New USB tuner unlocks clever Xbox One TV features for UK gamers

This USB tuner means Xbox One owners can watch TV via their console without switching TV input, and use voice controls too.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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The Xbox One Digital TV Tuner takes Microsoft's console one step closer to catering for all your entertainment needs. Microsoft

If you're looking jealously across the pond at gamers whose Xbox One controls their TV too, Microsoft's new £25 USB Digital TV Tuner allows you to enjoy more of the console's clever TV features -- including changing the channel by talking. The device will be available only in the UK and some European countries in October.

The next-generation Xbox One games console was launched by Microsoft with much fanfare as a device that could do more than play games. Microsoft wants to place it at the heart of your living room with the ability to control all your entertainment options, including your television services.

The problem is, the different types of TV services in different countries mean that the clever features trumpeted by Microsoft don't necessarily work for everybody. You can plug your Sky box into your Xbox through the HDMI connection, for example, but features like voice command don't work.

With the Digital TV Tuner, the European Xbox One will take a step closer to being the multimedia marvel enjoyed by Xboxers in the US. Out in October, the tuner plugs directly into your console's USB socket so you don't need a cable or satellite set-top box connected to the HDMI port.

The tuner supports free-to-air DVB-T, DVB-T2 and DVB-C television standards, which means it shows the Freeview channels on your console without changing TV inputs. That means you'll get game invitations and notifications while watching TV too.

You can watch live television in Snap mode, showing live shows in the corner of the screen as you play a game, talk on Skype or use another app on the main part of the screen, just like TV's Aaron Paul, yo.

With the tuner plugged in, TV listings are added to the console's OneGuide. You can record your favourite channels in the OneGuide to quickly get to your favourite programmes. And if you have a Kinect, Microsoft promises you'll be able to casually say the name of a channel to switch to it immediately. Ask, "Xbox show guide, what's on BBC One?" and the console will show you the relevant channel listing.

You can also change channels using the Xbox SmartGlass app, using your phone or tablet as a remote control.

The USB tuner will not work in the US because that country uses a different system for its free-to-air (also known as over-the-air, or OTA) TV broadcasts. OTA is much less popular in the US than cable, which is one reason why the Xbox One was originally designed to control and integrate a cable box. That said, OTA TV is watched by some " cord cutters" and others who don't subscribe to cable in the US, so we wouldn't be shocked if Microsoft came out with a US-compatible version of the tuner eventually.

The Tuner goes on sale in late October in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In the UK the tuner costs £25, and on the continent €30.

Watch this: Xbox One: Say goodbye to the TV remote