The first YouView boxes were a long-time in development.
As a result by the time they made it to market, they couldn't help but feel a smidegeon creaky and little 'second best' next to more powerful, beefier set top boxes, such as Virgin Media's Tivo and Sky's Sky+ efforts.
Developed in conjunction with Humax, YouView's new DTR T-2000, which comes in at £200 or the best part of £100 cheaper than the initial batch of YouView boxes, bids to change all that. Does it succeed? Read on and we'll tell all.
First impressions and design
The DTR-1000 I got for free when I signed up for YouView with BT isn't much of a looker. Fashioned from matte-black plastic, it looks and feels somewhat on the cheap side. That impression isn't helped by the central standby button's clickyness and a general lack of responsiveness.
It wasn't bad. Not by any means. But it certainly wasn't the sort of gadget that you’d say graces your sitting room.
The DTR-2000 is a real improvement all-round. At 360 x 50 x 245mm, it's slimmer for one thing, which is always welcome in any gadget.
And in place of the plastic frontage, there's a classier chrome front panel that combines with the new minimal feel to give the DRT T-2000 the air of a vintage stereo, with just a hint of the Roberts Radio about it.
Set-up, which you’re guided through by a series of on-screen prompts, was easy and took about 15 minutes from start to finish.
Along the way, you’re asked if you want to share data with YouView’s content partners and if you're happy for your info about your usage habits to be used to help improve the service.
And you can opt to have relevant, tailored ads for the shows you’re watching. Hey, at least they asked.
Storage is 500GB. That's the same as the first-gen DRT T-1000 and some way below the likes of Tivo’s 1TB top-end option that's up for grabs with Virgin Media.
But it’s still enough to record 300 hours of TV in Standard Definition or up to 125 hours in High Definition and shouldn’t prove prohibitive or mean that you’ve got to be ruthless with what you opt to keep long-term.
Head to the back of the DTR T-2000 and you’ll find HDMI outputs, an RGB Scart and, of course, RT in-and-out connections. Somewhat disappointingly, there’s no WiFi connectivity, so there’s also an Ethernet LAN slot instead.
Intriguingly, though, a USB slot is present and correct (there’s a second one on the side too). We can’t discern why they're there right now given that they don't seem to serve a particular purpose, but we’re sure that will become apparent at a later date.
Naturally, you get 70 FreeView channels and radio channels too, as well as six high-def ones, mostly comprising lusher versions of your terrestrial favourites.
You can download movies on-demand and get on board with all the standard on-demand players, including iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5, Dave, Yesterday and Really imagined by UKTV, Now TV, Sky Store and milkshake!. And it wouldn’t be a set top box if it didn’t offer the option to pause and rewind live TV too.
As far as pay-TV subscription services go, the good news is that last week saw Netflix come to YouView, bringing with it the option to get up to speed with Walter White’s pusherman antics in Breaking Bad and get your fantasy on with Game of Thrones.
Amazon Prime Video still hasn’t made it over to YouView. But given that it’s still a way behind its rivals and doesn’t have shows with quite the same must-see cachet as some of its rivals, that’s something we can live with.
You also get two tuners, so you can tape one channel while watching a second, while the YouView app for Android and iOS lets you set recordings remotely using your tablet/smartphone.
We found having just two tuners to be more of a bind than you might imagine. And given that the just-released EE box has 4 tuners, so you can record four channels at once, it’s a shame YouView couldn’t add at least one more tuner for its new-gen gadget.
YouView’s electronic program guide (EPG) is one of its strongest suits and, perhaps with the ‘don’t fix what ain’t broke’ maxim in mind, that hasn’t been changed for the DTR T-2000.
We like that it's clean to look at, for starters. More importantly, it integrates content from the aforementioned catch-up services into a single user interface and lets you scroll back seven days, so it’s easy to find what you want to watch.
The universal search feature allows you to search for shows by name and serves you up the channel, on-demand player or subscription service where you can watch it.
Making recordings is simple and you’re warned about clashes that would jeapordise your viewing and storage plans. You can set up the box to automatically record entire series when new episodes air just as easily.
YouView is also touting this as a quicker bit of kit. And while it’s not entirely free from freezing (which set top box is?), it certainly feels much more responsive and than the T-1000, which was prone to clamming up for minutes on end if you were hastily scrolling through the EPG.
The DTR T-2000 is a significant improvement over its predecessor, with improved response times and better build quality all round, alongside the ease of use that's always been YouView’s big sell.
Sure, it’s not as fully featured as its rivals. But it’s perhaps not aimed at people who require 1TB of storage and other luxuries, but at those who simply need a device that lets them record, pause, catch-up and watch on-demand players.
At £200 with no monthly subscription to worry about, it’s a really good bit of kit at a really good price.