Sky and IP Vision invited us to have a look at the range of content that the Fetch Smartbox 8000 Freeview+ box gave access to. The key feature they wanted to highlight was of course, access to the Sky Player that the Fetch Box enables. If you didn’t know, Sky Player is Sky’s online TV service that allows access to a range of live channels and on-demand services such as sport, movies and Ross Kemp documentaries.
The Smartbox 8000 box has an Ethernet port and wireless built-in and the quality over a standard broadband connection was impressive (you wouldn’t be able to tell it wasn’t regular TV playing). You can also pause Live TV.
The Smartbox 8000 attempts feel like me the night before my History A-Level – cram in as much as possible However, here the results are a lot more successful. Featuring a Twin-Tuner DVR, Connection to Sky Player, iPlayer Access, Video on Demand and a Media Centre, the Fetch Box is a noble attempt to be the one box you ever need. Assuming you have no Blu-rays. This one box approach extends to the actual box, which not only contains the unit and remote but also batteries and all the leads you could desire. A small but classy move.
Set up is simply plugging into a TV, (it has an HDMI out) and adding an aerial and Internet connection. No more waiting for the Sky engineers to work their magic. The Smartbox 8000 also provides access to the BBC iPlayer, bringing online content “from the laptop to the living room”. Of course, there are other ways to do this – on the Wii for example, but it’s great to see the iPlayer built into a set-top box.
It gets better. With a twin-tuner and built in 160 Gb HDD it is trivial to record material from the Electronic Program Guide at the touch of a button – and even to record programs at the same time. And with access to On-Demand TV services, the need to actually record programs diminishes significantly. And even if you do record masses of content there are not one but two USB ports that you can attach external HDDs to store content on.
And in true Ginzu fashion, there’s more. The unit has basic but functional Media Centre abilities. Whilst this appears to be just “thrown in” the Smartbox 8000 can access a home network running a Windows Media server (or a Mac running a UPnP server) and playback music, pictures or video files – even high definition *.mkv files and stream them over the network. Or play them back via a USB key. Whilst the interface lacks the slickness of, say the Apple TV or the Boxee Box it trumps both those in terms of playback range (the former) or the ability to be purchased in the UK (the latter)
With a bit of something for everyone the FetchTV SmartBox 8000 with Freeview+ is “full of win” as the kids would say. Yours for £219 from John Lewis, Carphone Warehouse and Currys online.