/ 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?


Luckily I have sky, so won’t be looking at this. But say I did, what will happen when 4G rolls out? Who is going to have foot the bill to reprogramme or whatever this new gadget. They’ve waited this long I think they should have waited til after 4g comes out and mucks up alot of freeview customers viewing.

For me YouView has so far been a big waste of time. At this cost, and lack of key functionality, nobody beyond an enthusiast will buy this. For this price you’d almost be better upgrading your TV to one of the latest Samsung or Sony Smart TV’s where you get much of this content included.

For this to become a viable product, the price needs to be £100 or under, and why they have priced it so high is beyond me.

The main plus point with YouView, is that there’s no subscription charge (as far as I can tell anyway).
So, I might be tempted to buy one and then ditch my Virgin Media subscription to save money, but at £299 it will take quite a few months before I start to save money.

Then again, once the warranty runs out on the YouView box……

The good thing about Virgin is that it’s their box, not mine, so when it breaks it gets replaced free of charge. That was the downfall of Sky for me, when the boxes went wrong they wanted to charge me to come out and fix or replace it.

There’s always extended warranty plans I guess, but once you start paying for those on top, the whole thing starts to get expensive. So I’ll probably end up sticking with Virgin, just cos it works and it makes life easy.

In my experience if you threaten to cancel your Sky, they will soon offer to send out an engineer and/or a new box free of charge.

You do raise a very good point about the warranty on the box though. It’s a lot of money for something which could only last a few years.

Golfnut says:
10 July 2012

I don’t subscribe to Sky because all I would want to view is the golf which is an expensive option at present. If Sky’s “Now TV” becomes available on YouView will it include golf. If yes then the cost of YouView becomes quite economic.

As well as the exorbitant price, the fact that it only offers a different way of doing what you can do already, and the inexplicable lack of wifi, lots of people have limits on the amount they can download free on their broadband.

All in all, YouView is about as useful as that Internet-enabled microwave we were all going to want!

YorkshireJumbo says:
14 July 2012

Lack of WiFi is not a problem. In town, you often struggle to download online videos because of interference from neighbouring WiFi hubs. I’ve seen 10 hubs (or even more) when trying to select WiFi in London. Even on a slowish broadband connection, I can download and view videos via mains cabling without problem.

The key point with this box is that it is seamless. With the best will in the world, SmartTVs are clunky when it comes to viewing anything other than iPlayer. With this, you can go back in the EPG and watch earlier programs without any effort. You can search through many on-demand programs, again without effort

I think this box is much for for the people who don’t want to have to “fire up” their SmartTV interface (or those who don’t know how to). Yes, you can do everything that this box does by other means, but it’s not all in one place. This box is for technophobes and those who don’t understand the latest technology – that is the majority of consumers. You could give it to your Gran and she could work it. Not sure if that’s the market they’re chasing, though!

Hmm that is one of the most patronising comments I have heard for a while, I am a ‘Gran’ and I am certainly not a technophobe !! and considering the over 65 ‘baby boomers’ are now out numbering under 18’s maybe we are just the market that should be aimed at.

YorkshireJumbo says:
16 July 2012

Well my Gran is a technophobe, as are my mum, mother-in-law and wife. Would you know how to find and stream an iPlayer or 4OD program through the TV? They wouldn’t have the first idea…

Most technology is aimed at the younger market, however unrealistic that may be. Whatever the market for Silver Surfers (another patronising term, I know!), technology is seldom targeted at them. Apologies if it seemed patronising, but I was speaking about my personal experiences (and there are always exceptions to generalisations).

I think that this is an interesting development.

The price is not so much different from a PVR, and at present it is pretty much impossible to find a smart TV that has all the major channels iPlayer equivelants. My Samsung has only BBC iPlayer.

As for lack of wifi, it need not be a problem, I use Homeplugs to stream music, television and films around my house.

raytay says:
17 July 2012

For someone like myself who currently does not have a recording device eg PVR and can only watch Catch-up TV on a computer and does not want to pay subscriptions Youview seems a good bet. My only reservation is how will it cope with the problem of ‘buffering’ which so afflicts the watching of videos via IPlayer and a laptop computer. I have asked this question on technical forums before but without getting a response so would appreciate any answers.

It all depends on the quality of your broadband connection. Only you know the answer to that.

YorkshireJumbo says:
17 July 2012

If you use WiFi to watch on a computer, it also depends on the quality of your signal. If you’ve several other hubs nearby, or you’re a long way from your hub, the quality will be poorer. With YouView, you need to wire it to your hub, which does mean it will only depend on the speed of your broadband. I’m a long way from the exchange, so can’t get much more than 4Meg down my phoneline, but I’ve not really suffered from buffering while watching catchup TV

Thanks for replies guys. My lap top is wireless so connecting direct to the router (for Youview) would improve things no doubt but my inherent download speed is less than 3 Meg which BT say is well within limits for my broadband. I wonder whether Youview boxes specify a minimum download speed to ensure satisfactory reception ie without buffering problems. Seems to me this could be a problem for mant potential customers.

Why don’t you look at the YouView website. They’re probably the experts on this.

YorkshireJumbo says:
19 July 2012

I had a look around their site a couple of days ago. There’s an “Availability Checker” at http://checker.youview.com/. This checks your broadband speed…

Thanks for the tip YorkshireJumbo. Tried the speed test and was told my speed is to slow as I half expected. Have already had discussion with BT over download speed and they say 2.8M is well within their spec. I can only assume there must be many like me who would be unable to use Youview. As BT are a co- conspirator in the Youview project it beggars belief they are happy with this situation where their is a clear mismatch between specs.
I think I will raise this again with BT although dont think I will get any joy.

Will there be a Freesat version of YouView? As we get Freeview from a relay we don’t get all the channels so have Freesat – it would be a pain switching between Freesat and YouView since the whole point is to simplify the TV experience.

hardrealtimeishard says:
25 July 2012

My concern is what happens when everybody is watching “live” [read scheduled] TV over the internet? Will the Internet’s physical layers cope with a royal wedding or even an England world cup match?
I’m making the assumption that the data has to be unicast to each set top box, using, e.g., TCP or RTP, which can’t generally be multicast (else the feedback don’t work) to get the reliability: using UDP across big networks is, to use a L. L. technical term, crappa. Consequently, each individual user would be using megabits of data : a few megabits here and a few megabits there and pretty soon you’re talking about real bandwidth.
I note that the live feed from iPlayer (which isn’t even HD) gets jerky every now and again. I can’t tell if this is Wi-Fi loses, network [Internet] congestion losses, or problems with the Beeb’s infrastructure. If this [youview] is the same, it may be okay for free (if you don’t count the £300 [-1] for the box), but I’d not be happy with a subscription service like Sky or Virgin being so jerky – I already aren’t happy about what the weather does to Sky, but I’ve no access to cable.

YorkshireJumbo says:
25 July 2012

Live TV comes via Freeview. You can also use the box to record from Freeview. On-demand services come via the internet, as they do at the moment.

Any buffering and jerkiness is almost certainly not at the distribution end, as they will have large pipes for the data. Much more likely to be lack of bandwidth locally, either in the local loop broadband or WiFi spectrum

hardrealtimeishard says:
25 July 2012

So you still needs a TV antenna? That’s NBG. The whole purpose, from my perspective, would be to dispose of antennae and dishes, and get all content on line, including scheduled programmes.

You’d be mad to buy the first revision of the first box out of the blocks of a new system. I am not interested anyway (enough boxes!), and quite happy with Freeview with i.m.o. still the best EPG out there, the Tivo. We have a bunch of cheap as chips second hand Sony Freeview boxes wired up to three Tivo 1’s in different parts of the house connected to the network with homeplugs. Even better, with the ALTEPG service, there is no monthly charge at all, so the whole lot of machines cost me less than £100.

David Cuthbert says:
13 November 2012

Had youview since the 8 Nov found we get less freeview channels than we did before and the picture quality keeps going and we end up loosing signal all together so we’ve gone back to the tv on its own for now as we get a perfect picture without the box. The on Demand service is no better than watching on the computer keeps buffering. We also watched something we had recorded and whenever we forwarded the adverts it wouldn’t play unless we reopened the recording. Spoken to talk talk 3 times including a 40 minute conversaton on Saturday that was useless. They didn’t seem to be that helpful. We have got to wait until the 20th for an engineer to come out wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.

terry says:
24 November 2012

I agree that wi-fi is essential but can’t you just plug in a wi-fi bridge to the ethernet socket? Won’t this work?

As Talktalk appear to be offering this free can anyone tell me what I have got lose? I already use Talk Talk for my broadband and phone service

Yes I think you get the box for free much the same as BT but you pay for the tv service for a contract period of 18 months or so. Hope your download speed is OK otherwise buffering problems result. I have this dilemma with BT, wanting to try the box but knowing my download speed (within spec acc to BT) is insufficient to avoid buffering.

YorkshireJumbo says:
9 December 2012

I ran a box on a 3.5Meg line without problem. I tended to watch more recorded Freeview recordings and only used the internet players a couple of times a week.

I have just signed up talktalk youview as existing talk talkplus subsriber with their free youview box package. My speed is 5.5.M. I am assured that wi fi facilty will be guaranteed with an additional powerpoint adaper. BEING non technical COULD ANYONE ADVISE if this assumption is correct. (I.E. Will my grandchildre still be able to play their W ii s?)
I have a cooling off period before the youview is to be installed on 24 JANUARY 2013.

YorkshireJumbo says:
16 December 2012

I used my youview box without problem with my wifi router by plugging in homeplug wireless adaptors near the youview box and my router and running cables from the plugs to the boxes. They just create a wired “wireless” connection between 2 points, so will not interfere with wireless comms. They should easily support those speeds, but you might possibly get problems with electrical “noise” if you plug the adaptors in to extension leads shared by other bits of audio/video kit.

AJG Hyde says:
30 December 2012

I would expect a new style of box to start with the functionality I already have on my Freeview box. Two channels record simultaneously whilst watching a recorded program. First box ticked. So if my Freeview box dies, YouView would be a serious consideration. However, next time I upgrade, I will expect a box that integrates all the functions I need. This means it will connect to the internet and let me use catch up services, second tick, wirelessly, no tick. It will also allow me to play my music collection, from a phone or a tablet, no tick. I’m not interested in subscribing to film type services myself, but I would agree that should also be part of an integrated device.
What I am saying is this seems to be a small step, not enough to trigger a purchase, but at a similar price to a comparable Freeview box, to be seriously considered when it comes time to replace.

YorkshireJumbo says:
2 January 2013

I mentioned this earlier, but lack of WiFi is not important. I’ve had WiFi problems in built-up areas due to interference. Plugging in simple homeplug adapters means you get the full broadband speed whatever the interference. I ran my youview box over these on a 3.5meg connection without problem…

All this sounds as though TV is worth watching – despite all the channels, most of the content is pretty rubbish. I’m a grumpy old chap perhaps, but why not watch anything that is good when it is being broadcast, and do something better with your time when it’s not good? Or buy some good DVD’s (Some Like it Hot is always worth watching, as is The Plank!) Bah humbug.

YorkshireJumbo says:
2 January 2013

I’d rather do what I want when I want, rather than plan my day around watching live TV.

I’ve had a PVR since 2005, and I now watch less than 10% of TV live. It also means I can skip all the adverts: I sometimes watch programmes behind “live” so that I can skip them. It’s nice not to have to watch all the ads, but it may become self-defeating if we all do it and commercial TVs revenues plummet…