BT YouView+ TV review
When BT first switched its Vision TV service to YouView, it launched with the Humax DTR-T1000. It made sense at the time, as this was the best set-top box available and, thanks to the way YouView works, didn't need any customisation to work with Vision: you just plugged it in to BT Broadband and the box discovered the extra services available to it.
While that proved useful to get a first generation service out, the lack of customisation proved to be a slight detriment. For example, there was no way to directly access BT's unique content from the remote control. This time around, with its brand-new YouView box, BT is back with its own custom box.
Manufactured by Humax, the second generation BT YouView box is completely customised for BT. The first thing that's evident is that this box is a lot smaller than the old one. In fact, it looks a lot more like a plain set-top box rather than a hard disk recorder.
This is largely down to miniaturisation of parts and BT opting to use a 2.5in laptop hard disk, rather than a 3.5in desktop drive. It's not just smaller, as the processor has been upgraded, while noise has been reduced.
Round the back are the same range of connectors you'd expect to find on a modern PVR: Ethernet, HDMI and an aerial input for the dual tuners (there's a pass through, so you can still hook up your TV's tuner, too). There are also legacy ports for older TVs, including SCART and composite out. If you want to hook the box up to an external amp, you can use the stereo phono or optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs.
You have to use the Ethernet port, as the YouView+ box has to be connected to the internet. It's disappointing that there's still no Wi-Fi, or even the option of Wi-Fi through a USB dongle. If your router isn't near the BT YouView box, you'll need to invest in a pair of HomePlug powerline adaptors instead.
BT YOUVIEW INTERFACE
Powering the box up for the first time will be immediately familiar to anyone who's used YouView before, as the interface is standardised across all products. That's no bad thing, as it's extremely simple to use. All you have to do is let the box search for TV stations, then enter your postcode, so that the listing can be customised by your location. After a few minutes of set-up you're ready to go.
We've said it before, but the YouView interface is one of the best out there. A dedicated YouView button brings up the main menu, which slides into view from the bottom of the screen. This then lets you choose what you want to do, including selecting on-demand, the TV guide, recordings and BT Vision. All the while, the current programme plays in the background full-screen, so you don't have to stop watching.
One of the benefits of the new box is that the interface is now a lot smoother and slicker. In particular, we noticed the animations, such as the menu sliding up from the bottom of the screen where a lot smoother. It now just feels a lot quicker to move around, accessing all of the box's features.
BT YOUVIEW EPG
Live TV is likely to be one of the areas you want to access first, and the YouView EPG is still one of the best. It's grid-view is clearly laid out and we like the thumbnail view of what you're currently watching, as it means that you can keep watching while you set up recordings or work out what to watch next. From the EPG, you can easily page through the grid view to see what's on and what's coming up.
The YouView EPG is one of the best
Where YouView differs from other PVRs is that you can also use the EPG to step back in time by up to seven days, viewing what was on TV. If a programme that has already been shown is available in any of the catch-up TV services - BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5 or Dave - you can tap OK to fire up the relevant player and watch it by streaming the content over the internet. It's this seamless integration with live and on-demand TV that we've not seen bettered by any product or smart TV.
The ability to step back in time and watch programmes on-demand is brilliantly implemented
Of course, as this is a full PVR, you can also set programmes to record. Again, the interface is really good. Set a programme to record on a standard definition channel, for example, and YouView will prompt you to record it in HD if it's available. You can also set to record a one-off or an entire series, letting you set and forget for your favourite shows.
YouView is smart enough to know that a programme is also available in HD and asks if you'd like to record it in this format if you select the SD version
BT YOUVIEW INTERNET EPG
As YouView has to be connected to the internet, the entire interface can use the connection to the max. This means that all of the EPG is populated via the internet, giving you more information on each programme than you'd get using a standard Freeview HD box.
It also means that you get the More Episodes option. Just select a programme in the EPG and hit the 'i' button on the remote and the dialog box gives you a More Episodes tab. This is populated with any episodes of the programme that are available via any of the built-in on-demand services.
Select a live programme and you can also see if there are more episodes available on-demand
The brilliance of this system is that you can spot a programme that you think you'd like to watch and catch up with any missed episodes before you start watching it.
The internet connection is also used for recordings, which are accessed through the My view menu. Anything you record pulls in the programme information and a thumbnail image from online, which gives YouView an incredibly polished feel.
We like the way that you can use the status bar when you select a recording to choose where in the show you want to start watching from.
You can select where you want to start watching a recording from
Recordings can be locked, so that they're never deleted. This is useful, as the box has optional recording management (turned on by default), which frees up disk space when you need it by deleting watched shows. You can also filter programmes by whether you've watched them or not.