The Foxtel channel packages available on T-Box (minus the sports pack).
(Screenshot by CBSi)
There are 30 channels on offer with this service, unlike the 200 channels on standard Foxtel, and these are broken down into five packages. The base package costs AU$19.50 per month, and includes Fox 8, CNN, the Discovery Channel and Fox Sports news, among others. Additional packages cost either AU$10 or AU$15 per month, with the entire service adding up to AU$74.50 per month when all channel packages are taken.
The major drawback to Foxtel on T-Box is that you cannot record any of the content on these channels. You cannot, therefore, series link any of the programs you enjoy, and you cannot watch them later at a time that is convenient to you. For AU$75 per month, you have to make yourself available when you favourite shows are on, or miss out on watching them. We're sure there are concerns about piracy that have influenced this restriction, but, for us, not being able to record Foxtel the same as you would free-to-air TV entirely defeats the purpose of subscribing to the service and watching it through a PVR. This is a lot to pay for such a limited sample of content burdened by this unusual limitation.
Whether you're looking to record a single program or a series of episodes, we found the basic recording function easy to use on the T-Box. It is short on advanced options, though; you can't search for a program by name, for example, although you can filter the channels by genre and by whether it's on free-to-air TV or on Foxtel.
You can series link TV shows, and we have found that this works quite well, although programs that repeat several times a day will be recorded at all instances. We also found that our series-linked recordings tended to be cut off before the end of the program, due to a conflict between the listed times of a program and the actual time of the broadcast. You can manually set an extension for a recording (in five-minute increments), but you can't set a universal extension for all shows in a series, which is extremely frustrating.
The T-Box records shows at a high enough resolution that recordings look as good as if you were watching the same program live, and, based on an average of our recordings, we'd estimate that the 1TB of storage in the T-Box is capable of storing about 70 hours of TV, although this will depend on the source.
As we mentioned earlier, our favourite part of the T-Box is the BigPond Movies rental service. This is bolstered by the speed at which the service delivers rented content. We tested the T-Box using a BigPond cable-internet connection, and most movies selected for rental were watchable within less than a minute after buffering.
We did notice, though, that streaming content tended to stutter infrequently when viewed over a Wi-Fi connection. In a feature film with a duration of about 90 minutes, this would occur about three times on average. This isn't enough to completely throw the movie-watching experience, but it is an unwelcome intrusion.
Telstra prices the T-Box at AU$299 outright, or AU$35 upfront and AU$11 per month over 24 months (AU$299 total). BigPond customers can also opt to take a T-Box in a home-services bundle.
The AU$299 price tag puts the T-Box at the lower end of the PVR market, and is a good price for a unit with internet connectivity, apps and access to BigPond Movies. But for the same price, or a little extra, those looking for a decent PVR could buy a unit with multi-channel recording and the ability to play media from external sources; wirelessly, in some cases. It's important to remember that the AU$299 is the beginning of the expense with the T-Box — not the end of it. Rented movies typically cost AU$5.99 each, and the Foxtel pricing definitely adds up if you choose to subscribe.