Most TVs bought after 2010 will have Freeview built in, however older TV sets will need an external Freeview box connected to access the extra channels.
The cheapest Freeview boxes cost less than £30, and with no subscription fee to pay for Freeview other than a TV licence, they can provide a really cheap way to access more live TV and radio content.
Our top pick for the cheapest Freeview box is the Oakcastle SB110, but there are a few other options which we'll cover in this guide.
At a glance: cheap Freeview boxes
The cheapest Freeview boxes don't offer much functionality over providing a Freeview receiver, but some do support additional on-demand apps, like BBC iPlayer and YouTube, while others include a way to record TV too.
|Oakcastle SB110||1080p HD||USB up to 1TB||One channel||YouTube||£29.95|
|August DVB415||1080p HD||USB up to 1TB||One, while watching a 2nd||None||£44.95|
|Virgin Stream TV||2160p 4K||None||N/a||Many||£35|
|Manhattan T2||1080p HD||500GB||Two at once||None||£129.99|
|Netbox 4K||2160p 4K||USB up to 1TB||One channel||Many||£123|
|Humax Aura||2160p 4K||1TB||Four, while watching a 5th||Many||£249|
|Manhattan SX Freesat||1080p HD||None||N/a||None||£69|
Verdict: the cheapest Freeview box
The cheapest Freeview box is the Oakcastle SB110, which costs just £29.95.
It supports up to 150 live Freeview TV and radio channels, including HD channels with a receiver capable of supporting resolutions up to 1080p.
The box also bundles the ability to pause, rewind and record live TV via an external USB socket that can accommodate USB sticks up to 1TB.
It doesn't support many on-demand apps, but for a box at this price point it's actually pleasing to see access to YouTube, a weather app and IPTV content.
Overall, for people looking for the cheapest Freeview box the Oakcastle SB110 offers good functionality for the lowest possible price.
Cheapest Freeview box
Cheapest box: Oakcastle SB110, cost £29.95
The Oakcastle SB110 is one of the cheapest Freeview boxes available to buy, costing just £29.95.
It bundles a HD Freeview receiver that supports up to 1080p high definition viewing, with a USB recorder and a few on-demand apps including YouTube and a weather app.
The Freeview box supports USB sticks up to 1TB, and once inserted enable the box to pause and rewind live TV, as well as schedule recordings.
The Oakcastle brand is owned by Cambridge based Majority, so support is provided by a UK-based company if needed.
Virgin Media broadband customers: Stream TV, cost £35
Customers of Virgin Media broadband should look to the new Stream TV box released in April 2022.
It bundles a Freeview receiver with a smart TV service, offering access to a range of on-demand and catch-up apps including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5, YouTube, and subscription-based services like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Prime Video.
Once purchased at a cost of £35, there are no monthly subscription fees so users can enjoy live TV through Freeview as well as the free on-demand apps.
It's also possible to upgrade the viewing experience with premium channels packs from Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Essential Entertainment and kids TV, and these all come on rolling monthly contracts so there are no long-term commitments to make.
Overall, it's one of the cheapest ways to watch Freeview as well as catch-up TV, but is exclusively available to Virgin Media broadband customers.
Cheapest Freeview box with recorder
Cheapest box: August DVB415, cost £44.95
While the Oakcastle SB110 provides the ability to record live TV using an up to 1TB USB stick, the August DVB415 is an additional choice.
The August DVB415 costs more at £44.95, but is also slightly superior than the Oakcastle SB110 as it has two tuners, which means it can record a TV show while allowing you to watch something else at the same time.
This cheap Freeview box also supports picture quality up to 1080p HD, so all Freeview channels and HD channels can be accessed.
Users can also pause and rewind live TV with timeshift, and the seven-day electronic programme guide allows you to schedule recordings.
It also includes parental controls which allow for individual channels to be blocked by a PIN code.
August set top boxes are also made by a UK-based company.
Upgrade: Manhattan T2, cost £129.99
The cheapest Freeview boxes with the ability to record TV generally use external USB sticks for the storage. While it's possible to get Freeview boxes with built-in storage capacity, you should expect to pay more for it.
An upgrade here would be the Manhattan T2 Freeview box for example, it has 500GB built-in, but jumps in price to £129.99 for a new box.
500GB can support up to 300 hours of TV programming, as well as the ability to pause and rewind live TV without needing to also purchase an external USB stick.
Cheapest Freeview Play box with apps
Cheapest box: NetBox 4K, cost £123
The NetBox 4K from Netgem TV bundles a Freeview receiver with a smart TV box, offering access to live TV and over 40 on-demand apps, including Prime Video, BT Sport, BritBox, YouTube and Rakuten TV.
The Netbox 4K supports Ultra HD viewing resolution, so all Freeview HD channels are included as well as additional content in 4K if you also have a 4K-ready TV set.
It's possible to pause, rewind and record live TV, but as with other cheap Freeview boxes, an external USB stick is needed.
Netgem does offer the extra benefit of additional TV channels, offering access to 100 more channels on top of the Freeview channels themselves.
On-demand apps and extra channels require an Internet connection, while Freeview channels require an aerial.
Upgrade: Humax Aura Android TV, cost £249
The Humax Aura is hardly a cheap Freeview box, but it supports Freeview Play, 4K Ultra HD and is built using the Android TV platform, which means access to thousands of apps through the Google Play Store.
On-demand apps supported include Prime Video, Disney Plus, BT Sport, Netflix, and many others.
It also supports viewing quality up to 4K Ultra HD with a UHD-ready TV set, and Dolby Atmos sound.
The Humax Aura also has a 1TB built-in hard drive, which allows you to record up to 500 hours of programming. The three tuners allow users to record up to four programmes at once whilst also watching a 5th.
Overall, the Humax Aura is one of the best Freeview boxes available, but it's not cheap, with a hefty price tag of nearly £250.
Cheapest Freesat box
Cheapest box: Manhattan SX Freesat, cost £69
For those who have a satellite dish, Freesat offers even more free live viewing channels than Freeview, with 170 channels supported, including many in HD.
The Manhattan SX Freesat box is one of the best Freesat boxes, and costs a reasonable £69.
It offers up to 1080p HD picture quality, with an 8-day TV guide. TVs can be connected via HDMI, SCART and RCA for older sets.
Overall, the Manhattan SX Freesat box doesn't come with many frills, but it does provide solid access to Freesat programming in HD.
Freeview mobile app
One of the cheapest ways to watch Freeview is through a smartphone or tablet using the Freeview mobile app.
The Freeview app is free and available on Android and iOS, and lets users watch live TV and on-demand content on their smartphone or tablet.
The app has some impressive functionality. It includes a 15-day TV Guide with the ability to set reminders.
It doesn't include the full range of Freeview channels, however. Users can watch:
|BBC||Live and on-demand (iPlayer)|
|ITV||Live and on-demand (ITV Hub)|
|Channel 4||Live and on-demand (All 4)|
|Channel 5||Live and on-demand (My5)|
|UKTV Play||On-demand only|
Viewers will also need the apps that correspond to each of the on-demand channels - e.g. the iPlayer app - as the Freeview app acts as a hub for these services, rather than a replacement.
Still, it's much easier to deal with than several separate apps with varying qualities of interface.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a TV licence to watch Freeview?
Yes - users will need to have a valid TV licence to watch both live Freeview and any catch-up content like BBC iPlayer.
TV licences cost £159 per year, which covers a whole home, and can be split into monthly or quarterly direct debits for an extra fee.
How many channels are on Freeview?
There are 70 standard Freeview channels, plus 15 in HD. There are also 30 radio stations broadcast over Freeview.
Freesat viewers get access to more content with 170 Freesat channels with many in HD.
How do I watch Freeview in HD?
To watch Freeview in HD, customers need a HD-ready TV set and a HD-ready Freeview receiver. Sometimes a TV may support HD but not have a HD compatible receiver, in this case, purchasing a cheap Freeview HD box can help.
What is Freeview Play?
Freeview Play offers over 60,000 hours of free on-demand and catch-up TV and is broadcast over an Internet connection.
It covers apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All4, My5, and UK TV Play. It's only possible to access Freeview Play through smart TVs or smart Freeview boxes.
Summary: Freeview can be cheap
For those who don't want too many extra features, getting Freeview through a set-top box is an easy and cheap way to extend the amount of TV content on an older set.
The cheapest Freeview boxes cost less than £30, and Freeview has no additional subscription fees, making it a cost-effective option to upgrade an old TV set and get extra home entertainment.
Our top pick for a cheap Freeview box is the Oakcastle SB110, or users may want to consider the slightly more expensive August DVB415 if they're likely to want to record regularly.
However, with more content providers turning to on-demand apps and streaming services, it might also be worth considering the best smart TV sticks, as a cheap way to access more content if your budget doesn't stretch to an all-in-one Freeview Play box like the Humax Aura discussed above.
Virgin Media broadband customers can also purchase a Stream TV box which comes with a set-up fee of £35, after which there are no monthly fees unless users add additional channel packs.