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Manhattan Plaza HD S2: Freesat HD budget box video review

Introduction

Who says high definition satellite TV has to be expensive? The Manhattan Plaza HD S2 is a Freesat HD receiver that costs just £50. 

That’s right, for five thousand British pennies you can get access to free satellite TV, no subscriptions, no contracts. At such a low price it’s enough to get even the most credulous of buyers thinking ‘what’s the catch?’

When you consider that you also get the option of catching up on missed shows thanks to the inclusion of BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, it’s hard to think that there even is a catch. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

We’ve spent some time getting to know the Plaza HD S2, which will be in the shops from Monday, August 12. Here’s exactly what you get for your money. 

The Manhattan Plaza HD S2 gives you the full complement of Freesat’s 150-plus channels including all the HD channels, non-Freesat channels (things like Sky News and Press TV which you have to manually add) and over 30 digital radio stations. 

It’s a tiny, single tuner Freesat HD box designed to live in the bedroom, the kitchen or the spare room, anywhere you’d want to put an inexpensive secondary TV. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

Because there’s no second tuner or hard drive, you can’t do things like record live TV or watch another channel while recording another. You can’t also pause or rewind live programmes. 

The Manhattan Plaza HD S2 by no means a living room hero. It’s not going to replace your old Freesat HD box or ever challenge the likes of Sky+HD. But that’s not what it’s for. It’s very much a bedroom device. Criticsisng it for not having an extra tuner is a bit like criticising a motorbike for not being able to seat four. 

Here’s a summary of our thoughts in video, with some of the on-screen menus, and you can scroll on for more details.

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

Design and Specs: Manhattan Plaza HD S2 dimensions

The Manhattan Plaza HD S2 is a small black brick and is about as stylish as that sounds. It’s never going to win a beauty pageant but then again design isn’t really a premium on devices towards the lower end. The unit doesn’t make a lot of noise when it’s on and set-up is a piece of cake. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

On the back there’s the satellite connection, an Ethernet port, HDMI and a Scart socket for those with older TV sets. You’ll need to plug an Ethernet cable in if you want to access BBC iPlayer and ITV Player.  You could connect a DVD recorder to your Manhattan Plaza HD S2 via Scart, though this means you won’t be able to record programmes in anything higher than standard definition. 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p are all supported. 

Width: 21cm. Height: 4.9cm. Depth: 14.7cm.
Connectivity: USB 2.0 port, Ethernet, HDMI, SCART, satellite output, optical S/PDIF.

Controls: Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

The remote control of the Manhattan Plaza HD S2 is a fairly basic peripheral. It’s lightweight and handy but its smallness and button layout could make it tricky for some to get to grips with, no pun intended. When navigating menus there’s no command lag and the rubbery buttons are nice and responsive. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

TV Smarts: Set up and Menus

The set-up process of the Manhattan Plaza HD S2 is short and sweet. When you switch it on for the first time you’ll be asked to quickly scan for channels. You’ll need to enter your postcode so that you get the correct regional channel variants. 

The menus are sharp and colourful and very easy to find your way around. Given the price of the Manhattan Plaza HD S2, things look a lot better than you’d expect for £50. 

Parents have the option of restricting access to certain channels with the ‘List’ button which lets you delete channels semi-permanently (you can retrieve them by doing a hard reset) or lock access to them with a PIN number. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

Non-Freesat channels, that is channels that aren’t displayed in the programme guide when you turn the Plaza HD S2 on, can be easily added en masse or individually. This can be done by hitting ‘Menu’, opening up the system menu, highlight the option to display the channels and then pressing OK. This is useful if you just want to add specific channels, like Sky News, of if you want to add the whole lot at once. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 Apps: BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer comes included on the Manhattan Plaza HD S2. While you’ll need to find a way to run some Ethernet into whichever room you’re looking to have this in in order to enjoy it, it’s worth it because iPlayer works like a charm.

Even on a slow 2-3Mbps connection we were able to get programmes to load quickly. There were a few errors with a couple of the shows we watched, but we suspect this was more to do with the broadband line we tested it on.

BBC iPlayer on the Manhattan Plaza HD S2 looks a little different to how it does on most smart TV platforms, but the basic functions, search, favourites, and channels are all there, making finding the shows you want to catch up on a piece of cake. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 Apps: ITV Player

ITV Player on the Manhattan Plaza HD S2 worked a little better than BBC iPlayer in terms of programmes loading quickly though we found that navigating the menus could often feel clunky. As you’d expect, content from the last 7 days from ITV, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 can be easily accessed. 

Manhattan Plaza HD S2 review

Value & Conclusion: Manhattan Plaza HD S2 verdict

The Manhattan Plaza HD S2 is excellent value for money. For £50 we can’t really find fault with it. It’s never going to take pride of place in the living room and is best thought of a secondary set-top box, destined for the kids’ bedroom or the kitchen.

As well as giving you access to a huge array of channels we love having BBC iPlayer and ITV Player on board.

Not only do you get two decent catch-up services and hint, they work really well on the Plaza HD S2 as well – you’d be forgiven for thinking that on such an inexpensive device things would be a bit ropey but they’re not. 

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