Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

BT Ultra HD YouView box review: UK 4K TV service set for UI revamp and Dolby Atmos sound

David Ludlow
12 Dec 2016
Our Rating 

BT's Ultra HD service gets a makeover and some sports events will have Dolby Atmos sound, too

Advertisement

Specifications

Tuners: 2x Freeview HD (YouView), Dimensions (WxDxH): 273x152x43mm, Networking: Gigabit Ethernet, Internal disk capacity: 1TB, Warranty: One-year RTB, Details: www.productsandservices.bt.com, Part code: BT Ultra HD

Latest news: BT has announced a revamp for its TV services and YouView box for 2017, including a complete overhaul of the way the user interface looks and works, and the addition of Dolby Atmos soundtracks for customers with Ultra HD boxes. 

The new look interface is a free upgrade and will be downloaded to all customers' boxes (not just those with Ultra HD boxes) in early 2017 and has a much brighter, more modern look and feel to it than the existing front end.

BT customers with 4K YouView boxes will be able to enjoy Dolby Atmos sound from 31 January 2017 – during the top-of-the-table clash between Liverpool and Chelsea. At first, only Premier League football matches will get the Atmos treatment, but other sports and potentially TV and movies will follow.

Dolby Atmos is different from standard surround sound in that the sound comes from above as well as all around, and BT's system delivered the effect convincingly in the demo I was given, where I was shown the opening moments of an early-season Premier League match at Anfield. The noise of the crowd did appear to be coming from all around, but more impressive than this was how easy it was to place the PA announcements, which appeared to be coming from directly above my seating position.

Atmos sound will be available for no extra cost to existing BT Ultra HD customers, however, you will need to have a compatible Atmos audio setup in order to benefit, and compatible products such as the Samsung HW-K950 don't tend to come cheap. 

BT Ultra HD YouView box: Full review

4K Ultra HD TVs have been around for a while now, but the lack of content has been more than a little disappointing. Things are starting to change, though, with Netflix and Amazon delivering on-demand programming and BT stepping into the ring with the UK’s first Ultra HD live channel: BT Sport Ultra HD.

As we’ve come to expect from BT, the new channel is streamed over the internet directly to a YouView set-top box - in this case, the brand-new Humax DTR-T4000. The benefit of the YouView system is that internet channels appear in the YouView guide alongside broadcast channels and you can even record them. It’s this blurring of traditional and internet content that continues to make YouView a real winner in my eyes.

See all of the best BT TV package deals deals on uSwitch

In terms of size and looks, the DTR-T4000 is practically identical to the Full HD YouView+ box, which remains on sale. Aside from a few cosmetic differences to the front panel, the big change is that there’s an Ultra HD sticker on the front and an HDMI 2.0 output on the rear, which supports HDCP 2.2 content protection. It has a 1TB hard disk, which is enough for around 600 hours of SD content, 250 hours of HD and 60 hours of Ultra HD.

Setup and connection

It’s important to hook the YouView box's HDMI output up to the correct HDMI port on your TV, as many only have one 4K input. It’s also worth checking the BT site for compatibility, as some older TVs will not play nicely with this box. I tested with the excellent Panasonic AX802 50in TV and had no problems getting connected.

BT supplies an HDMI cable in the box, which you won’t need to change, as Expert Reviews has proved that expensive cables make no difference to picture quality. Other than that, the YouView box has to be connected to the internet and, if you want live channels, an aerial socket. Given the bandwidth that you’ll need for Ultra HD, a direct Ethernet connection to your router is the best connection method; HomePlug adaptors should work, but I recommend buying 500Mbit/s adaptors to ensure that there’s enough bandwidth if your router’s not close enough to your TV.

Talking of the router, if you’re not using the Home Hub 5 then there’s a chance that you might run into some problems getting the internet channels. I’d replaced my Home Hub with a DD-WRT router in order to get US Netflix on a Chromecast, but DD-WRT doesn’t play nicely with the multicast technology that BT uses to deliver internet channels. Switching the Home Hub 5 back as the primary router fixed my problems.

As with every other YouView box I’ve tested, the DTR-4000 is incredibly slow to start up when set to High Eco mode, which is designed to save power; you can switch it to Low mode, but we found that it got incredibly hot and its fans whirred noisily even while it was in standby.

BT Sport and Ultra HD content

The primary purpose of this box is to deliver BT Sport in glorious Ultra HD, 3,840x2,160 at 50fps – that’s double the frame rate of traditional TV. The short summary is, wow. The extra resolution makes a massive difference, with every single bit of detail there. I tested it with a Premiership football match and the improvement over HD was clearly visible: grass was full of texture, the ball was easier to see and the players looked clearer and cleaner. As soon as I started watching it was clear that the picture was impressive, but switching back to the HD feed truly showed how much better 4K is - the older channel looked softer in comparison.

Sport truly benefits from the 50fps footage, as fast-paced action is easier to follow and considerably less jerky. There are some other benefits to the service, including 10-bit colour. It can make some parts of the screen look a little lurid, but general the picture pops with that extra vibrancy that normal TV lacks.

Delivering this content requires a fairly hefty broadband connection. I'm lucky enough to live about 15m from the roadside box, and typically get around 74Mbit/s when using speed testing websites and tools. I calculated that the TV stream was taking up around 29Mbit/s – no wonder this service is only available to Infinity customers. Even Infinity customers on Opton 1 (38Mbit/s) that live any real distance from their fibre cabinet might find their connections unable to cope, or at the very least seriously impact their web browsing speeds while streaming Ultra HD. At least the service doesn’t slow down with more people using it, as BT uses multicast to deliver TV.

Our one issue is that there’s currently very little content available on the Ultra HD channel, outside of the Premiership, Champions League, FA Cup, Premiership Rugby and MotoGP there’s not a lot on. In fact, for a lot of the time, the Ultra HD channel is just a set of adverts on a loop. Dive into the BT app via YouView and there are a few bits of Ultra HD content that you can watch, but it’s essentially demo footage, such as a video of some snowboarders, rather than movies and TV shows. Continues on page 2

Read more

Reviews