Streams TV to multiple devices on your network, but the VBox XTI-3330 not user-friendly enough and too expensive
Tuners: 2x DVB-S2, Dimensions (WxDxH): 189x165x54, Networking: gigabit Ethernet, Internal disk capacity: N/A, Warranty: one-year RTB, Details: http://www.vboxcomm.com/, Part code: XTI-3340
The VBox Media Gateway XTI-3330 is a small black box that lets you stream satellite TV to any PC in your house, and even phones, tablets and smart TVs. Unlike regular set-top boxes, such as the Humax HB-1000S and Humax HDR-1010S, the XTI-3330 streams video over IP rather than outputting a video stream to your TV via HDMI, SCART or some other output.
Setting up the XTI-3330 physically is straightforward. The XTI-3330 has few ports, with just two F-type connectors to which you attach two feeds from your satellite dish, a USB port to which you can connect USB flash drives to record video and an Ethernet port. You use the Ethernet port to connect the XTI-3330 to your router so that devices on your network can stream satellite TV from it.
Your router must support universal plug and play (UPnP) in order to stream video from the XTI-3330. Most modern routers will be able to do this, but you’ll need to check that your router supports UPnP before you buy the XTI-3330, and you may have to configure your router manually to enable the feature.
Once you’ve set up the XTI-3330 physically, you can scan the skies for channels to watch. You can set up the XTI-3330 using the VBox mobile app, which is available for free on both Android and iOS platforms, or using your PC’s web browser. We set up the XTI-3330 using the VBox iOS app and the XTI-3330’s web interface, and both methods used the same wizard.
Sadly, the wizard provides almost no onscreen help to guide new and inexperienced users. You must specify the satellite whose TV channels you want to watch, for example, but there’s no help panel explaining where you’d find that information. You then need to select the transponders you want to scan, but there’s no information on what a transponder is or why you would want to do this. This means that those with a little satellite TV knowledge should have no problem setting up the XTI-3330, but it also alienates those users who don’t and would otherwise benefit from the XTI-3330.
Once you’ve scanned your chosen satellite for channels, you can narrow the list of channels that the XTI-3330 has found to just those you want to watch. You’ll find there are many duplicates of some channels because of regional variations. Selecting the BBC channels for your region is fairly easy, because the region they serve is included in the channel’s name, but this might not be the case for other channels.
The channels are listed from one to however many channels your XTI-3330 has found, and the channels appear on the XTI-3330’s electronic programme guide in the order in which they’re found. You can either accept this list or rearrange the channels manually so that you have BBC one on the first channel, BBC Two on the second and so on. All this selecting and rearranging is time consuming, and a world away from the simple ease of the Humax HDR-1010S’s setup screens.
Once your channels are set up, you can stream live TV to your devices via a VBox mobile app or to a web browser via the XTI-3330’s web portal. The screens of both look similar, with a channel list on the left-hand side of the screen, the name of the channel in the bottom-centre and buttons for going to the settings page, home screen and recordings pages at the bottom. These are easily dismissed once you’ve found a channel you want to watch so that you can view it full-screen.
Unfortunately, we found the iOS app to be very unresponsive, and it crashed many times. We’re sure the app will be refined and improved, just as we’ve seen with apps from other manufacturers, but at the time of writing we don’t like it.
We preferred to watch TV through a PC’s web browser, as the web interface was much more responsive, but even this had its flaws. We found the organisation of the Live TV screen to be inconsistent with the web interface’s other screens, which confused us and made finding the options we wanted to change and screens we wanted to view more confusing than it should be.
SMARTER SAT TV
As the XTI-3330 works as a UPnP server, you can see it in Windows Media Player too, and play a channel through that. We also had no problem streaming video from the XTI-3330 to our smart TV. The picture quality was good, and we were more than happy to watch TV this way. If you have more than one smart TV in your home, then using the XTI-3330 to stream them is an attractive option. We also had no trouble streaming one channel to Windows Media Player and another to a web browser so that we could keep an eye on a cycle race while watching a comedy.
You can record video to an attached USB flash drive by pressing the Record button in the VBox mobile app or the web interface. We had no trouble playing the recordings back, and all recordings are neatly listed in the My Zone screen.
WHO WOULD WANT TO USE THE VBOX XTI-3330?
We think regular consumers would be better off with a standard Freesat+ set-top box, but the XTI-3330 is a compelling purchase for a number of reasons. Even though catch-up TV apps are widely available for mobile devices, and apps such as Sky Go, BBC iPlayer and Netflix let you access a lot of content, these apps require access to the internet to work and may require a subscription. The VBox XTI-3330 lets you watch live TV on a mobile device without having to access the internet, although you’ll only be able to watch free-to-air channels. You may also want to route the same channel to a set of devices or smart TVs.
Obviously, the quality of the video streaming is dependent on your router and network setup, and many buyers may also want to purchase a set of high-quality powerline adaptors such as the Solwise Piggy (£25 from www.solwise.co.uk). These route network traffic through your electrical mains cabling, and route traffic more quickly than a regular Wi-Fi router.
The XTI-3330 is possibly a good buy for satellite TV enthusiasts or those with a pressing need to route one or two channels to multiple devices, but it isn’t perfect, and the web interface in particular needs to be made more user-friendly and consistent. Even so, we like the idea of the XTI-3330, and we’d like to see the ability to stream live TV over the network incorporated in a regular Freesat or Sky PVR.
As it is, though, the VBox XTI-3330 is just too expensive and unpolished to recommend for general users. If you simply want a standard Freesat+ HD set-top box, though, you should consider the Humax HB-1000S or Humax HDR-1010S instead.
|USB ports||1x USB|
|Memory card reader||none|
|Video playback formats||N/A|
|Image viewing formats||N/A|
|Audio playback formats||N/A|
|Smart TV apps||N/A|
|Recording media||USB flash drive|
|Internal disk capacity||N/A|
|Hours of recording on internal media||N/A|
|Simultanous channel recording||2|
|Price including VAT||£170|