YouView

YouView
YouView combines Freeview HD with catch-up from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand Five via your broadband connection, combined in a single programme guide that goes forwards and backwards up to a week.

We have been using the YouView box made by Humax for many months now (we were part of the service trial), so we thought it was time we wrote up our thoughts on it.

The set-top box retails at £299 and comes with a 500GB hard drive and twin tuners. In theory this means you can record one programme while watching another, or record two programmes whilst watching a recording. In practice, the box is quite clever and can work out if channels are on the same multiplex (MUX) and then record more channels. A 1TB version is due to be launched in mid-2013.

BT provide the STB as part of their TV packages and there is also a compact 320GB box made by Huawei, which is exclusive to TalkTalk broadband customers.

£300 is a lot for a product which does what many other devices are doing already and there are plenty of existing Freeview HD recorders with twin tuners and access to iPlayer. YouView is different in that it lets you access live content and on-demand content from the same place. Live TV and catch-up is smartly integrated within a single programme guide making for a great user experience that is both simple and efficient.

There is also a separate catch-up section, where each 'player' can can directlyt accessed but, we have never found a real need to use this access method yet.

There is also a search function, easily accessed from a dedicated button on the remote. This lets you look for older programmes using a Google Instant-style method of predictive text.

The downside of YouView is that there isn't catch up content for every terrestrial channel yet. We searched in vain for an old episode of QI on Dave only to find that this wasn't possible. Though if you want to catch up on Coronation Street, EastEnders or watch old episodes of Peep Show and Brass Eye you're sorted.

Also, the search function won't let you look for live or forthcoming programmes (so you can set reminders) but we understand that this is coming in a future update.

In Use

Nearly ready
On starting up the YouView STB (from standby), you are presented with a 'nearly ready' screen. This takes longer than we would like, especially if the STB is confgiured to use 'eco mode'.

Menu

The main feature of YouView are accessed through the menu button on the remote control. If you are a customer of BT, then you also get a menu item that is specific to this service provider and which acts as a short-cut to their service. By default the 'guide' is selected but you can scroll left and right to get to the other main menu items.

The remote control

The supplied remote is solid and well made. The buttons are also clearly labelled and logically laid out. We should point out that we are controlling our STB with a Logitech Harmony One universal remote, rather than this supplied remote control.

Guide

Guide
The guide is an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that shows you what is on the various channels. The yellow button allows you to edit the channels list and hide those you don't want to see. This is a fairly standard feature on most STB/PVR devices but is a very useful one.

A unique and another very useful feature of the YouView service is that the programme guide runs both forward 7 days and also backward 7 days in time. This means you can go back in time to see programmes you have missed or forgotten to record. It doesn't work for all programmes but, many have an icon that indicates that they can be accessed and watched using one of the players. It's hard to describe just how good this feature is.

Programme information
The 'info' button provides more detailed information of the highlighted programme.

My View

Recordings

The recordings view allows you to access all your recordings. These are grouped together for multiple recordings of the same programme (something that was added in early 2013). If you have lots of recordings, then this view has multiple 'pages'.

Scheduled

This view shows you what programmed recordings are scheduled and allows you to manage them.

On Demand

The on demand tab gives you a view of all the player and allows you to enter them directly, much like you would an app on a Smartphone or tablet.

Players

YouView players

The 'players' are basically applications or apps on the YouView service that access content over the Internet. The BBC one is called iPlayer and is very similar to the iPlayer app found on Smartphones and tablets, only it is optimised for TV screen use.

The BT player is called BT Vision and takes you into the BT Vision service to access on-demand content, films, etc.

The number of players has slowly increased since the launch of the service and we expect many more to appear soon. At some oint Lovefilm and Netflix are likely to make an appearance.

Search

The search on the YouView service is very good because it covers all content. It also has a predictive text capability, to minimise the amount of typing you need to do on the remote, to find the programme you want. Typing on remotes is not fun and this makes it a lot less painful.

Settings

TV Signal Quality

Parental controls

Mobile App

These screen images are taken from the iOS app runing on an iPhone 5:

iPhone 5 iOS app guide
The default app view is one of the TV guide. In portrait mode it is a bit hard to see what is on each channel due to the narrow width and limited space for text.

iPhone 5 iOS app guide horizontal
It works better in landscape orientation but, you obviously see less channels at once.

now and next view
The now and next view can be quite useful.

programme detail
Clicking on a programme takes you to a detail view and the ability to send a remote record request. This assumes you have linked your mobile device with the YouView set-top box.

programme detail
Clicking on a programme takes you to a detail view and the ability to send a remote record request. This assumes you have linked your mobile device with the YouView set-top box.

app update
The Youview iOS app was updated on 13th May 2013. It seems a lot faster.

iOS app update
The Youview iOS app was updated in September 2013 to include EPG search. This is incredibly useful and means you can search for a programme or series to record by name, rather than by browsing through the EPG.

Summary

This Humax YouView set-top box really is the best we seen so far. The YouView service takes the concept of Freeview terrestrial transmissions to the next level, by simply integrating the catch-up TV services within the whole experience. We love the simple and easy to use interface.

The STB does take a while to start up from stand-by, especially if it has been set to eco-mode. It can also be a bit slow to respond occasionally to remote control input.

The Programme Delivery Control (PDC) seems to work exceptionally well on this Humax STB. Programme recordings always seem to start and end at the right time.

We really like the 'bookmark' functionality. Some programmes that are due to be shown in the near future are advertised with a 'green button'. Pressing the green button on the remote gives you the instant record capability. This sounds simply but, we use it a lot. It's a really nice feature.

This Humax YouView STB is by far the best we have used. It has a huge set of features and is very easy to use. It also seems to work prefectly well with our universal remote control.

What Could Be Better?

The STB has two tuners which is not really enough these days. Despite the clever way in which it records programmes across multiplexes, we have still found that we get occasional recording conflicts. Ideally, a STB that costs this much money should have four tuners or more.

Many Smartphone and tablet apps (e.g. ZeeBox) let you control the TV and PVR directly, using a home network connection and a control protocol. It would be very useful if the YouView app supported this in the future, to enable control of the STB directly.

We are being a bit picky here as the YouView box is one of the more responsive devices we have tested but, occassionally it feels a bit sluggish. Future versions probably need a little bit more processing power.

If you missed the start of a programme and record the remaining part, then when you go to try and watch the whole programme later from the EPG (using one of the catch up players), it takes you to you partial recording. The only way to watch the whole programme is to either delete the partial recording first or to find it directly, within the catch up player application.

The Future

YouView was always designed to be a platform to allow terrestrial (Freeview) and Internet programme delivery. In the coming months companies like BT will be offering new high-definition channels delivered over the Internet, e.g. http://www.bt.com/sport/BT Sport. These will typically be subscription or pay-per-view channels. They will most likely use IP-multicast to enable them to be sent efficiently over the Internet.

One down-side with these new IP channels is that they can't be recorded (and time-shifted). Most of the TV we watch is recorded and time-shifted, making the IP channels less useful than they could be.

The YouView STB is not 4K or ultra-HD compatible and it is possible that later versions may be. The Internet is the only real way to delivery this new content format.

Updates

September 2013

The YouView STB has been updated to support HDMI CEC.

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