Belkin @TV Plus £155
7th Sep 2012 | 08:30
The Belkin @TV Plus is designed to stream video from your home to anywhere in the world
The Belkin @TV Plus is designed to stream video from your home to anywhere in the world. It's got a set of video inputs, so you'd plug something that's already decoded the broadcasts into it, such as a Sky box. It's also got a set of video outputs, so that you can then pass that video to your TV to watch there as well.
The @TV Plus box connects to the network over Wi-Fi or Ethernet to stream the video it receives to the Belkin TV apps. The apps are free to download for desktops and iPad, but iPhone users will have to pay £12.99 for the privilege.
When you consider that the comparable SlingPlayer apps for Slingbox streams cost £20.99 for iPhone and then another £20.99 for iPad, this doesn't seem such a high price.
Setting up the @TV Plus was easy enough - it needs an Ethernet wired connection to your router to begin with, though, which can be inconvenient. It's a step-by-step process after that, in which you tell it what set-top box you have and create an account to connect your client apps to, and can choose to switch to Wi-Fi for future use.
The reason you need to tell it what type of set-top box you have is so that you can control your TV service from elsewhere. The @TV Plus uses infrared transmitters to take the place of your remote control, with you using on-screen controls in the apps instead.
This is where the @TV Plus hits its first hurdle - we used it with BT Vision, and the remote control it offers for that set-top box just doesn't have all the buttons it really needs. It's fine for watching live TV, but you can't access anything you've recorded, for example, or see BT's on-demand service.
It's also often frustratingly slow to respond to input. The time between hitting a control on the screen to it changing in the video was often 10 seconds. That's an incredibly long time to wait for a button press, especially if you're flicking through an electronic programme guide.
The actual on-screen remote is fairly easy to get to grips with, though. It's divided into offering different functions in different tabs: one for changing channels, one for the menu and one for DVR functionality. There's also a popup control panel for when you're watching video, which features the @TV Plus's extra little trick: a record button.
You can actually record the video stream from your @TV Plus at any time directly to your device. Alas, it's less helpful than it sounds. You can choose to record for a set length of time, but on iOS devices, it can't do this in the background, so you'd have to have the show playing anyway. Still, there's also a pause button, which is more useful.
When we tried recording shows, we noticed that the audio slipped slightly out of sync on one of the clips, but in general, the @TV Plus does a good job of streaming. There tends to be a lot of buffering near the start, but once it gets going, the quality and integrity of the video can be good.
Though the @TV Plus has its niggles, it ultimately works. We still have a problem with it, but it's the concept, not the execution. It feels stuck out of place to us. It doesn't have HDMI, for example, so the one-cable convenience we've all gotten used to is out of the window. It's literally an analogue box in a digital world, and the result is that it seems like more hassle than it's worth.
We were already watching TV online through TVCatchup, Sky Player and the like, and we didn't have to buy an extra box to do it. The Belkin doesn't put up enough of a case that we should be using it instead.
But, as we said, it's easy to set up and works fairly well, so if you want to stream from your settop box, it's worth a look.