YouView from BT
7th May 2014 | 09:10
BT's take on YouView now features a new, smaller box
YouView essentially provides a hard drive Freeview HD recorder with the ability to watch catchup TV on your TV. So you can scroll back in the EPG and watch programming from BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITV Player and Demand Five from any time over the last seven days (providing the programming is available on that service – sports are notable in that they are often missing).
If it's an evaluation of YouView's own merits you're after, then check out our main YouView review. that's the standard YouView service that you can choose to buy from a retailer for around the £170 mark subscription free.
The alternative – that we're looking at here – is that you can opt to sign up for a contract and get the box free - a similar but cheaper alternative to Sky. You can do this through BT or TalkTalk and get extra on demand content as a result.
So you should read the standard YouView review in tandem with this one, as we're predominantly looking at the extra services and top-up channels BT provides here.
BT has now joined YouView in eschewing the default YouView box that we really like– check out our Humax DTR-T1000 review and the newer Humax DTR-T1010 review. The new BT box is almost exactly the same in function although is much smaller and comes with a brand new remote.
Disappointingly, the new box doesn't improve on the 500GB capacity of the earlier boxes (indeed, a 1TB version of the DTR-T1010 is also available).
Existing customers can upgrade to the new box for £35.
The rear panel features aerial and aerial pass through, analogue and digital audio, SCART...
...HDMI, USB, Ethernet, power and on/off button.
Getting YouView from BT means a 12 month subscription, but you can get the BT service from £5 per month for the Essential pack or pay £7 per month.
You will, however, need to have a BT line and BT broadband connection to use the service (in addition to a standard roof-top aerial to receive the Freeview channels). Aside from the set up fee though, you're probably paying most of that cost already if you're with BT.
The £5 package requires BT Broadband that's £11 a month for the first three months, then £17 per month - on top of your normal BT line rental (£16).
For the latter package you also need to be signed up to BT Infinity which costs £15 a month for the first three months, then £23 per month. Again that's on top of your normal BT line rental (£16). This includes access to several premium channels including Discovery and National Geographic as well as BT Sport (though HD costs £3 a month extra).
Those who live in a Freeview area can receive up to 70 TV and radio channels. If you've got BT Infinity then you can receive over 50 Entertainment and sport channels via their broadband connection.
Other BT packages are available (such as film for £5 a month more) or you can go on demand with any package with BT Player (basically what BT Vision used to be). This is an option available on the main YouView menu and is available from £3.50 per film.
As with standard YouView there is access to all Freeview channels and on demand players plus Milkshake, Dave and Sky's Now TV should you have a subscription to that. You can also add Sky Sports or movies to your pack, though the costs are high.
It's clear that BT is hoping you'll buy a decent tranche of on-demand content or subscribe to some extra channels to make its subsidy on the box worthwhile. But as we'll explain in a moment, it isn't hard to end up paying extra - though you do so completely on your own terms, there are no hidden costs.
BT certainly can't be relying on pure on demand content, primarily because it's rather easy to avoid the online content on the YouView interface.
BT has an entry on the main menu alongside access to the Guide and your recordings, but you'll rarely use this main top-level menu because you're more likely to use the Guide button to access programming and make recordings from there.
However, in a change from the old YouView remote, the new version is BT branded and has a direct access button to the BT Player.
The quality of content is OK – there are some decent films, but it unless you decide to pay for some content you'll soon find yourself wanting more. Indeed, I found myself just going back to the Guide to see what was on offer there.
We were using this new box in tandem with a new BT Home Hub 5 and BT Infinity working at around 64Mbps. The connectivity problems we experienced with the old YouView box and the Home Hub 3 now seem to be a thing of the past.
However, because of the increased demands of IPTV, particularly BT Sport, BT now bundles a 10 metre Ethernet cable with this box. It's suggested that your YouView box should be directly cabled, though we had no issues with a pair of modern Powerline adapters such as the Devolo dLAN 650 Triple+ Starter Kit.
BT says this box is far faster than its predecessor, and it is a little zippier to move around the menu. My old box has hung a few times recently and reacted badly with various slowdowns after one update. But it isn't noticeably faster in one crucial area - the start up.
Basically these boxes have two modes - eco (high) and full pelt (low). If you have it on eco, using less power, it takes a while to spin up when you switch it on from standby. We still found ourselves waiting around 20-30 seconds. Now this is better than the minute or two the old box took, but it still is far from satisfactory considering the box is on standby.
This is a problem with all YouView boxes, however, so it isn't a fault of the BT box specifically.
We really like the core YouView service. But because of the non-obvious way to access the BT content, it can be hard to remember the on-demand films and TV is actually there. It is a subsidised way to get hold of the YouView box and BT is banking on you using the pay-as-you-go programming or subscribing to extra channels.
As with the original Humax box, we love this new BT version. The recording, pause and resume all work excellently. The remote is great to use and the overall quality of the programming guide and the improved interface speed is noticeable. We were impressed with the reliability of the on-demand players, which are also improved.
We still aren't that impressed with the start-up time of this new box. It's better. But it's not that much better and bet that many people won't even realise the eco mode is there, so they won't know they can even reduce that time.
The big elephant in the room with YouView is that many much cheaper Freeview HD recorders are now offering access to on-demand content, while many smart TVs also do it out of the box. On demand is YouView's big sell as you can scroll back within the guide, but those foundations are being undermined constantly by such alternatives. But that's almost a side issue for BT.
YouView from BT is a good way to get yourself an otherwise pricey YouView box – providing you already have a BT line and BT Broadband. If you don't already have those services, you can find that signing up will cost you more than you want because of the options available.
Price up the package you want before deciding to switch. You may find you're better off just going to buy the standard YouView box. Or going the Freeview HD+ route if you're not that bothered about scrolling back in the planner.
But as a device and service for those who have a BT phone line and broadband already, BT's take on YouView doesn't disappoint.