A few weeks ago Manhattan sent us their latest product to test, explaining that it was a brand new freesat HD receiver not only to replace the current Plaza HD-S, but also the hugely successful Plaza DS-100A. We initially thought that Manhattan had gone mad, until we realised that they have managed to combine both units into one, whilst still retaining a price point similar to the current SD version.
The Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 essentially uses the same system set-up as the existing models, but benefits from a newer sleeker, smaller designer, and a more cost effective, efficient chip-set to aid performance navigating through the TV guide and menu structure.
The design is of a better quality than previous models, and whilst looks quite chunky and square, is in fact smaller, measuring just 210mm (w) x 147mm (d) x 49mm (h) and only 550grams; making it the most compact freesat receiver available. It isn’t quite as small as we initially hoped (thinking Apple TV), but the HD-S2 benefits from an internal power supply, rather than having an external brick taking up additional shelf/floor space; plus is efficient enough to use only 0.5W of power consumption in standby (max 20W in use), awarding it the Energy Saving Trust recommended stamp.
Front image of Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 freesat HD Receiver
The all black unit is well packaged and comes complete with remote control, batteries, HDMI cable and user guide. With the internal power supply, the power cable is moulded to the receiver so sadly might not be suitable for caravan/motor-home use which is a shame.
From this point, much of our review is made quite easy because once you connect everything up, the similarities with the existing DS-100A and HD-S (reviewed here) are obvious, as they share the same set-up/structure. The initial launch process is simple, just power up, and follow the brief freesat instructions on screen to check for signal from your dish, and assign regional channels based on the UK postcode you enter (for those ex-pats abroad, just pick a UK postcode of a region you want). You are still forced to enter a PIN code which we didn’t need, but apart from that, you’re finished and the default channel will appear for you to enjoy.
Scanning through the channels it is immediately obvious that the picture and sound quality is very good, especially on any of the 6 (current) high-definition channels. The standard-definition channels are a little blocky, but this is the same across the entire freesat range and is more to do with the broadcast bit-rate than the receiver itself.
Side image of Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 freesat HD Receiver
We found the TV Guide and menu structure pleasing enough on the eye and easy to navigate, and once you’ve been through it for the first time, you realise that the HD-S2 has all the basics covered, as you’d expect. What we noticed was a slight delay from issuing a command to the unit responding, but the chip-set has been changed and it is defiantly quicker than previous models, and on a par with other brands.
When we were told that the remote control would be the same one from the DS-100A and HD-S, we were a little disappointed as the revised version for the HDR-S is significantly better, but having played around with it for a few hours, it might feel cheap, but is very reliable and the infra-red distance is pretty good. The remote is possibly a little too small in our hands, but the button layout is very good, with a positive feel to the buttons. The only issues we encountered that may niggle us on a daily basis are the small EXIT button which could be bigger and more prominent, plus when pressing the ‘i’ button to bring up the banner, you can press it again to request more information, but a third press doesn’t exit when really we think it should (to save you waiting or finding the EXIT button). On the subject of the channel banner, it only has now/next information (full 8 days in the TV guide), we wish it had maybe a few hours worth to scroll through.
Image of Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 freesat HD Remote Control
One of Manhattan’s biggest positives is without doubt the ability to add non-freesat channels to one of 8 favourites lists for quick access. For anyone that doesn’t know what this means, essentially there are hundreds of channels that still haven’t paid for inclusion on the freesat TV Guide (known as the EPG – Electronic Programme Guide), so the only way to find them is to scan the satellite in non-freesat mode. Whilst all freesat receivers allow you to do this, only Manhattan has the option of adding them to a favourites list which you can access by pressing the star button whenever you like, rather than going through the long winded process of finding them each time. Granted you won’t get 7 day listings (only now/next), but it is a brilliant feature. Only point we would make is that adding a channel isn’t quite as straight forward as it could be, but once you’ve sussed it out, you’ll see the benefit.
Possibly the best feature of the HD-S2 is the ability to create your own TV Guide. By marking your preferred channels as favourites, you then press GUIDE and where prompted for the category (a standard option for all freesat receivers), simply press SWAP and you will have your own favourites list; fantastic if you don’t want to wade through countless channels you are not interested in, or wish to create a HD category as sadly freesat never introduced one of them on the first generation receivers.
Your own EPG on the Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 freesat HD Receiver (apologies for quality)
As you would expect of a freesat HD receiver at a price point only matched by existing SD receivers, the connections on the back of the unit are limited. They include the HDMI port (required for high-definition on your ‘HD Ready’ television), single SCART port, Optical Audio Out (S/PDIF), Ethernet (for accessing on-demand) and USB (manual software updates – no record feature sorry). The HD-S2 also supports Dolby Digital Plus, interactive TV & digital text, plus subtitles, audio descriptions and supports resolutions 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p.
Rear image of Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 freesat HD Receiver
The interactive offering includes both BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, which are accessed via your broadband connection using an Ethernet cable (not supplied). They are the watered down version you’ll get with most freesat receivers apart from <free time>, but do a reasonably good job, though we must stress that our test environment has an appalling slow 2mbps, so giving the on-demand services a full test wasn’t possible. In terms of future services, we see them as very unlikely given this unit runs off the ‘generation 1′ freesat structure, but these facilities are always going to be a nice to have rather than essential on a box like this.
Lets not forget what this receiver is designed to do; it is designed to be efficient and carry out basic tasks for accessing the freesat line-up, whilst hitting a low price point no other manufacturer have managed, and it does them all exceptionally well. If you were to compare it with one of the latest <free time> boxes, then this will come up very short indeed, but as a stand-alone unit to barely make a dent on your wallet, and be a simple point and shoot receiver, you would struggle to find better. To say it is perfect for use in a bedroom or kitchen would do it an injustice, because unless you want recording features, fancy guides and more interactive facilities, this would also serve the purpose incredibly well as a main living room device for accessing all your favourite channels. The Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 is capable of good quality high-definition picture and Dolby sound through external speakers using the Optical output should you wish.
Yes we’d like to see a slicker TV guide with more interactive features, plus a slightly quicker response from the basic remote control, and recording/media playback via USB would have been fantastic, but we understand all these minor tweaks cost money, and that would then place it within the same range as some of the premium freesat HD receivers (what’s left of them).
We have no hesitation in offering a high score, it’s worthy of being the only single-tuner freesat HD receiver you need in your home.
Joinfreesat score 9 out of 10
The Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 is available now. Please consider purchasing from our key site sponsor, the UK’s leading satellite retailer, Satbuyer. Alternative places to buy can be found on the Manhattan Plaza HD-S2 product page.
Suggestions to Manhattan
More than just now/next data on banner
‘i’ button twice to switch banner off
Adding favourite channels could be easier
Bit quicker to respond
Exit button on remote more prominent
External power supply would have been more useful for the caravan/motor-home market
USB recording and media playback