What is the Manhattan T3-R?
The Manhattan T3-R is a Freeview Play 4K smart recorder that allows viewers to record, pause and rewind over 85 channels of Freeview TV (SD and HD) and access the UK catch-up TV players, including iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, and My5.
This British-designed PVR (personal video recorder) makes finding and saving on-demand programmes easy, allowing viewers to browse recommendations, quickly search for their favourite shows and catch up with the last seven days direct from the TV Guide.
The T3-R includes Manhattan TV’s unique Watchlist feature which allows viewers to store all their on-demand TV choices in one place, regardless of which player they come from. The PVR also supports 4K Ultra HD and HDR (HDR10 and hybrid log-gamma) from YouTube and iPlayer respectively.
The T3-R comes in two models – a 500GB model (£169) which can store up to 300 hours of recordings, and a 1TB version (£199) that can record up to 600 hours of programmes. It’s nice to test a subscription-free PVR from someone other than Humax, so let’s see how it performs.
Design, Connections and Control
The Manhattan T3-R uses a design that doesn’t deviate from most other PVR boxes: it’s small, reasonably well made, and sports a glossy black finish. Apart from that it’s fairly nondescript, with matte ridges at the rear to add a bit of texture, and an indicator LED at the front that turns blue when the T3-R is on. The box measures 265 x 53 x 207mm (WxHxD), and weighs 0.678kg.
At the rear are the connections, and these are fairly standard for a Freeview HD PVR. There’s an aerial input and a loop out connector for passthrough to a TV, along with an optical digital output, a USB port (for power and updates), and an HDMI 2.0b output. The T3-R has built-in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port for those that prefer a wired connection.
The remote control is an excellent example of an intuitive and ergonomic design. This plastic zapper is finished in matte black, fits comfortably in your palm and is simple to use with one hand. There’s an easy-to-access set of navigation controls, with the Freeview/Home button underneath that’s flanked by the volume and channel controls. There are playback buttons for recordings at the top, and numerical and colour-coded buttons towards the bottom.
It’s worth noting the playback/pause button needs to be pressed on the left-hand-side for play and the right-hand-side for pause; I was initially pressing it in the middle and got frustrated when nothing happened. That minor observation aside, this controller is robust, responsive and a pleasure to use (which is more than I can say for Humax's wands). As an added bonus, you can also programme this remote to control standby, input, volume up/down, and mute on your TV.
Menus and User Interface
The Manhattan T3-R has a wonderfully simple and intuitive user interface, which makes setting up and operating this recorder a doddle. The PVR will take you through connecting to your Wi-Fi and tuning the TV channels on initial setup, after which you can access the Home page by pressing the big Freeview button on the remote.
The Home page is broken down into all the UK TV on-demand apps running along the middle, the TV Guide, Recordings, Featured, Watchlist and Search functions just above, and the YouTube apps at the bottom. At the very top along with the time and date, you’ll find the Setup menu. The TV Guide, Recordings and Search functions can be accessed directly using corresponding buttons on the remote.
The TV Guide is excellent, with six channels spread over two hours. There’s extensive information about any programme that you highlight, and a thumbnail image in the top right-hand corner. You can move through the guide using the navigation keys, and skip forwards and backwards by 24 hours using the fast forward and rewind buttons on the remote. If you want to record something you simply highlight it and press the R (record) button on the controller. Where appropriate, you’ll be given the option of a one-off recording or a series record, and you can also set a reminder for a programme.
The Featured page allows users to browse top picks from all the UK on-demand players. These picks are neatly organised by genre, such as Comedy, Movies, Sport etc., and you can play a programme or add it to your Wishlist by simply pressing the OK button and simply selecting the appropriate option. Further information about the programme is also shown, including when the programme will expire and no longer be available.
The user interface is well-designed and slick, resulting in an intuitive experience setting up and operating this PVR
The Wishlist lets you save on-demand programmes to watch later, and they can be watched at any time up until expiration. Programmes in your Watchlist can be sorted by how recently you added them, alphabetically, or by expiry. You can also see which programmes have expired within the last 14 days. The Search feature allows users to find specific programmes from all the UK on-demand players – just type in the name of the programme, and off you go. When you access the search page, it will show your last ten searches, and you can add a search to a list of saved searches if you desire.
The Settings menu offers a choice of Picture & Sound; Accessibility & Language; Recording & Playback; Channels; Internet; System; and Information. The Picture & Sound menu offers options for resolutions up to 4K Ultra HD (3820 x 2160), HDR selection, and frame rate matching for 24/25/30/50/60Hz playback (which is really useful). You can also choose to output stereo or surround (Dolby Digital Plus), and there's a lip-sync delay control (up to 250ms); while the System sub-menu allows you to select automatic firmware updates via the internet.
Features and Apps
The Manhattan T3-R comes with a host of useful features, including Freeview tuners that provide access to over 85 subscription-free channels in SD and HD. There's a choice of 500GB or 1TB hard drive models, along with the ability to record, pause and rewind live TV. You can plan your viewing up to seven days ahead using an intuitive and easy-to-use programme guide, and you can even skip backwards to catch-up on programmes from the last seven days. You can currently record up to two channels while watching a third.
The T3-R includes all the UK TV on-demand apps, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5. There's also YouTube, which allows your to watch content available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR10. While 4K HDR isn't available on broadcast TV, you can watch 4K HDR via the BBC iPlayer, which uses hybrid log-gamma (HLG). The T3-R doesn't include apps such as Netflix or Amazon, but the idea is to only include services that don't require a subscription. It's also not a media player, but frankly there are any number of media boxes available for such purposes, and Manhattan has wisely concentrated on delivering a superior PVR experience. However, DLNA support so you can watch the recordings on the hard drive from another device, would be useful.
You can watch and record TV, access the UK on-demand apps, and watch 4K HDR from YouTube and iPlayer
At present the T3-R has a number of limitations that Manhattan are in the process of addressing. You can currently only record two channels while watching a third, but a firmware update in September will allow you to watch, pause and rewind the third channel while recording the other two. The same firmware update will also add full HDMI-CEC functionality, and the ability to manually pad recording. Although in the case of the latter, the T3-R has yet to miss any part of a recording in nearly six months of use. By the end of the year, Manhattan plan another firmware update should add other features, including an app for remote control and programming.
Recording and Playback
The Manhattan T3-R benefits from a well-designed recording page layout that's as slick and intuitive as the rest of the operating system. You can access the Recordings using the dedicated button on the remote, and move around it using the navigation keys. Once opened you'll find there are options for Schedule, which shows all planned recordings and reminders; All, which shows everything recorded; Series, which shows recordings that are part of a series; Movies, which shows recordings that are movies; Kept, which shows recordings you have chosen to keep; and Trash, where you'll find recordings that have been deleted but not permanently removed from the hard drive.
To open a series or play a recording you simply press the OK button. To keep or delete a recording you press the R button, and select the appropriate option. Deleted recordings are sent to the Trash folder, and automatically removed after 30 days or as needed to make space for new recordings. However, kept recordings will never be deleted automatically. A filled circle before a recording indicates it is unwatched, and a hollow circle means it has been partially watched. When a partially viewed recording is highlighted, a blue bar indicates how much has been viewed so far.
All upcoming recordings are located in the Schedule folder, and you can edit a recording by pressing the R button and selecting an option. In terms of playback, there's a play/pause button, stop and exit buttons, and fast forward and rewind buttons on the remote. You can also press left to skip back 10 seconds, and right to skip forward 30 seconds. If you hold down the left or right button, you can skip in 10% jumps. When the playback bar is on the screen, you can press the yellow button on the remote to display the Go To menu. Here you can enter a specific time using the numerical keys and then restart playback.
The recording interface is excellent, the playback flawless, and the T3-R has never missed any part of a programme
The picture quality of the live programmes and recordings is excellent, especially when it comes to the HD channels. In six months of constant use, the T3-R hasn't put a put wrong, correctly recording every scheduled programme, and playing them back flawlessly. The Freeview Play feature is superb, allowing for quick and easy access to on-demand content, while the Featured, Watchlist and Search functions are equally as effective. The 4K Ultra HD playback is also impressive, with YouTube using HDR10 and the BBC iPlayer using HLG. The overall system is stable, robust and responsive, while the user interface is wonderfully intuitive. Overall, this is well-designed, slick, and extremely capable Freeview recorder.
- Excellent HD recorder
- Simple to setup and use
- Extensive features
- 4K and HDR support
- Freeview Play
- Limited simultaneous recordings
- No DLNA support
- No remote app
Manhattan T3-R Freeview Play PVR Review
Should I buy one?
The Manhattan T3-R Freeview Play recorder is an excellent performer that benefits from a well-designed and intuitive user interface. It has all the connections you'll need, including built-in Wi-Fi, a highly ergonomic remote, and support for 4K Ultra HD HDR on its YouTube and BBC iPlayer apps. Thanks to Freeview Play there's also a complete set of UK TV on-demand services that are fully integrated into the TV guide.
Scheduling and playing recordings is a piece of cake, and despite the current lack of manual padding, the T3-R hasn't missed any part of a programme to date. The playback is flawless, and the picture quality is excellent, especially with HD channels. All the on-demand apps work without a hitch, and the overall experience is slick, responsive and seamless.
While it's true the apps are limited, and there's no media playback capability, this PVR was never intended to be an all-singing, all-dancing media box. Manhattan are also planning a number of major firmware updates later this year, which will bring the recorder's features in line with competitors like Humax. However, these are simply cherries on the cake, and the T3-R is already a very capable PVR.
It's fair to say the demand for Freeview recorders is reducing as more consumers simply stream content from on-demand services, but if, like me, you still prefer to record programmes and time-shift your viewing habits, then the Manhattan T3-R PVR comes highly recommended.
What are my alternatives?
The obvious alternative is the Humax FVP-500T, which comes in 500GB (£179) and 2TB (£239) options. This PVR is largely the same as the T3-R in terms of Freeview Play features, recordings and apps. However, having used the FVP-500T previously, I definitely think Manhattan's user interface is slicker, better designed, and more responsive. The Humax is clunky in comparison, but has the edge in terms of being able to record up to four channels while you watch a fifth, and accessing the hard drive using any DLNA device. Conversely, the T3-R has a frame matching feature (whereas the Humax is fixed at 50Hz), and it can output 4K Ultra HD HDR. I have used both PVRs extensively, and I definitely prefer the Manhattan T3-R as an overall experience.
Manufacturers Website: Manhattan T3-R Freeview Play Recorder
Ease of Use Menus/GUI
Picture Quality HD
Picture Quality SD
Value for Money
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