Manhattan T3-R review

A fast, future-proofed and 4K-ready Freeview Play smart recorder

Manhattan T3-R review
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

If you’re sick of paying for subscriptions, then this feature-rich and super-fast Freeview Play smart recorder with YouTube and 4K ticks most boxes. Just don’t expect the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus or Now TV...


  • +

    Fast and simple to use

  • +

    Pause/rewind live TV

  • +

    Lots of storage

  • +

    4K and HDR support


  • -

    Missing key streaming apps

  • -

    Records only two channels simultaneously

  • -

    Can't search listings for a show

  • -


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Every month you get the bill from Virgin, Sky or BT – and every month you swear you’ll look for a digital TV recorder that can do something similar for a one-off payment. But choices for that are slim – with one of the few options being the Manhattan T3-R, a Freeview Play recorder that in pure hardware terms is just as good as anything the subscription TV providers can muster. 

Freeview Play is a way of accessing all digital free-to-air TV channels in the UK without spending anything beyond the cost of a set-top box. However, such devices that also record, pause live TV and stream catch-up TV have consistently lacked any real wow factor. 

That changes with this British-designed set-top box, which has a delicious user interface, works super-fast and is crammed with catch-up TV apps. However, there are a few dirty secrets about the Manhattan T3-R you need to know before you jump ship and go subscription-free. 

It’s fun to use, works fast and is thoroughly future-proofed, and yet there’s something that prevents us from getting too excited about the Manhattan T3-R. Sure, it’s lightning-quick and has the kind of user interface some gadgets would die for, but even a host of smart features can’t prevent us from missing the Netflix app. Without that – and Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and Now TV – the Manhattan T3-R is left seeming like it’s taken care of everything you didn’t think you needed, but forgotten some must-have features. 

However, if you’re desperate to ditch your expensive subscription TV set-top box and/or breathe new life into an ageing TV whose digital tuners are looking increasingly ancient, there are few better options for a glossy Freeview Play recording and catch-up TV experience than the Manhattan T3-R. 

Manhattan T3-R price and availability

The Manhattan T3-R comes in two flavours, one with a 500GB hard disk that sells for £169.99 and one with 1TB that goes for £199. It’s available from Amazon, Argos, Curry’s PC World, John Lewis and RicherSounds

The smaller version offers 300 hours of recordings while the latter doubles that to 600 hours. That’s not cheap compared to other Freeview Play recorders, but it’s got lots of the same features as a Sky, BT or Virgin Media subscription TV set-top box. The catch, of course, is that you get far fewer channels and streaming options than those competing boxes.

Manhattan T3-R

(Image credit: Future)

**Digital TV tuners:** three | **Processor:** quad-core CPU | **Resolution output:** 720p/1080i/1080p/2160p | **Smart features:** Record, pause and rewind live TV (2 hrs), EPG with 7-day catch-up | **Storage:** 500GB (300 hours) or 1TB (600 hours) | **Ports:** HDMI 2.0b, optical audio, Ethernet LAN, aerial in, loop out, USB (software updates only) | **Dimensions:** 265x207x53mm | **Weight:** 678g

Design and features

The Manhattan T3-R doesn’t take up much space, measuring just 265 x 207 x 53mm and weighing 678g. It has a relatively pleasant-looking, curved, compact chassis. It also comes with an excellent and ergonomic ‘learning’ remote that can ape your TV’s remote for commands like standby, input changing and volume. The remote is of decent quality, too, with large buttons and a white icon in the middle for summoning the Freeview Play user interface. It’s also got some playback buttons for scanning through recordings. 

Although the Manhattan T3-R has a digital TV tuner inside and gets content over-the-air through (preferably) a rooftop aerial, the Manhattan T3-R demands an internet connection to really come alive. Once you’ve let it scan and tune-in digital TV channels – 85 of them in total, including 15 in HD – attach it to your home network (using WiFi or the Ethernet LAN port on the rear) and you’ll instantly power up a slew of catch-up TV apps. 

Manhattan T3-R

(Image credit: Future)

The slick icon-led Freeview Play user interface is topped by links to its TV Guide, Recordings, Featured, Watchlist and Search, while the middle strip contains icons for apps. They include the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5, UKTV Play, CBS Catch-up, Horror Bites, PopPlayer, STV Player and BBC Sounds (live radio and podcasts). You will also see icons on the bottom for BritBox, YouTube and YouTube Kids.

YouTube is, sadly, the only way to get 4K video on the Manhattan T3-R. In some ways that’s not Manhattan’s fault; the Manhattan T3-R supports 4K resolution and HDR thanks to its compatibility with HDR10 and HLG, but Freeview Play doesn’t yet broadcast any 4K content. Of course, it could funnel 4K into your TV via Netflix or Amazon Prime, but the Manhattan T3-R doesn’t host those two apps. Ditto Disney Plus or Now TV.

That’s going to be an instant deal-breaker for anyone who was looking for the ultimate all-in-one model to do battle against the big-name subscription TV set-top boxes. However, if you already have a source in your AV set-up for Netflix et al – such as an Xbox Series X, PS5, Apple TV 4K 2021, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick – then it’s perhaps not so important.

We’d also like to see some options to customise the home page, largely because the YouTube Kids icon will be an annoying waste of screen real estate for many users.

Manhattan T3-R

(Image credit: Future)

Manhattan T3-R performance

The Manhattan T3-R is a powerhouse. It’s obviously got processing power to spare because it zips around the Freeview Play user interface – itself a thing of beautiful simplicity – with bristling ease. It’s a joy to use, which isn’t something we thought we’d be saying about a Freeview set-top box.

The T3-R’s responsive interface is also one that’s loaded with content. All the key apps – such as the BBC iPlayer and All 4 – load up quickly and work efficiently. You can scan backwards through the seven-day electronic programme guide (EPG), which presents six channels at once in two-hour chunks. It’s quick and easy to scan through that EPG, with a ‘play’ icon next to all content that is available on-demand. However, you can’t search for individual programme names in the EPG. 

One of our favourite features is a ‘personal watchlist’ that allows you to add catch-up content to a digital ‘to do’ list. That’s something every set-top box should have, in these days of content overload. It also allows the adding of content scheduled to broadcast in the future, as well as the setting of reminders. 

Manhattan T3-R

(Image credit: Future)

The usual features you might be used to on your Sky/BT/Virgin Media box – such as pausing live TV for up to two hours, initiating series links and making one-touch recordings – work like a breeze.

The quality of recordings is excellent, with HD channels excelling, of course, but SD content more than acceptable on a big TV. 4K content on YouTube is the picture quality pinnacle, but good luck finding much of genuine interest there.

At least it guarantees that the Manhattan T3-R is future-proof for when Freeview Play steps up a gear and embraces 4K broadcasts. For those with exacting standards, the Manhattan T3-R offers frame rate matching for 24/25/30/50/60Hz playback and can output audio in Dolby Digital Plus.

There’s not much noise when the Manhattan T3-R is making recordings, though here we spotted its first flaw. Although it has three digital TV tuners, only two can be used to make recordings while you watch a third channel. If you’re a Virgin Media customer you will miss that extra tuner.

Should you buy the Manhattan T3-R set-top box? 

Manhattan T3-R

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if… 

You want Freeview Play
The UK broadcaster catch-up service is in full force here, with on demand apps for key UK channels and services.

You're tired of slow, laggy hardware
The Manhattan T3-R is blisteringly fast, meaning you can zip around channels and platforms with ease.

You want to pause, rewind, and record live TV
The Manhattan T3-R does what it says on the tin, with 300-600 hours worth of potential recording storage, depending on which model you go for.

Don’t buy it if… 

You want 4K video
The Manhattan T3-R currently only features one 4K streaming app, which is rather underwhelmingly YouTube.

You want Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, or Now TV
It's all in the title: you won't get these key streaming apps on the Manhattan T3-R, though of course you can get around this with a separate streaming stick for your TV if needed.

You need four tuners
The Manhattan T3-R only sports three tuners, two of which can be used simultaneously to record live programming, while the third lets you watch another channel. You'll get four tuners on Virgin Media boxes, so it's worth weighing up if there are enough here.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and He also edits two of his own websites, and that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),