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FetchTV SmartBox 8000: Freeview PVR with iPlayer, Sky Player and one major flaw

The FetchTV SmartBox 8000 strikes us as a really cool bit of kit. A Freeview PVR with access to both iPlayer and Sky Player is a terrific idea, as long as you're happy to hand over your credit-card details

FetchTV's SmartBox 8000 has the potential to change the way we watch TV. Not only is it a traditional Freeview PVR, it's also one of the first boxes to offer Sky Player without the need for a laptop or Xbox 360. The box also allows access to BBC iPlayer, one of the first Freeview PVRs to offer this service.

The PVR portion of the Smartbox 8000 offers a 160GB hard drive to record your favourite TV shows, which you select from an eight-day programme guide. It supports network video streaming, based on the DLNA standard and built-in Wi-Fi, which is brilliant for homes that aren't filled with Ethernet cables. In addition, there's pay per view video content on offer too, including movies in HD, a real boon for people desperate to dig themselves out of the mire of standard-definition video.

All of this sounds awesome, right? Well, yes, but there's a salty popcorn in this sweet bucket. As part of the process of setting up the FetchTV, you must register online. The problem comes with the second page of personal details, where the company asks for a credit-card number. Of all the things that make us go, "Hmmmm", this has to be in the top ten.

We asked the company about this, and it told us the credit card was to help with verification, namely preventing under-age children from accessing adult content on the BBC's iPlayer.

But what can't be ignored is that it also encourages impulse purchases of pay per view content. When you see paid-for movies on offer, for example, you don't need to enter card details in order to watch them. You just select what you want, and the payment will be deducted from your card.

If you bought this box for iPlayer and Sky Player, you might not be thrilled when you get it home and need to enter a credit-card number just to access the services that you've already paid for.

We also have very real concerns about privacy. We asked Fetch if it was possible for a user to delete their user account and stored credit-card details, but it didn't answer our question, leaving us to wonder if it's possible at all.

While the potential of this box is exciting, we're disappointed at being forced into handing over credit-card details in order to access Sky Player and iPlayer, especially as it might confuse you into thinking you're paying for these services this way, which you aren't.

We have a SmartBox 8000 and will be testing it -- registration and all -- in full in the coming weeks.