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YouView review: YouView

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Design, connections and picture quality

The DTR-T1000 looks like a traditional set-top box. It shares a similar wide and squat profile to many of its peers. The case feels well built though, and Humax has used a glossy black coating, not just on the front, but also on the top and sides of the chassis to give it a premium feel.

YouView angled
While it's a wide casing, it's well built and has a premium appearance.

The face of the recorder has a large power button in the centre that's surrounded by a ring of light that shows the current status -- it glows blue when on and red when off. To the left of this is the rather excellent display. Most set-top boxes that have a screen (Sky HD doesn't, for example), only show you the channel number, not the name of the channel. Here, you get the whole name, even for those with longer titles such as 'Channel 4+1'. That's a nice touch.

YouView display
Unlike the Sky HD box, there's a display that shows the name of the channel you're watching.

On the right-hand side are volume and channel up and down buttons, which may come in handy if the dog has made off with the remote.

When the box is up and running it's extremely quiet. In fact, the YouView spec dictates that all YouView set-top boxes must have a fan that's quieter than 26db. That certainly seems to be the case as you can hardly hear the box.

YouView remote
The remote's hourglass shape makes it comfortable to hold.

The remote is well thought out too. I like its hourglass shape and it sits comfortably in your hand. The button placement is excellent. You can pretty much control all the features of the recorder just by moving around the central area of the remote with your thumb, which is exactly how it should be.

You can program the remote to work with your TV, so you'll only need a single zapper to control both. One slight annoyance is the volume and channel buttons, which give quite a loud click when pressed. This is a little distracting when you're using the set-top box at night with the volume turned down low.

On the whole, the connection line-up isn't bad. Along with the HDMI output (an HDMI cable is included), there's an optical digital audio-out so you can connect the DTR-T1000 to a surround sound system. The fact that it also has Scart and composite video ports means it can be used with older non-HD TVs. However, there's no component HD output, as the YouView spec forbids it on anti-piracy grounds. Still, this won't be a problem for most people.

Picture quality was excellent throughout my testing across both standard-definition and high-definition content. Even the streams from the on-demand services were more than good enough for everyday viewing.

On the rear is an Ethernet port for connecting to your broadband router and Humax has included a short cable in the box for this. A big downer is the lack of Wi-Fi support. I personally think this is a big faux pas, given the target market and the fact the box isn't exactly cheap. There are two USB ports (front and rear), which could conceivably be used with a wireless dongle in the future, but there's none available at present. For now, Humax recommends you use home plug adaptors if your router is not sited near your TV.

YouView ports
Sadly, Wi-Fi isn't built-in so you need to use a wired Ethernet connection to hook it up to your router.

Problems

There are a few issues. As you would expect, these mostly revolve around the on-demand aspect of the system. Firstly, when you select an on-demand programme to play in the EPG, there's a long delay of around half a minute before it starts playing. This is because the DTR-T1000 first has to load the individual player for that on-demand service. Also, all the on-demand services have slightly different interfaces and this is especially jarring because the rest of the system is so consistent and neatly integrated.

Something else that's likely to annoy people is that when you select an on-demand programme from one of the commercial broadcasters -- 4oD, Demand 5 or ITV player -- you have to sit through an advert before you get to the start of the show or film. Once you're watching a programme there are usually advert breaks inserted into it at regular intervals. That's fair enough, as TV companies have to make money. The problem is you can't skip these adverts, even though they're quite long.

For example, before watching a 4oD show, you have to sit through two to three minutes of adverts, which is tedious. This only happens on on-demand content. If you record a show using the PVR feature, you can skips adverts like any other recorder.

YouView adverts
You can't skip adverts when watching on-demand shows.

Another bugbear is there's no other online content currently offered outside of the on-demand services from the four main broadcasters. It lacks Facebook and Twitter apps, but perhaps more importantly, Netflix and Lovefilm apps are absent, as are the premium movie rental services like Acetrax and Blinkbox. It's early days though, and new services are due to be added in the future, such as Sky's Now TV, while TalkTalk has already said it'll be offering Lovefilm on its YouView box.

The other issue is one of cost. YouView is aimed at people who can't be bothered to use a laptop or a games console to access on-demand content. Those who want stuff that's easy to use aren't techheads -- they don't rush out to buy the latest gadget. I can't help feeling that the relatively high price is likely to put off casual users. That said, the DTR-T1000 is only £50 more than Humax's standard HDR-FOX T2 Freeview HD recorder and it's definitely worth the premium over that model.

Conclusion

It may have had a long and painful birth, but the Humax DTR-T1000 largely proves that YouView was worth the wait. The integration of on-demand and broadcast TV is second to none. It's very easy to use and the recording features are as good -- if not better -- than any other digital TV recorder on the market.

There are some annoyances, such as the relatively long pauses between selecting an on-demand show and playback beginning, and I think the price will be too high for a lot of buyers. But there's no doubting YouView delivers a quality connected viewing experience in a way that smart TV platforms and media streamers have failed to do up until now.

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