Like many countries we’ve been asked to stay at home here in the UK whilst the Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to increase at a concerning rate, so I thought it’s about time I wrote a review on the Manhattan box we took a punt on last year.
So the Manhattan T3-R was released in July 2019 and we bought it in the October four months after it was launched at the price of £170 for the 500GB model which it continues to sell at today. We had been paying Sky somewhere between £200 and £300 a year for our Sky Q package and noticed that many of the programmes we watched on it were available on Freeview channels. Cancelling our Sky package and buying the Manhattan would see us financially better off after just over six months.
Disclaimer – we have tried a Humax and YouView box previously but my wife didn’t like them so we ended up going back to Sky. As we did this, we also paid for an aerial and installation at our house which cost £90.
We have been using the Manhattan for six months now and we’ve reached that point where we’re now starting to save money compared to what we previously paid Sky. Was it worth it? The answer is yes and it was without question the correct move to make but it isn’t perfect and truth be told I’m not sure it will be perfect but we can live with it.
For those who aren’t aware it’s a digital set top box and uses an aerial to receive Freeview HD channels here in the UK. The channels that you receive will largely depend on where you live in relation to your nearest transmitter and the location and quality of your aerial. For the former, you can use the Freeview website to check what channels you’re likely to receive at your location. I live about 20 miles away from our transmitter and receive around 150 channels including many in HD.
The box itself looks good and looks nice in the TV Unit. It takes a single coaxial feed from the aerial and utilizes two internal tuners which allows you to watch/record a channel whilst recording a second. You may notice the “Freeview Play” branding – this allows you to connect to internet based services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player through the box – you can call up the guide, go back in time and it’ll play a show from the internet you may have missed. Note that Freeview Play requires an internet connection, the box comes with built in WiFi but you can also use the included ethernet cable if you’d like to hard wire it to your router.
On the front the box shows a red light when on standby and a blue light when powered on – the light does not change when the box is performing an activity such as recording or utilizing live pause.
Connected to our 4K TV with the provided HDMI cable the box is displaying a 4K (2160p) image which in my opinion looks good when watching even SD content. One negative here on the HDMI cable is that the device does not support HDMI CEC which is a little dissappointing for something released in 2019 however you can power the TV on with the remote which I cover later.
The menu is very clear and most importantly is snappy and responsive, something I can’t say about the Humax boxes we tried before – it’s much snappier also than the Virgin Media TiVo box we had a few years ago.
The guide itself loads quickly and is very clear to view and understand. Shortcut keys are available to skip forward to future days and filters can be applied for different channel types. Also, as you can see in the photo above that a live preview of the current channel is displayed if you like to watch that as you browse the guide.
Management of recordings is pretty good – you can quickly select to record an individual episode or a series from the guide with ease, you can also set reminders if you don’t wish to commit to a recording… functionality missing from recent Sky boxes. Within the recordings screen itself TV shows are grouped if there are multiple episodes of the same show. I do want to mention one issue we found and this may not be an issue with the Manhattan itself, my wife commented that one of her shows stopped recording, after some research I found that the “CRID” of the show changed by the broadcaster which killed the series link. I’m still unsure how we manage these, other than notice the show has stopped recording.
The remote control for the Manhattan works very well. It was easily paired with our Samsung, this allows us to control the power, volume and input of the Samsung TV in addition to the Manhattan from the one remote control. The first thing I noticed about the remote was that it is very light and feels almost hollow inside – but it works very well. It is an infrared remote control that requires line of sight with the unit, if you were intending on hiding it within a cabinet you may require an IR repeater.
So far as I’ve gone over each area of the box I’ll touch on one more positive and negative that didn’t fit in elsewhere. The box does have a loop out feature so you could in theory feed a second freeview box or supply your TV’s built in freeview tuner without an additional aerial feed. You do need to disable some energy saving features to make this work.
One negative, there is no remote record functionality. If you happen to be out of the home and forgot to set a recording for a show that starts in 15 minutes? Unfortunately you can’t pull out your smartphone and do this.
That is pretty much all I have to say on the Manhattan at this time. I think it’s a great box and I’m glad we went ahead with it. I’d recommend it to others. Concerned about how you’ll watch some other channels that you can’t get through Freeview? Look at something like Now TV – you’ll save a lot of money in the long run.