The current BT YouView+ set-top box is a rebadged Humax device (the DTR-T2100) and is handed out either free, or for a very small charge, to BT subscribers, or available for under £130 from most high street or online retailers.
With the Christmas season approaching and the festive edition of the Radio Times clogging up the magazine rack, will this Freeview recorder ensure you’ll never miss the annual broadcast of the Snowman?
Unlike the earlier Humax boxes, there is little to indicate life on the outside of the device. BT were going for a Home Hub family style, which is only partially successful and sacrifices the useful text display on other Humax machines that showed channel, programme and other playback information. Instead soft blue, purple and red LED’s indicate stand-by, power-save and active modes. The top of the box provides a basic set of controls that will allow navigation through the vast majority of the user interface in the event that the remote controller is not available or, worse, out of battery power on Christmas day, with no open shops nearby.
The controller itself feels a little cheaper than the Humax original and sits slightly less well in the hand. The buttons have a pleasing squishy feel to them but overall the remote seems a bit light and not particularly solid. All the buttons required to control YouView are present and correct, including a quick access button to BT’s online services (for BT subscribers.)
As one would expect, the rear sports HDMI, SCART, Ethernet, audio (including optical) and RF in and out for a FreeView compatible aerial. A USB port is included but is for engineering purposes only, so sadly there is a no opportunity to attach additional storage which, bearing in mind the 500gb disk within the box, is a missed opportunity. BT include both HDMI and Ethernet cables in the box, which is nice touch (especially when considering how much high street retailers charge the unwary for HDMI cables.) Finally, Wi-Fi is still not supported, which is a maddening omission. BT are making the assumption that this device is going to be located beside it’s Home Hub since internet connectivity is essential for the full YouView experience.
The is little scope for home integration with this device – the closed nature of the YouView platform means that recordings cannot easily be accessed and shared, nor can 3rd party media be brought in unless supported by one of the built-in apps.
Compared to the previous generation of Humax devices, this sips power and runs absolutely silently, with only the glow of the LED’s indicating life. Start-up from stand-by is nearly instantaneous, and from a cold-boot takes just under a minute. Additional power settings allow the device to go into a deeper sleep during the night with the downside that the mobile application (see below) will not be able to connect.
The YouView interface itself feels fast and responsive, with the TV Guide quick to display and navigate and online players such as iPlayer or 4OD rapid to load. The 2 HD tuners will make fast work of the 500gb hard drive, however. Expect only 125 hours of HD content to be recordable and you can of course record 2 shows at the same time.
Up to 5 mobile devices may also be connected via the YouView app (Android and IOS only – no love for Windows Phone users here.) The App itself is little more than a remote scheduler, allowing single or series recording requests to be sent to the box, but no way of navigating or playing back recordings. The EPG in the App does imply that playback is possible, but selecting those programmes in the guide with a playback icon simply launches the relevant web page or player app on your phone (for example, attempting to view a BBC show will try and launch iPlayer if installed.)
YouView itself appeared in the UK in 2012 as a way of simplifying the recording of broadcast TV and unifying the various on-demand platforms (iPlayer, 4OD etc) into one searchable EPG. On a technical level, it has succeeded admirably, and with the horsepower of this device, the vision (excuse the pun) becomes a little clearer. The 14 day itself allows searching 7 days ahead and 7 days in the past, and in most cases programmes that have not been recorded can be launched seamlessly through catch-up services or demand video (Netflix integration is also possible, although not Amazon Prime.) For non-technical users, it is an excellent service and as well as in set-up boxes can now be found in a number of Sony Smart TV’s.
The BT YouView+ (or Humax DTR-T2100) is a little long in the tooth now, having been launched 2 years ago. However, with it being at a price point that makes it more or less free for BT subscribers under contract or at less than £130 from retailers, it still represents excellent value for money and performs very well. Despite the BT branding, it is not tied to any service and offers functionality and ease of use that is still unmatched at this level. The lack of Wi-Fi is annoying and the appliance-like closed ecosystem will frustrate enthusiasts and integrators, but otherwise this would make a good purchase if you are in the market for something easy to use and easy to set-up for recording Christmas FreeView TV.