When Sky decided to put up its prices in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, I decided to leave Sky. Paying Sky £27.20 per month for its most basic Entertainment package seemed like an utter waste of money when you could get most of the same channels for free on Freesat.
I explored various options for replacing the Sky+ box under our TV. The newly released official Freesat UHD-4X recorder, for instance, which costs £230 from Currys – or about ten months’ worth of Sky subscriptions.
However, our telly was beginning to shows its age. The Samsung LE37B553 was still working perfectly, but it was limited to Full HD and lacked many of the smart features you get with modern sets. And, following a tip-off from my Twitter correspondent Keith Radcliffe, I discovered that several of the TVs in Samsung’s range came with integrated Freesat, meaning I could potentially dodge the cost of a separate set-top box.
In the end, I plumped for the Samsung UE50RU7470UXXU from Currys, a 50in 4K model with built-in Freesat or Freeview (take your pick). It cost £400, or 14-and-a-bit months of a Sky subscription using my new metric.
A week later, with the Sky+ box now gathering cobwebs in the garage, I’m sure we made the right decision to leave Sky, but here are the pros and cons of switching Sky for a Freesat television.
- We’re saving £27.20 per month, meaning the TV will effectively pay for itself within 15 months.
- Samsung TVs have an excellent set of built-in smart apps, including catch-up and streaming services such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. And that means no extra boxes under the TV or dongles hanging out the side.
- Most of the same channels are available on Freesat as they are on Sky’s basic package. The big misses are Sky’s own channels, such as Sky One (we’re suckers for Portrait Artist of the Year) and Sky Atlantic, but you can get these on Sky Now (£8.99 per month for the Entertainment package) if you’re desperate.
- You can record television shows by plugging a USB thumb stick/hard disk into the back of the TV. I had an old 2TB drive lying around that has been pressed back into service.
- The Freesat electronic programme guide is not as good as Sky’s, nor are the recording facilities. For example, I can’t find a way to get the Freesat ID from the Samsung TV that you’d need to do remote recording using the Freesat app.
- The television only has one Freesat tuner, so you can only record one show at a time and you can’t watch something else whilst recording a different channel. This is the biggest downside so far, although with all the catch-up services built in, we lean on those for watching shows we might otherwise have recorded.
- Freesat currently only broadcasts in HD, not 4K. So, if you were a Sky Q customer previously, you may notice a drop in picture quality.
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