Unlike some observers, we were impressed with what we saw though we noted a few absent features we’d like to see added to the platform.
Fast forward 7 months and YouView’s developers have been busy filing in the gaps, clocking up three major software updates between October and January which aded a wealth of new features and fixed a few bugs.
At launch YouView was limited to searching the on demand and catch-up players, users looking for a specific broadcast programme were required to make good use of their Radio Times or scroll through the EPG to find it.
Thankfully that’s a now a thing of the past. A software update rolled out last month allows users to search and set recordings for upcoming programmes without loading the programme guide (EPG).
This new EPG search really boosts the box’s usability and closes the gap between YouView and rival platforms such as Virgin Media’s TiVo.
YouView also now has its own remote record app so you can set up recordings when you’re away from home.
The app is currently limited to setting one-off recordings and only available to iPhone and iPod touch users – an Android version is in development and will be released later this year – but it’s a good solid start to build from.
Other new features include support for Dolby surround sound over HDMI, surround sound over S/PDIF and the ability to set a picture output preference of 1080p, 1080i, or 720p, addressing issues some users had with their TVs and YouView not playing nicely together.
Tidy minds will appreciate the addition of series folders in the recordings library which group multiple episodes of the same series together in one place. (We’d still like the ability to manually store films or one-offs in custom folders.)
Speaking of recordings, it’s now possible to select a start point when playing recordings back, handy if you saw some of the programme on broadcast and just want to watch the end.
And while it sounds like a pretty trivial feature, the addition of skip functionality allows one to easily skip past adverts in recorded shows and films.
We’ve been impressed at the scope and number of software updates which provide welcome reassurance that YouView will deliver on the initial promise of a fully supported, constantly evolving platform.
New Year, New Kit
As part of that evolution, YouView and set top box partner Humax recently announced a new-look STB, the DTR-T1010.
For its original YouView box (the DTR-T1000), Humax re-used the shell of its popular and much-lauded HDR-Fox T2 Freeview+ HD recorder.
While this almost certainly had a cost benefit for the manufacturer, it caused confusion for some early buyers who apparently thought the DTR-T1000 was a successor to the Fox T2 and professed confusion at a user interface and feature set completely unrelated to the older box.
The DTR-T1010 addresses the potential for any confusion with a brand-new design finished in complimenting black and silver loveliness.
The sometimes hard to read orange text of the DTR-T1000‘s front display has been replaced with high contrast, white text which blasts through the silver finish.
The amber/blue power button has been dropped, in it’s place is a four-way channel/volume up/down button illuminated with a ring of while light that gives the DTR-T1010 a very modern, almost Apple Mac look.
Meanwhile the power button has been relocated to the left-hand extreme of the front panel where it’s now a discrete, backlit touch button.
The overall result is a box which looks just that bit more special and refined than the original launch box and, if we’re being frank, leave’s TalkTalk’s in-house YouView box looking pretty ‘plain Jane’.
Owners of the original box need not despair, while the two Humax’s look very different, under the hood they’re pretty much the same and the new box offers no features or functions not already available to existing owners.
And because all YouView boxes are built to a common core technical specification and features are software, not hardware dependent, the DTR-T1000 will continue to receive all the updates and new additions that its cooler looking sibling gets.
In short, the DTR-T1010 isn’t a ‘second generation’ YouView box and there’s no need to rush out and replace an existing box unless you’re really keener on the newcomer’s looks.
However if you’re looking to buy your first YouView box we’d recommend waiting for your local store to get stock of the new model because it really is whole
While software updates have so far focused largely on delivering ‘missing’ features, future updates are expected to deliver enhancements that will leave Freeview and Freesat trailing far behind.
Later this year YouView is set to gain the ability to stream live channels. Some of these will be offered by TalkTalk and BT, two of the platform’s seven backers, while others may be offered directly to all users by broadcasters and content owners.
There are also expectations of more on demand players, with companies such as Vevo openly expressing interest in the platform.
We’re clearer than ever that YouView is going to be a big hit – offers of free boxes from BT and TalkTalk have seen the user base soar to around 230,000 and both ISPs are briefing of continuing strong sales.
If YouView hasn’t clocked up a million users (or more) by this time next year we’d be very surprised.
Freeview homes looking to replace their current box should place YouView at the top of their list of options, you’ll get all the same free to air channels plus a host of easy to access and free catch up content and the option of added pay content from Sky’s NOW TV.
Pay TV homes considering ditching the subscription will also find much to like about YouView, not least the premium look and feel of the product.
If it can bring the right content partners on board, YouView has the potential to do for TV fans what iTunes did for music lovers and free consumers from the need to buy a load of unwanted clutter just to access the couple of desirable gems.