Very little to choose between them!
Most of the new TVs you can buy will feature tuners capable of receiving Freeview broadcast in high definition and some will also boast Freesat capability. But what are they and which should you choose?
For those that aren’t familiar with Freeview (and we can’t imagine that’s many of you), it's a TV service delivered over the air via your rooftop or in-home aerial. As the name would suggest, it’s free to watch and with the backing of such major players as the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4, it delivers most of the popular channels and programming available in the UK.
In fact, at the time of publishing (October 2014) Freeview offers more than 50 TV channels, up to 13 HD channels, and 24 radio stations, with over 95% of the nation’s favourite programmes available, subscription-free.
There’s a list of channels available to view here.
Obviously those TVs marked as Freeview without the HD suffix can’t take advantage of high definition broadcasts but most you can buy, right now, are capable.
It's simplest to go with your existing connection
The fundamental difference between Freeview and Freesat, on a practical level, is that the latter is delivered via a satellite dish. The service uses the same fleet of satellites as Sky, so if you can use any existing dish they might have provided, as well as any cabling in place.
Freesat is a joint venture between ITV and the BBC and offers broadly the same channel line-up as Freeview but currently there are less HD channels available through the satellite service; Freesat HD has seven channels in its roster but more are likely to be on the way. Of course, as per Freeview, channels are free to watch.
You can have both
Whilst support for Freeview is nigh on universal amongst the TV manufacturers, in terms of the major brands, it’s left to Panasonic and Samsung to carry the flag, in terms of built-in Freesat tuners. Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Freesat HD tuners only feature in the upper echelons of each manufacturer’s TV ranges. For Panasonic, that means the 7 Series and up; whilst for Samsung, TVs with a Freesat tuner will have a model number higher than 6400.
There is some good news in that, however, as it means the televisions in question are of the Smart TV variety so there is added functionality built-in. In the case of the Samsung’s, this extends to providing some Freeview+HD and Freesat+ PVR functions, with some even having full dual tuner functionality; whilst some of the very latest Panasonic’s build on that with the Freetime app installed.
Freetime is a service allowing access to the catch up services of all the major UK free-to-air broadcasters, including BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5. As per the YouView service, Freetime also allows for a scroll-back EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) affording you the opportunity to look for – then watch- any programming you may have missed.
Freeview is more popular but Freesat is healthy
So what should I choose?
Whilst have some have questioned the possible longevity of Freesat, as a service, there seems no cause for concern. Subscription numbers are healthy and on the increase, although never likely to touch the number of Freeview users, for historical reasons.
There seems no massively compelling reason to choose one over the other, although the extended HD offering of Freeview is something to consider, so we would just say go with whichever one suits your current situation regarding having a suitable aerial or satellite dish. There really is virtually nothing in it!
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