/ Technology

For and against YouView – will this TV catch-up box take off?

YouView, the new on-demand set-top box that combines Freeview and catch-up TV services, hopes to capture your heart. But will it? Our tech team’s Andy Vandervell and Dave Holes go head-to-head.

Andy thinks YouView’s the future

Although it’s a shame that YouView has taken so long to arrive I’m still convinced it will take the UK by storm.

Yes, all the TV manufacturers have smart TV systems of their own, but most are making a lot of noise without a great deal of substance. None of these ‘smart TVs’ have catch-up TV from all the major broadcasters (most support BBC iPlayer but the rest are hit and miss) and the less said about ease-of-use the better.

What YouView has, albeit in a nascent form, is akin to what Apple strives for – tight integration. If you missed a program from three hours ago, all you need to do with YouView is find said program in the electronic program guide (EPG) and press play.

On a smart TV it’s a more laborious task of loading up the smart TV interface, then the appropriate app, and fumbling with the remote to search for what you want. It sucks.

At £299, YouView is definitely aimed at enthusiasts, but that’s not to say there can’t be other versions in the future – such as a box without twin tuners and a hard drive, which inflate the price considerably. And while the likes of Netflix and LoveFilm aren’t there yet, it’s only a matter of time before they realise the opportunity – Sky’s already planning to launch its ‘Now TV’ on-demand service on YouView.

But what YouView really needs is a ‘YouView TV’. It’ll take a TV manufacturer to swallow its pride to do it, but sooner or later one of them will realise that YouView has something they’ll never match. And the first one to do it will reap the benefit in sales.

Dave thinks YouView’s old news

YouView has missed the boat. Had it launched a few years ago then I’d have been hailing it as a cutting-edge concept. But apart from its clever EPG, YouView doesn’t really offer anything new.

Many consumers already have smart TVs in their living rooms, or other devices that offer similar functionality. Blu-ray players, PVRs and games consoles can all provide access to online TV and film content and people have been out buying these products for several years now.

As such they can already access catch-up TV services such as BBC iPlayer or download films from LoveFilm on to their TVs. So where’s the compelling reason for them to go out and buy yet another box? I just don’t see one.

I also think that it’s a serious error that YouView doesn’t include wi-fi connectivity built-in. For a device that needs to be connected to the internet, surely wi-fi is essential these days. Without it you can only connect up your YouView box with an Ethernet cable, and that’s going to be seriously inconvenient for many who haven’t got their broadband router located close to their TV set. Yes, you can use home-plugs that route your broadband signal through your mains cabling, but these don’t always work and it’s an extra cost on top of YouView’s purchase price.

Ah yes – the purchase price. £299 is quite simply a heck of a lot of money. That’s going to put a lot of people off to start with and, for a product that doesn’t offer me anything new and lacks wi-fi, it seems exorbitant. I won’t be rushing to the shops at the end of the month and I suspect not many others will either.

Do you agree with Andy and think that YouView is a step up for set-top boxes, or will you stay away like Dave?


I. like YorkshireJumbo, also watch most of my TV from recordings. The value of this was brought home to me when I stayed with friends at Christmas. They don’t plan their TV viewing and end up watching whatever trash happens to be on at the time after they’ve trawled through all the available choices.

On the other hand I plan my viewing when I get my weekly newspaper TV guide, and set the PVR to record what I want. This means that I never channel surf, and only switch on the TV to watch things I want to see.

AJG Hyde says:
2 January 2013

I, like Kermit, also set up most of my recordings at the beginning of the week, I make very little use of any of the play again services, so the additional functionality of YouView is not a top priority in my choice of box. What I really want to have is an integrated box which will deliver the TV recordings and my music collection which does not seem possible at the moment.

I am amazed that there are still people who do not use recorders extensively. Not sure when I had my first recorder, Pace I think, but it had 30Gb. Both my current recorders, Freeview and Freesat, have 500Gb.

gary says:
3 January 2013

Just bought ( been sold by shop ass. ) Youview. Inital impressions, nice clean interface, does what my old Thompson! box did very well aka record two channels etc etc albeit now with HD quality on some channels ( uses up more memory btw on the harddrive ). Demand5 etc, Nowtv..all work fine. No issues. Has few twice…and as my partner says, “Why did you spend £250 on this..what does it do that my xbox couldnt do and a cheapo freeview recorder? “. Hard to argue..as £250 is OTT..but then looking at other Humax recorders..pricewise is about right.

I have one major beef though..and thoughts more than welcome..I’m using plugs for a wired connection ..Now, when i use these for my Smart Tv my internet upstairs is not effected…but now Im plugging in via the Youview box..my internet is all over the place..and AOL account refuses to work!! odd one? Tried/ tested various methods..and is certainly appears to only effect my PC connection once Youview is connected..which is has to be obviously to record programms.

That major! issue aside…Some nice things about the box..but all this scroll upto 7 days etc..is rubbish..as half or more of the programmes you cant view anyway!!! As I said, was happy with my old, discontinued and totally ancient Thompson freeview box..had two of them and lasted 7yrs..for £50..they got terrible ratings on Amazon etc..but personally having tried a load of other boxes..nothing came close..shame wanst hdmi..otherwise would still be using them today.

YorkshireJumbo says:
4 January 2013

I certainly had no problems with the homeplug setup. The only suggestion I can make is to try the plug in a different socket – best is straight into a wall socket rather than an extension. You don’t need the box to be plugged in to the internet to record – only to watch catch-up TV and for updates to the “historic” EPG and software.

I must admit I never bonded with my box: I sold it and have reverted to my old but upgraded SD PVR. It can’t do HD, but the interface is so much better and user-friendly. Simple things like restarting playback are a single keypress, but can take 20-30 seconds while you navigate the unintuitive UI in youview.

There is an online forum where they tell you what bugs have been identified and what updates they’re doing to the software, if you want to google it…

Thinking about getting Youview as the seven day catch-up on all the major channels seems a good idea but now concerned about comments in previous post suggesting that half of the programmes are in fact not available. If this is true it would seem the major advantage of Youview over a standard PVR is to a large extent negated. Would appreciate hearing from others who regularly use the Youview catch-up features – are all the last weeks programmes available or not?

Yes not every old program is available on the Guide eg “You’ve been framed” on ITV2 but using “On Demand” there is an edition from a few days ago. Do not understand the logic but definitely not short of things to watch and so far everything I forgot to record has been available one way or another.

In the past I had a number of PVR’s, all of which broke down within the guarantee period, including Humax and Panasonic. When I changed my Broadband supplier to Talk Talk a few years ago I added TV Plus. This is a PVR with Youview and I have never looked back. I can record 2 channels at a time while watching a third. To record a series is a simple matter of choosing that option, so I never miss an episode. I can access ALL the catch up sites including the more obscure ones simply by clicking on the EPG up to 7 days prior. If it is further back than that I go onto On Demand and in most cases I can find it there. There are other options such as Netflix etc. My TV and Youview box are in my office/den and my router is downstairs in the hallway. The signal is sent via the electric socket without any problem. I have had this set up about 5 years now and besides the convenience of having catch up on the TV, the actual recorder is by far the most reliable I have had. I prefer to use the recording option rather than catch-up as the fast forward and rewind are much more efficient. By using the “skip 60 seconds” option (usualy x 4) I scoot past the commercials. Obviously I also have pause live T.V. as well. The whole thing works perfectly, makes T.V. watching much more enjoyable as I watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it. For example I let a series run to the end then watch it episode by episode, varying between 1 episode each alternate night to the whole series in one go! There are also bolt-ons at additional cost. I have recently added all the Sky Sports channels for just an extra £8.50 per month. Incidentally the Broadband is very good too. Talk Talk have had some bad publicity and review in the past, but I find their whole package extremely reliable and very cheap compared to their competitors. And just in case your wondering, NO I do not work for Tal Talk!