A hard disk video recorder with some clever catch-up tricks
Youview is new a ‘personal video recorder', or PVR, that aims to compete with the likes of Sky+ and Virgin's Tivo. Like those well-known competitors it records programmes to a hard disk - the 500GB disk can store around 300 hours' worth of TV and radio shows. Unlike Sky and Virgin's PVRs, Youview doesn't need a satellite dish or cable connection: just plug in a traditional rooftop-aerial lead and it's ready to go, tuning into the UK's Freeview digital TV service.
Youview includes a Freeview HD tuner so in addition to the familiar roll call of Freeview channels, it receives the handful of high-definition (HD) channels currently broadcast on the Freeview network - that's BBC One HD, BBC HD, ITV1 HD (STV HD in Scotland) and 4HD (S4C Clirlun in Wales). There are two such tuners, so it can record two programmes at once or record one while you watch another channel. It can also record all the episodes in a series and even radio programmes too.
If this was all Youview did then it would be unremarkable: any number of PVRs do the same thing and typically at lower prices. What sets Youview apart is its electronic programme guide (or EPG) and, specifically, the way it integrates with popular ‘catch-up' services, like the BBC's iPlayer. Many people are now familiar and comfortable with the idea of turning to iPlayer or ITV Player to watch missed shows. However, this may mean sitting in front of a computer or tablet or, if you happen to own a ‘smart TV', firing up the relevant app to navigate catch-up services on the big screen.
These methods work but they can be a faff. With Youview's EPG, one can simply navigate backwards through the schedule, find the relevant show and press play on the remote control. This technique seems so obvious that we're surprised it isn't more widespread. We've never before seen a device that integrates catch-up services this well. It's also possible to navigate the catch-up services by searching for a keyword or by browsing each service individually. Youview is the only PVR we know of that can access the catch up services from the BBC, ITV and Channels 4 and 5.
However, Youview isn't without its flaws. For starters, the EPG and catch-up services need an internet connection but there's no built-in Wifi so you'll need to connect Youview to your router via Ethernet. Annoyingly series recordings aren't grouped together, so you'll soon enough find yourself flipping through page after page of recordings to locate an episode of a favourite show. Scrolling through the EPG can also feel a little sluggish and it isn't possible to either have a list of favourite channels or reorder the EPG so your favourite channels are nearer the top.
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Youview is expensive, but it's also very impressive. It's great if you frequently use catch-up services and if you currently don't, then it can change the way you watch TV
Seamlessly integrates catch-up services; Records both TV and radio
No built-in Wifi; Occasionally sluggish interface; Niggling flaws; Expensive
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