The DN371T is a PVR (digital recorder) built to work with connected TV platform YouView and will be available subscription free from major retailers in the coming weeks.
Although this is Huawei’s first retail box for the platform, the Chinese electronics giant has a lot of experience with the platform as it builds the boxes for TalkTalk’s YouView-based TV service.
The arrival of the DN371T in stores means potential YouView users finally have a choice of manufacturer – all other retail boxes, including retail versions of BT’s new G4 box, are built by Humax.
YouView’s budget option?
It’s going to be interesting to see how retailers price and position the newcomer because it has a distinct ‘budget feel’ about it.
From the empty, hollowness of the device itself to the clicky remote control and the incredibly thin paper the manual is printed on, the signs of cost cutting are everywhere.
You may not be too fussed about the manual – it’ll probably go in the bin after you’ve set the box up – and the light, hollow casing won’t be an issue when the DN371T is placed under your telly, but the remote control is so cheaply put together that it’s offensive.
In photos the navigation pad and surround looks like a sleek metal touch control. Sadly what you actually get is a very noisy set of buttons and arrow keys topped with a grey plastic housing.
When light hits the plastic framing the white letters marking the buttons become impossible to read – and the remote’s problems don’t end there.
The other buttons are so shallow that they’re almost flush with the remote’s housing. Given that they’re made of very soft rubber, I suspect a year or so of heavy use will leave them entirely flush and very difficult to use.
And while Humax tarted up its retail box with a fashionable white/silver look, and BT designed its new box to match the look of its HomeHub router, the DN371T is housed in a plain, generic grey/black box which is distinctly underwhelming.
The good news is that the penny pinching appears to have ended with the box’s exterior.
While not as fast as on BT’s G4, changing channels and navigating the EPG and menus was a speedy experience and the box responded instantly to each button press on the oh-so cheap remote.
Loading the BBC iPlayer took around 10 seconds but navigating within it was speedy and programmes played without any lag or buffering. Other on demand players worked fine too.
As my review box was connected to my BT broadband it was updated to include access to BT’s on demand player. While you may not have access to this, I find navigating through it to be a good test of a box’s speed.
My original Humax DTR-1000 is slow and laggy when navigating through long lists of content but the DN371T handled a list of 790 films just fine with no pausing and I didn’t have to wait for it to catch up with the button presses as I sometimes do with my DTR-1000.
Design & Build
Like BT’s G4, the DN371T uses a power adapter rather than an internal power supply unit yet the box is substantially larger than its rival.
While I wasn’t able to remove the casing of the review unit, the hollow feel of the box suggests Huawei skipped an opportunity to reduce the unit’s size.
While there’s no clock or display, the front of the unit features three lights similar to those on the boxes Huawei makes for TalkTalk. A central light glows bright green when the unit is on, dulling when it’s in standby.
Press record and the central and two other lights flash away like a computer from the original Starship Enterprise. Unlike the BT box the recording indicator shows even when the box is in the deeper of the two YouView sleep modes.
Internet Recording and Accessibility
While all YouView boxes in theory offer the same set of features and capabilities, TalkTalk customers are currently several versions behind BT and retail Humax box owners and lack a number of recent additions – including accessibility features and the ability to record and pause internet channels.
Because it uses the same software version as the boxes Huawei makes for TalkTalk, those features are also missing from the DN371T.
For most users buying this box the lack of record and pause on internet channels won’t be an issue because extra channels are only available from BT and TalkTalk who provide a box as part of their TV package.
However anyone looking to add an extra box to a BT or TalkTalk package and wanting to record or pause their extra channels on it will need to look at one of the Humax models instead.
And the lack of the new accessibility features makes this an automatic fail for those with cognitive or sight impairments.
Even if you don’t consider these features important or essential, you should take into consideration that software updates for Huawei’s TalkTalk’s boxes often come months after those for the Humax and BT models.
This means you could potentially be waiting for other features you do want to be added long after those with rival boxes have them.
The DN371Tx is speedy and performs well but it’s trapped inside an ugly case and lumbered with one of the nastiest remote controls I’ve seen in a long time.
Huawei’s original press release suggested the box would sell for £219 – the same amount Argos are selling the faster, more stylish and better built BT G4 for. At that price it’s hard to recommend because it lacks features some will consider essential and doesn’t look or feel like the sort of premium device you’d expect for that kind of money.
Add in the historic delay in updates for Huawei/TalkTalk boxes which this shares software in common which and we’re forced to steer potential buyers towards the G4.