TV is in an odd state right now. I’m one of the those annoying people who will say “I don’t watch TV” even though I now – thanks to Netflix and other streaming services – watch more TV than ever before. But the idea of coming home and just popping on the “telly” now seems as antiquated as a rotary phone, or opposing gay marriage. More and more high-quality content coming direct from creators – amazing web series are springing up all the time. And non-traditional sources are supporting content – Yahoo worked with an amazing team to create Burning Love and Todd Glass, Bill Burr and Moesche Kasher all have specials out on Netflix.
So where does that leave hardware? Well it’s blindingly obvious that the future of TV is “connect” and the ability to control when and where you consume content should be the minimum entry requirement for any entertainment set-top box in this day and age.
Humax gave us a digital HD freesat+ box with <> to see what a modern set-top box has to offer. Installation was a relatively easy although it requires a wired ethernet connection rather than wifi. I get the logic (stable connections are important when streaming high-def TV) but running cable across a living room is a pain. They do suggest using Homeplug Adapters as an alternative but it’s already heading into “hassle” territory and “old world” technology.
The actual box is a little on the dull side but you’re supposed to be looking at the content not the device. Obviously there are HDMI connections but if you still have an older SCART etc device you can still get connected. I found the remote a built builky and plasticky but that’s probably because I’ve been spoilt by the frankly amazing remotes that come bundled with Samsung devices.
One you’re connected all the standard on-demand services such as the iPlayer, 4oD and itv Player. And all the regular Freesat programmes are there if you dish/antenna set up confirms to regulations.
The main feature of the box is it’s recording functions and dual-tuner Freesat PVR is easy to use. It’s also quite clever in the way it groups shows together making it pretty intuitive to work your way through Homeland or whatever the kids are watching these days. You can manually manage recordings and the box will automatically delete older recordings if you run out of space. For £20 over the 500 Gb base model you can get a 1TB internal HDD which is definitely worth it.
There’s a little USB port on the front for media playback and DLNA streamng is also supported with the system is able to handle HD MKVs if you’ve somehow aquired a bunch of those.
The standout feature of the unit however is it’s EPG which is a delight to use. Navigation is fast and fun and the slick interface is one of the better ones I’ve seen on this type of unit. Finding what’s on and saving things you enjoy is a breeze. Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be an app to record remotely via your smartphone but I’m sure one is in the works.
Overally the freesat box has “a fresh spin on an old classic”. It won’t revolutionise the way you watch TV but if your viewing habits match 90% of the population you should fine something for you in here.
We went down to a fancy London nightclub one rainy afternoon (which trust us removes all of the glamour) with the promise of seeing View21, an exciting step forward in the way we view television.
Designed in the UK for the UK market (go Team GB!), View21 is a “revolutionary” Digital TV recorder that leverages home broadband and “apps” to enhance your home viewing experience.
So what’s onboard? Well twin Freeview HD Tuners stream and record content enabling you to watch live or recorded TV with ease. It was perfectly possible to watch one TV programme on the sofa, record another and watch one on your iPad all at the same time. Although I would question your ability to focus.
You can also access YouTube, Twitter and Flicker, with more apps planned down the line. Twitter integration was particularly clever. Instead of letting you add content to the Twitter via the device, which is pointless as you probably have a smartphone in your hand whilst you are watching the TV anyway, it simply allows you to tap into certain hashtags or lists. So if you are watching Mens Gymnastics (go Team GB!) then you can add that hashtag and watch comments from the Twittersphere scroll across the bottom of your screen like a news ticker. It’s a smart way to integrate the constant stream of commentary.
You can share content from the iOS devices to the big screen but the functionality we paled in comparison to AirPlay both in terms of ease and ability – you can’t push music or video. Still it’s not a bad feature to have.
“We’re thrilled to be bringing View21 to the market. From inception, we wanted this product to maximise opportunities for entertainment within the home. Through its twin HD tuners, users of View21 will be able to view HD TV and use it to control and watch content from their iPads. Through its integration with Apps such as Twitter and YouTube, watching TV at home will be a new experience – enabling viewers to interact and control like never before”
Christian Corney, Marketing Director
View21 will be available at www.view21.com and selected retailers. At launch, an iOS App is available for free with View21. For more information visit view21.com/
EchoStar invited us to oogle the world’s slimmest digital TV recorder (DTR) the Ultra Slim Box (or the slightly less alluring name of HDT-610R), which crams a tonne of features inside a 14mm aluminium chassis.
If you’re into watching broadcast TV the Freeview+ HD Ultra Slim Box offers consumers subscription free TV with access to 50 digital channels plus 4 in HD. You can pause or rewind live TV and record a complete series at the touch of a button using Series Link.
“We’re already inviting consumers to watch their TV anywhere and now we’re offering them the opportunity to own the slimmest digital TV recorder in the world. The Ultra Slim Box represents the coming of age for the DVR and is the perfect complement to the latest range of ultra slim TVs,” commented Rhod Williams, Senior Vice President and General Manager of EchoStar Europe.
EchoStar were keen to point out exactly how good looking the Ultra Slim Box is compared with a conventional DTR and displayed other design classics to drive the point home. And they do have a point. It looks great. But it’s not all good looks and charm. Inside they’ve managed to squeeze a 500GB hard disk drive (up to 300 hours of recording space+), a twin tuner to ensure that consumers can watch one channel whilst recording another and an HDMI connection. There’s also an Ethernet port so you can access to Smart TV features including catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer.
“Consumers are looking forward to an exciting summer of sport and facing a packed viewing schedule, digital video recording will be one of the key features that viewers will be looking for”, said Ilse Howling, Managing Director of Freeview.
EchoStar has partnered with The Connected Marketplace to bring on demand services to the Ultra Slim Box platform through the BoxOffice365 service, plus movies from PictureBox, all available for a monthly fee with more choices to come. But no NetFlix. Everything should have NetFlix.
Ultra Slim Box is available for pre-order online now from Amazon, John Lewis and Maplin for about £260. Want to walk into a shop and purchase one? You’ll have to wait till the end of May.
Two of your favourite TV programmes overlap and unsure which one to watch? Going out with the girls on Friday and gutted you’ll miss Corrie? Wished you had recorded the last episode of Benidorm because it was so unbelievably funny? Well fear no more as our regular TV viewing quips could be an affliction of the past with Sony’s latest ‘big screen’ venture. Promising to ‘redefine’ how you enjoy TV, Sony has announced its two new High Definition PVRs, the SVR-HDT1000 and the SVR-HDT500.
These ‘personal video recorders’ have a Freeview HD built in, meaning viewers can watch and record subscription free High Definition TV. Not only can users record one channel whilst watching another using a twin Freeview HD Tuner, but they can pause and rewind live TV with a time shift, enabling you to rewind a Jim Royal classic one-liner time and time again.
Every family member will be kept entertained for months no matter how huge a “telly addict” your brood is, as the SVR-HDT1000 and the SVR-HDT500’s built in 1TB hard disc enables users to record up to 600 hours of standard definition video or up to 250 hours of high definition video onto the hard drive. Although with the slim possibility you do run out of disc space, you can expand the machine’s capacity by backing up recordings onto an external hard drive, freeing up more space for your favourite TV moments.
Although it is not just “telly addicts” who will benefit from the SVR-HDT1000 and the SVR-HDT500’s literal ‘lifetime’ of storage space and unique ‘personal video recorder’ experience. By boasting two USB 2.0 ports, users can simply plug in a USB stick or external hard drive and access and view other media content, including photos, music and videos on a large screen TV.
In keeping with the standards we have come to expect from Sony, the SVR-HDT1000 and the SVR-HDT500 are exceptionally minimalist and ultra-stylish, enhancing the contemporary technology-lover’s home no end.
Watching TV and other media content so it fits around your own lifestyle and personal agenda is increasingly becoming a popular trait of modern living, and one that Sony, is naturally, at the heart of.