25 fee for a Sky Freesat card applies even if you have no current Sky subscription at your premises. After this one off payment, you can enjoy the benefits of subscription free digital TV by satellite, whilst saving money on the £146.81 installation charge. And, as previously stated, all Sky Freesat customers pay no monthly subscription!
For an up to date list of channels on Freesat from Sky click here.
Sky Freesat has many of the same free digital TV channels as Freeview including popular general entertainment channels: BBC1, BBC2, BBC THREE, BBC FOUR, ITV1, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, C4 and five. Unfortunately, many of the additional free TV channels on Freesat (which are not available on Freeview) are "special interest channels" many of which feature sales presentations of products and services rather than general entertainment.
When I compare the channels offered, Freeview has more quality music TV channels with HITS and TMF, whereas Freesat from Sky offers CNN (currently unavailable on Freeview) and a much better selection of digital radio channels. Unfortunately having more free digital TV channels than Freeview doesn't necessarily mean higher quality programming!
You will need a viewing card to view certain channels on Sky Digital. Currently these include Channel 4, Five, Five Life, Five US and Sky Three - but the list may vary in the future.
BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4 and ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 are all free to air channels and can be watched without a viewing card (with a Sky Digibox and a correctly aligned satellite dish of the recommended size). Please refer to our article Sky Digital reception in Europe for more information.
To receive Freesat HD TV you'll need an Freesat HD digital set top box which you'll need to connect to your existing Sky TV dish (as the HDTV service uses the same satellite). If you haven't got a Sky dish on your property, you'll need to get a local CAI installer to fit one at a cost of around £80 or buy a satellite dish alignment meter to undertake installation yourself.
It's worth noting that by changing the LNB on your existing Sky dish you can still enjoy subscription channels from Sky Digital as well as having access to Freesat HD TV. A Quad LNB allows up to 4 digital receivers (whether they are Sky Digital or Freesat) to be fed from one dish via separate coaxial cables. An LNB upgrade may mean your dish needs re-aligning slightly as quad LNB's are slightly heavier than single LNB so the dish elevation can be affected.
You can buy a Freesat HD box from John Lewis, Currys, Argos and Comet online. Prices start from around £120 for the HDTV compatible set top boxes, with standard definition (SD) boxes from £40. For around £230 the Humax Foxsat HDR allows the recording of Freesat HD programmes as well as standard definition services as well as the ability to pause live TV.
To make the BBC Freesat HD service even more attractive, Panasonic manufactures the an integrated Freesat HDTV (the Panasonic Viera PZ81 IDTV series) making HDTV reception possible via satellite without the use of an external digital set top box.
More information on the BBC Freesat HD TV service is available on the official Freesat HDTV website.
All information on this page to compare Freeview HD, Sky HD, Sky Freesat and BBC Freesat HD TV is provided in good faith and all help and advice is provided to the best of our ability. Digital TV channels, packages and services are all subject to continual amendment and hence we offer no guarantee concerning the accuracy of information contained in this guide.