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BT Vision YouView review – hands on

  • BT Vision YouView
  • BT Vision YouView

One of the benefits of YouView is that it was designed for companies to take the base platform and add custom apps to give people new TV services. BT is one of the first customers to launch with its own products and we were there to find out how YouView fits into its Vision platform.

The first thing to note is that switching to YouView alters how much involvement the company has in the development of the box and its software. All YouView boxes have to have the same EPG, with the ability to go backwards and forwards in time, with the only differences being the range of apps that they can access.

BT Vision YouView
The Humax DTR-T1000 is excellent value with BT Vision

In fact, as well as having the same interface, the first BT Vision YouView boxes are actually Humax DTR-T1000 YouView PVRs. These are identical to the model that we reviewed, but when the box detects it's on a BT broadband connection it automatically makes BT Vision available; plug the PVR into a TalkTalk connection and you'd get that company's TV app instead.

In practice, this means you can buy your own YouView PVR, connect that to BT broadband and have access to BT Vision. We think you'd be a bit mad to spend near-on £300 for your own box, though, as BT is offering the YouView box for free for anyone that takes out a 12-month BT Vision Essential package or higher, which costs from £4 a month (£48 a year). On top of that you have to pay a one-off activation fee of £49, which includes powerline networking adaptors, and a £6.95 delivery charge. So, all-in if you register at www.youview.bt.com you can get a YouView box for £104, which is an amazing deal for the best Freeview HD PVR you can buy.

One of the potential advantages of being able to buy your own YouView boxes is for multi-room entertainment, getting BT Vision in multiple rooms. We're waiting to find out from BT exactly how this would work and if there's an extra charge for doing this.

BT Vision YouView
As with all other YouView boxes, BT Vision lets you step backwards in time to access on-demand content

Once you've got your BT box set up, it works exactly like any other YouView device. That's to say, it's got the best EPG out there, which lets you step back in time and play on-demand content seamlessly from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. It's incredibly smooth to use and we like the neat little touches, such as a global setting to force on-demand content to play in HD where available.

BT Vision is now an app within the box, giving you the same range of programming options and interface as on the existing Vision 2.0 box. The only thing that's different is that there's no longer an option for catch-up TV in BT Vision, as this is fully provided by YouView.

As for BT Vision, it's a pretty decent package with a range of on-demand films, TV programmes and music videos, and you can organise the latter into your own playlists. On-demand content is free, bar the latest films, if you've got BT Vision Unlimited (£12.50 a month) or there's a cost per show for Essential subscribers.

You can add any of the other YouView optional apps, too: currently there's Channel Five's Milkshake! and Sky's Now TV. As other services come online, they'll be automatically added into YouView and BT Vision.

Ultimately, that's brilliant for BT Vision, as subscribers to the service get everything that BT has to offer, but they can add any other service they see fit without having to buy new hardware.

Of course, the YouView box is an excellent PVR with dual Freeview HD tuners and a 500GB hard disk built in. Humax will also sell a 1TB box, although BT couldn't tell us if it's planning to offer the larger capacity box.

In the future, BT is planning releasing its own box manufactured by Pace. This will run the YouView software, but it will also have a dedicated BT Vision on the remote, letting you jump straight to that on-demand content.

As it stands, BT Vision YouView looks like a great deal, getting you a top-of-the-range PVR for around a third-of-the-price you'd pay for it alone in the shops.

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