YouView review – hands on
Posted on 4 Jul 2012 at 16:56, by David Ludlow
UPDATE - You can now read our full YouView review.
Officially announced at the end of December 2008 with a planned launch for 2010, it's fair to say that the YouView TV-on-demand platform has been a rather long time coming. While it looked at one point as though the whole project might fail, Lord Sugar took over as chairman last year to help push the product forwards. Now, YouView has officially been launched and products are due out by the end of month. We were there to get a first look at the new technology running on the first YouView box to be available, the Humax DTR-T1000.
The DTR-T1000 is essentially a Freeview HD PVR with dual tuners running YouView's software. The first version to go on sale will have a 500GB hard disk and will cost £299. It lets you do everything you've come to expect from a PVR, including pausing live TV, recording individual programmes or entire series. So far, so normal, but it's what YouView can do that makes a difference. For this, the box needs to be plugged into your router via Ethernet. The box's USB port may be used for a Wi-Fi dongle at a later date, but for now it only works with a wired connection.
YouView was designed to make accessing on-demand TV as easy as possible and, from our initial look, we have to say it's done a good job. A standard EPG view gives you a grid of the next seven days' TV, but you can also step backwards seven days and browse all of the programmes that you've missed.
If the content is available online through one of the current service providers (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five), you can hit the OK button on the remote and start watching the selected programme via your internet connection. Rather than redoing all of the work that the TV companies have put into their on-demand portals, YouView just taps into the existing technology. So, select a programme that was on the BBC and iPlayer is started automatically.
In many ways, it's very similar to the catch-up service provided by the Virgin Media TiVo set-top box. Without a dedicated cable connection, though, a minimum requirement of 3Mbit/s broadband is required to stream TV, but if you've got more bandwidth you'll also be able to access the HD streams, such as that provided by BBC on iPlayer.
As YouView is a hybrid service, combining broadcast and on-demand TV in one place, the set-top box can use both connections to provide programme information on the EPG and for recorded programmes. There's a more detailed description that you'd normally get, plus thumbnail images are pulled from the internet. You can also select to view More Episodes of a selected programme, which taps into the on-demand platform to find every available episode.
For TV programmes that fall outside of the last seven days, there are two methods for finding them. First, the search option lets you find any programme whether it's to be shown on broadcast TV or is available on-demand. Secondly, each on-demand service has its own spot in the Player section, so you can directly access BBC iPlayer or 4oD, for example, as you would on a laptop. The interfaces are specially designed for YouView by each provider.
YouView collates all of the search information into one place, so you can find content no matter where it's stored. It's all accessible through the remote control's YouView button, which is important as from anywhere in the system you can find the content you want, without having to hunt through hundreds of menu options.
The original information, however, is supplied by the content provider. This can lead to some inconsistencies in presentation. For example, Four in a Bed in the demonstration we saw, organised episodes into Series 1, Series 3 and Four in a Bed. We presume that the last option is really Series 2, but the metadata hadn't been correctly assigned.
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