To use a sporting metaphor, BT’s YouView+ Ultra HD box is that supremely gifted winger who simply by no means learnt to shoot. It’s Nani, mainly.
It does some issues so nicely I needed to start out applauding in my entrance room, and is well the match for Sky Q or Virgin TV V6 in lots of areas. However, it suffers from a few obtrusive omissions that left me cursing its ineptitude.
That doesn’t imply it’s not price getting, however when you’re about to embark on a relationship with it, you’ll must do it with open eyes about these limitations.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box design: Does the job
The YouView UHD box seems virtually an identical to the usual BT YouView+ box, with solely the Ultra HD branding on the entrance giving the sport away. Like the older box it’s made by Humax; you may also see it referred to as the Humax HDR-T4000.
It’s impressively small – far shorter than the Virgin TV V6 box and narrower than Sky Q. You’ll actually haven’t any downside discovering an area for it, though word that it does want line-of-sight for the distant to work, so that you gained’t be capable to conceal it away in a cabinet.
That’s not one thing that you simply’d particularly need to do, because it’s pretty unobtrusive in its seems, however don’t anticipate it to present you any wow moments both. The black plastic it’s made out of seems slightly low cost and sat subsequent to a PS4 or Xbox One S it’ll seem distinctly last-gen. Overall it’s nicer than the Virgin V6, however not fairly up there with Sky Q.
On prime you get a couple of buttons – Standby, Record, YouView, Back and OK – however I can’t see anybody utilizing them except they lose the distant and discover themselves marooned on Animal Planet two minutes earlier than the beginning of the Champions League Final. Round the again you get HDMI, Ethernet, SPDIF for audio output and ports for aerial out and in. You’ll want most of those, too, as a result of the Youview+ Ultra HD box does issues slightly in a different way from Sky Q and Virgin’s V6.
Rather than offer you the entire channels over your broadband connection or satellite tv for pc, as these rival providers do, you get half of them through your Freeview aerial. As a consequence, you’ll must hook up a TV aerial to the box with the intention to get the likes of BBC and C4, whereas connecting the Ethernet port to your BT Hub will allow you to entry the ‘premium’ channels and on-demand content material.
This isn’t a surprise: the YouView platform was conceived by BT, the BBC and others particularly with the intention to promote Freeview. Nor is it essentially a nasty factor, as long as you’ve gotten a good Freeview reception. If you don’t, although, you might discover that a few of the 70-odd Freeview channels are lacking from the service.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box software program: YouView wins the day
In use, the BT YouView+ Ultra HD box is a very clean operator.
The very first thing to notice is how simple it’s to get to the good things. YouView is a rather well thought out platform, and usually offers you many routes to what you would possibly need to watch. For occasion, press OK whereas watching and a semi-translucent data panel will slide into view alongside the underside. You can scroll ahead on this to see what’s developing afterward the channel, or again to see what’ve you’ve missed. And, if any of those reveals can be found on catch-up, you’ll be able to soar straight into them.
Everything’s fantastically laid out – you get thumbnails of each present, whereas on Virgin it’s all simply textual content – and it’s each bit as quick as when you had been looking Netflix on a telephone or pill.
Want an alternative choice? The devoted YouView button on the distant will carry up an identical panel, which in addition to once more displaying you what you’re watching will allow you to soar straight into the assorted on-demand apps, your recordings or the complete TV information.
That information additionally will get a devoted button on the distant, and once more it’s actually slick: quick, simple to learn and filter, and with simply the correct quantity of information. Again, you’ll be able to scroll again in time for as much as seven days and watch one thing you would possibly’ve missed, or ahead to set reminders and recordings.
Yet extra? The common search function will carry up choices on catch-up or on-demand and present you future episodes which you’ll be able to set to report. And it truly is common, pulling in data from Netflix and Now TV in addition to looking out all of BT’s on-demand content material.
Everything’s simply rather well organised and displayed. Take catch-up: on Virgin, selecting an beforehand aired present will generally take you straight to the present, and generally simply to the related app, the place you’ll then must seek for the present yet again. On BT it at all times takes you to the present. And Sky’s not even in the identical league on this entrance: it forces you to obtain the present earlier than you’ll be able to watch it.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box 4K content material: Great for footie followers
The proven fact that the phrases ‘Ultra HD’ are together with proudly within the box’s identify offers you some thought of its principal promoting level, however really it’s a little bit of a crimson herring except you’re a soccer addict.
Yes, the YouView+ does have Ultra HD content material, however proper now that’s restricted to at least one channel: BT Sport 4K UHD. This was really the primary 4K channel to launch within the UK again in 2015 and it contains a respectable quantity of soccer. Want to look at Manchester United vs Swansea City in the absolute best decision? You received it. Tempted by highlights of the Champions League quarter-finals? No downside.
In all, BT has 42 dwell English Premier League video games, a lot of that are proven in 4K. It additionally has the unique UK rights to the Champions League, and once more reveals the bulk in 4K. You’ll additionally discover rugby, Moto GP, boxing and different occasions in UHD. But don’t go pondering there’ll at all times be one thing new to look at on it – there’s typically just one or possibly two 4K dwell occasions broadcast every day, so that you’ll discover plenty of the programming taken up with trailers for the service.
Picture-wise, it’s very good. Compare it to a HD broadcast of the identical recreation and also you’ll discover the additional readability and element instantly. The proven fact that it runs at 50fps – normal TV is 25fps – additionally makes a distinction, with footage showing as silky clean as a Lionel Messi dribble.
Whether it’s price paying the additional for, although, is much less apparent. Outside of sport, your solely 4K choices listed below are through the built-in Netflix app. And whereas Netflix does have a great deal of nice 4K content material, notably a lot of its personal Originals, likelihood is you have already got entry to a Netflix app through your 4K TV or video games console.
All of which places BT firmly between Sky and Virgin within the 4K pecking order. Virgin has no 4K content material of its personal – simply Netflix and YouTube – so BT clearly trumps it on this entrance as long as you want sport. But Sky stays the undoubted chief within the 4K discipline, with on-demand motion pictures and leisure additionally obtainable within the high-res format, along with big quantities of sporting content material of its personal.
I must also point out HDR at this level. The YouView+ UHD box is technically able to outputting HDR, if it will get an replace. But till that replace arrives, it hasn’t received it. Shame. That’s the identical deal as on Virgin and Sky, although, so it does not rely too harshly in opposition to BT.
One different factor you’ll get right here although – and never on the opposite two – is Dolby Atmos. Atmos is the next-gen encompass sound setup which actually places you within the coronary heart of the motion, by pumping sound from above in addition to round you. It does this both via ceiling-mounted or upwards-firing audio system. Either approach, it is extremely immersive, notably for dwell occasions corresponding to… yep, soccer.
This is an actual feather in BT’s cap, as Sky does not at present assist Atmos, and Virgin, whereas it technically can output within the Atmos format, does not have any content material to benefit from it. You’ll want a appropriate setup, clearly, however when you actually care about soccer then 4K and Atmos makes an incredible mixture.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box catch-up and on-demand: Nicely dealt with
While BT TV could also be missing on the 4K entrance, notably when you’re not a sports activities nut, there’s sufficient great things elsewhere on the service that you simply gained’t must do something silly like, y’know, learn a guide or discuss to a different human.
Assuming your Freeview reception is nice, you’ll get the entire normal terrestrial channels and their varied spin-offs, plus the likes of Dave and Film 4. On prime of these Freeview channels you then get whichever ‘premium’ channels you pay for. Which, on this case, will likely be all of them: with the intention to get a YouView Ultra HD box you’ve gotten to enroll in BT’s costliest TV package deal anyway.
Total Entertainment, as it’s referred to as, offers you about 70 premium channels. They’re principally the identical ones you’d discover on the entire different providers – National Geographic and History, Gold and Comedy Central, Fox and SyFy and so forth and so forth.
You additionally get AMC, which is mainly BT’s model of Sky Atlantic. No, you do not get such riches as Games of Thrones and Billions, however you do get the brand new Pierce Brosnan-starring western The Son and the brand new sequence of Fear The Walking Dead before you’d get it elsewhere. And after all you additionally get BT’s complete sports activities providing, together with the 4K output. All of which places it above Virgin TV, which has little or no unique content material of its personal, however nonetheless a approach behind Sky.
If the unique content material is slightly missing, BT TV does no less than offer you loads of catch-up and on-demand choices. On catch-up, you get UK TV Play – house to Dave and Yesterday, amongst others – in addition to the large 5 terrestrial channels. That isn’t the case on its rivals, so if previous episodes of Yes Minister are your factor, you’ll be sorted.
For on-demand, you’re trying on the built-in Netflix and Now TV apps, ought to you’ve gotten subscriptions – though word that Now TV right here is restricted to motion pictures, not sport or leisure – plus BT’s personal BT Player.
The latter is respectable when you’re ready to pay. There’s a devoted button for it on the distant, and the app itself is properly laid out. You can simply filter the information so it reveals solely free content material, however that drastically reduces your choices. The very good Mr Robot and Orange is the New Black are each obtainable, however not lots else.
You can no less than purchase a good quantity of movies and box-sets on the service. Rogue One will set you again £4.99 for a 2-day HD rental, for example, whereas Moana prices £13.99 to maintain, additionally in HD. That’s roughly the identical as you’ll discover on Amazon Instant Video or iTunes.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box recordings: Curiously hobbled
The BT YouView+ Ultra HD box has solely two tuners inside it, which means you’ll be able to report two whereas watching one other from catch-up or on-demand. This leaves it a way behind Virgin V6 and Sky Q, which may report six reveals directly.
It’s not notably well-equipped to take care of sequence hyperlinks and the like, both. While you’ll be able to set a sequence to report, it’s nowhere close to as good as Virgin’s TiVo on this regard. There, you’ll be able to seek for actors and report any movies or reveals that includes them, or report reveals throughout many alternative channels. Here, you’ll be able to merely report all episodes of a given present on a given channel.
Nor do you get intelligent strategies for reveals you would possibly like based mostly on what you’ve watched earlier than, as you do on Virgin and Sky. You can’t even set it to start out recording a couple of minutes earlier than a present to make sure you don’t miss the beginning, or lengthen the recording for a couple of minutes after the tip.
Inside the box there’s a 1TB exhausting drive, which is nice for round 60hrs of UHD TV, 250hrs of HD or 600hrs of standard-def. Not that you need to hassle with that final choice. I imply come on, SD in 2017? Don’t be a idiot.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box multiroom: Don’t hassle. Just don’t
If recordings are a little bit of weak spot, multiroom is worse. Whereas Sky and Virgin each allow you to share recordings round the home, BT’s bins don’t appear to speak to one another in any respect. In truth to name it multiroom is a bit wealthy given that basically you’re simply getting two separate bins in separate rooms.
All you’ll be able to actually do together with your second box is use it as a standalone gadget. That’s tremendous if two folks need to watch totally different reveals on the identical time, however it doesn’t can help you watch TV in the best way many individuals do as of late, for example beginning a present in a single room earlier than persevering with later in one other.
Not solely are you able to not share recordings between bins, however even content material you purchase on BT Player can solely be watched on the box on which you purchased it. That’s notably loopy, on condition that something you purchase can watched on the BT TV app. So you may have a scenario the place you purchase a movie on the lounge box, then can transfer into the bed room to proceed watching it, however solely in your pill – not in your second BT YouView box. If you’ve gotten a Chromecast you’ll be able to no less than solid from the BT Sport app to your second telly, however weirdly that’s not potential from the BT TV app.
There are literally scores of frustrations to the best way it really works, for example the truth that you’ll be able to subscribe to Sky Sports through the BT TV service… however not if in case you have a second BT box. And you’ll be able to’t have greater than two bins. And you’ll want a second Freeview aerial – or to run a cable out of your lounge to the second room – if you would like BBC and ITV on the second box.
Basically, if multiroom is a giant factor for you then you need to low cost BT TV right away.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box app: Mobile mayhem
The BT TV app is simply as irritating. Or somewhat the ‘apps’ are irritating, since you’ll want three of them to really get the complete service.
The first is the principle BT TV app, which helps you to watch (some) dwell TV, (some) on-demand content material and set recordings. None of the Freeview channels can be found to look at dwell or on-demand, which is pretty normal and the identical on Virgin and Sky. But bizarrely, nor are the BT Sport channels. Instead, to look at them, you must obtain a second app, BT Sport. Oh, and if you wish to purchase or watch on-demand content material from the BT Player, you’ll want a 3rd app, the splendidly named BT TV Purchases.
It is, frankly, a shambles.
You can’t watch something you’ve report in your YouView+ box on any of the three apps, and you’ll’t obtain on-demand or catch-up content material for offline viewing, aside from stuff you’ve purchased through the BT Purchases app. The apps themselves are pretty slick and nicely introduced however the entire thing is so restrictive and complicated that it simply leaves a bitter style. I can solely presume that BT has determined this complete app factor isn’t going to take off.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box value: You get what you pay for
Trying to work out the pricing on TV bins is a activity akin to counting the variety of occasions Theresa May says “robust” or “steady” in a single week. You’ll want good maths expertise, mainly.
It clearly varies wildly relying on what package deal you are taking out, whether or not you’re an present buyer and which broadband deal you go for. Some of that’s made simpler right here in that you must take out a BT broadband and telephone subscription with the intention to get BT TV, and you must take out the highest content material package deal with the intention to be allowed a UHD box.
As a consequence, the most cost effective potential BT YouView+ Ultra HD deal is available in at £47/month plus a £60 set up price. That would offer you plenty of TV, together with the entire BT Sport channels, plus 52Mb broadband. A second box plus the power to look at on cell would set you again one other £5/month plus £100 for the box – and word that it’ll be a typical HD box not UHD.
If you needed the best possible package deal, you’d take the 76Mb broadband deal, add Sky Sports HD and Sky Cinema, and also you’d be as much as £97.50/month, though unusually now with solely a £30 set up price. And you’ll be able to’t get a second box when you get Sky Sports, bear in mind.
In normal, it’s slightly cheaper than its two rivals. The primary Sky package deal units you again £50/month together with broadband, however for that you simply’re solely getting a 17Mbps line. For the highest package deal, together with all the game and Sky’s quickest broadband, you’d be taking a look at £120/month plus £100 set up – and that doesn’t even embrace BT Sports.
For Virgin it’s a lot the identical: £60/month plus £115 set up, rising to over £100 with a second box and the Sky channels. Virgin’s broadband is theoretically a lot sooner than BT’s although…
In quick: they’re all about the identical however BT will often value rather less.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box options: Go contract or go on-demand?
The apparent comparisons are with Sky and Virgin. As I’ve hopefully made clear by now, Sky Q beats BT in most areas. If you need the very best, particularly with 4K, you need to swallow your rules and pay into Mr Murdoch’s retirement fund.
Against Virgin it’s a more in-depth battle. BT is much nicer to make use of, with far more aptitude and, nicely, sense to how issues are laid out. If you’re a soccer fan the 4K Premier and Champions League video games will clearly additionally swing the deal. But alternatively, Virgin is a greater wager if you wish to do fashionable, techie issues corresponding to report a present in a single room then watch it in one other, or obtain recordings to your cell. BT must atone for these fronts or danger being left behind.
If I wasn’t ready to pay for Sky, I’d most likely go for BT although. It’s general a nicer service to dwell with, as long as the multiroom situation doesn’t hassle you.
Of course there’s a fourth alternative: ditch the contract altogether. If you, for example, received a typical YouView box on your Freeview, then added Netflix, Amazon and presumably Now TV subscriptions, you may minimize your payments drastically and get tons of nice TV too. This gained’t be choice when you’re a giant sports activities fan, however for everybody else it’s price investigating.
BT YouView+ Ultra HD box verdict
There’s lots to love concerning the BT YouView+ Ultra HD box. It’s a pleasure to make use of because of a very slick, intuitive interface and as a standalone box it’s close to flawless. Finding stuff to look at on it’s very easy and it does a incredible job with catch-up TV.
It’ll additionally delight you when you’re a soccer fan. Watching Barcelona in full flight in 4K is simply one thing else; you’ll by no means be content material with HD once more. Yes, Sky has extra footie on supply, however BT has the Champions League, and that’s the place the actual high quality is to be discovered.
It’s not with out issues, however they’re virtually solely faults of the BT TV service somewhat than this box itself. On the content material aspect Sky Q clearly trumps it because of the mix of Sky Atlantic and 4K movies, and whereas BT beats Virgin on account of the 4K soccer, that’s not saying an terrible lot. When it involves multiroom and cell viewing, in the meantime, it’s actually poor – approach behind the opposite two.
So what you’re left with is a very good gadget for watching a reasonably respectable service.
If you’re a BT subscriber with a 4K TV, it makes whole sense to get a YouView+ Ultra HD box. If you’re a brand new buyer then Sky Q ought to nonetheless be your first alternative, however BT is now a snug second.