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BT Vision+ review

Jim Martin
5 Mar 2010
BT Vision+ set top box
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
199
inc VAT

The new Vision+ box is better looking than the old, but brings little else to the table bar lower power consumption.

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BT Vision is an on-demand TV service delivered via broadband, and is only available to BT Total Broadband customers. The Vision+ is an update to the original silver Vision set-top box and looks a lot sleeker in black. It's had a few tweaks which address - among other things - complaints about the first box's power consumption.

Instead of leaving the hard disk spinning permanently, the new version actually has a standby mode that involves more than merely changing the colour of the status LED from blue to purple. However, we were disappointed to find that even with the hard disk powered down, the box still drew almost 12W in sleep mode.

This is poor compared to many PVRs including Humax's PVR-9300T, which uses just 1W in standby. There's a 'low power/off mode' which consumes 1W, but this is largely pointless as it doesn't allow the box to wake up to make recordings and won't respond to the remote control to power it back on.

At the front is a viewing card slot for watching ESPN, a record button, plus directional controls that replicate the remote's. The USB ports on the front and rear remain unused - with no ability to playback music, videos or photos from USB storage devices.

The range of connections at the rear remains the same with two SCART sockets, plus S-video and HDMI outputs. Annoyingly, no HDMI cable is bundled, despite this being the best way to connect the Vision+ to an HD TV. It can upscale Freeview and standard definition on-demand content to 720p or 1080i via HDMI.

Setting up the box is simple - you merely need to connect power, network, aerial and AV cables. Two powerline networking adaptors are bundled in case your BT Home Hub or other router isn't near enough to the Vision+ box. During the welcome screens, you'll be asked to scan for channels. Once this is complete you can start watching TV.

HD programmes and films are available to download and watch later - they can't be streamed due to bandwidth limitations. These include 5.1 surround sound, but only via the S/PDIF output, not HDMI.

The Vision interface is the same as ever, and it's still great. It's based on Microsoft Media Center which means text and icons are large and easy to read, plus the EPG covers the next 14 days - way longer than most PVRs. We like the way that programme information pops up to show a quick view of what's on other channels if you press the up or down arrows when watching a show, while pressing right shows what's on next.

Bear in mind that you can get the Vision+ box for £15 only if you sign up to a viewing pack - otherwise it costs £199. In addition, this cut-price deal only applies to new customers. Existing Vision customers wanting to upgrade to the new box will have to pay the full £199.

This isn't the end of the bad news, though. The new box has the same requirements as the old one, and so has to be connected to broadband to operate. This means you can't watch Freeview programmes if your broadband connection is down. Another niggle is that the box doesn't have DVB-T2 tuners, which means it won't let you watch or record the new Freeview HD channels. It’s harsh to blame BT for this omission, as the tuners have only just become available, but it does make this new box some what outdated already.

During our testing, the box worked flawlessly, and standard definition content streamed smoothly without pausing or juddering. Picture and audio quality was reasonably good, and we appreciated the extra quality and surround sound of HD films. However, we can see film buffs preferring postal rental services like LoveFilm (especially with its wide Blu-ray range) due to Vision's relatively high prices and lack of choice in the PictureBox pack. Virgin uses the same PictureBox service, though, so it's no better in that respect.

Overall, the new black Vision+ box feels like a stopgap rather than a new product. It's a shame BT hasn't taken advantage of the USB ports, nor allows streaming any media from your home network via Ethernet. Vision's only real competitor is Virgin's TV bundles. The TV M+ package is comparable in price to Vision's Bronze deal when you factor in phone line rental and broadband costs, but additionally provides Sky 1, Sky 2, BBC HD and Channel 4 HD.

If you're eligible to get the Vision+ box for £15, it's a good deal, but if you live in an area that's served by Virgin, you'll get more from its packages.

Details

Rating***

Features

Analogue tuners0
Digital tuners2
Hybrid tuners0
RadioDVB-T
EPG days14
Dual-channel recordingyes
Series linkyes
Teletext (analogue/digital)no
Picture in Pictureno
Interactive content supportyes

Connections

Digital tuner RF inputs1
RF passthrough sockets1
HDMI outputs1
Component outputs0
Output resolutionsPAL (576i), 720p, 1080i
Total SCART sockets2
S-Video input0
S-video output1
Composite inputs0
Composite outputs0
Stereo phono inputs0
Stereo phono outputs1
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs0
Optical S/PDIF outputs1
Surround sound formatsDolby Digital
Other portsUSB, Ethernet

Storage

Capacity160GB
Optical driveno
Optical drive typeN/A
Audio playback formatsnone
Image viewing formatsnone

General

Power consumption standby12W
Power consumption on16W
Extrasremote control, scart cable, RF cable, 2x Powerline Networking adaptors
Size360x230x65mm

Buying Information

Price£199
Warrantyone year collect and return
Supplierhttp://www.btvision.bt.com
Detailswww.btvision.bt.com

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