Chargeable TV & Film Services
This section covers services that either require you to pay for TV and film content used or require you to pay for a chargeable subscription.
A lot of people rule postal services out but, if you live close to a rental shop they can be extremely convenient and relatively cheap. Postal based services also have the advantage of letting you build up a list of films and other content that you might be interested in and then delivering it right to your door. DVD rental services by post are one of the cheapest ways to watch films, especially if you watch a lot of them.
This service has been covered in a lot more detail in our Apple TV review.
We have a LOVEFiLM subscription because it is a cheap and convenient way to get films delivered to your door. They have a range of subscription offers to fit your needs and time available to watch films. We are on a package that provides two films per month. We particularly like the web interface that allows you to queue up films to rent and even reserve films that are currently in the cinemas. Even better still, they have an iPhone app to help you manage your lists, add films and manage your account.
LOVEFiLM also provide a streaming rental service for films and TV programmes, though we have yet to use this. The primary reason for this is that we don't watch much content on a PC. Lovefilm is now available as apps on a range of devices such as the Sony PS3, Samsung iTVs, etc.
There is also an iOS Lovefilm app, which enables users to manage their rental lists.
We have a Netflix was launched into the UK in Jan 2012, with an initial package costing £4.99 per month and offering unlimited streaming of TV and film content. The range of content available initially is pretty poor with older films and TV series. The content is available on a range of devices though, including the Sony PS3, PC, iOS apps, etc.
The Boxee Box is going to be a fair bit more expensive than the Apple TV, but will give you more freedom to choose your content (in the USA at least) and content format. Boxee recently dropped the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset and the box is being manufactured by D-Link, using the Intel Atom CE4100. The move was because it coped better with high definition video. Amazon started taking pre-orders of the Boxee Box on 14th September 2010, priced at $199 in the USA. The box delivers 60fps 1080p H.264 video, Flash 10.1 with GPU acceleration, HDMI and digital optical outputs, various USB 2.0 and analogue audio ports, and a memory card slot.
Like Google TV, the Boxee Box has an emphasis on 'the Internet on your TV'. To summarize their website: it aims to let you watch Internet and home content on your TV, tailor the experience to a large screen, provide 1080p with 5.1 surround whenever possible, share the stuff you watch with your friends and see what they are watching and use a simple remote rather than a keyboard and mouse.
We have been using BT Vision for many years now. The service includes a set-top box with two Freeview decoders and PVR functionality. BT is a partner of in the YouView project (formerly called project Canvas) and the service is likely to encompass this in the future.
BT Vision has recently started offering a subscription service to Sky Sports 1 and 2. It is also the UK's biggest 'on demand' service.
Google TV is not currently available here in the UK. It is due to be launched in the USA later this year and is expected to arrive in the UK in 2011. The initial Google TV hardware is based around the Intel Atom CE4100 chipset. It is basically the same hardware as the Logitech Revue.
Google is is partnering with Sony, Logitech and Dish Network to produce the first set of set top boxes. As well as various content deals Google is looking to bring a full web browser experience to your TV. In this respect it currently differs from Apple TV, which is much more content focussed.
Logitech are building the initial Google TV box and this device is essentially the same as Google TV. In the USA this service will be launched on 29th September 2010 at a price of $299. The box comes with a wireless keyboard, which confirms our view that it is a more complex service.
The Roku device is a video and music streaming device that primarily connects to Netflix and Amazon (but a lot more as well). Like the Boxee Box, it is also a USA centric device.