What better way to relax than to curl up in front of a good TV show? PC Advisor explains how you can get your daily fix on your PC, wherever your travels might take you.

There's a certain irony in the idea of a nation of couch potatoes struggling through harsh economic times by tuning in to showcase of the world's greatest athletes striving for Olympic achievement.

Yet we could well be doing just that this summer. As we cut back on the luxuries the boom years allowed us, many of us will be seeking low-cost or even free entertainment. A night in front of the telly could even become the hot new pastime – especially since there's suddenly so much more to it.

Over the past year, TV has changed. We don't just mean the launch of Dave and its insistence on serving up more Richard Hammond than even we can deal with. It's also the way in which TV programming is being delivered – and how we consume it.

The advent of Freeview gave the masses choice and a reason to get interested in time-shifting and catch-up TV. Armed with a personal video recorder (PVR) or a media-centre PC, you could choose from a hundred channels and record them automatically, enjoying shows whenever it suited you.

Square eyes

Much of what is offered via the Freeview free-to-air digital terrestrial broadcasts is, of course, repeats of old classics – or repeats of last week's repeats.

But the clever thing about the idea is its ease of access. You simply buy a cheap tuner box for £20 to £50 and point your aerial at it. Immediately you have not five but 55 channels to choose from.

Even with a high proportion of repeats – it costs a lot to make a programme, even if it's recorded and edited on cheap digital hardware – no one could possibly watch every programme they like the sound of. Hence the genius of PVRs, which store everything on an internal hard disk or to a writable DVD, and their dazzling promise of 'time-shifting' television.

NEXT PAGE: TV anywhere > >

  1. TV on your PC
  2. TV anywhere
  3. Internet telly
  4. TV over IP on your PC
  5. The best time to watch
  6. Mobile TV
  7. Mobile TV, part II
  8. Other options

Where to go to get TV anywhere...

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews

What better way to relax than to curl up in front of a good TV show? PC Advisor explains how you can get your daily fix on your PC, wherever your travels might take you.

TV anywhere

Place-shifting soon followed time-shifting. This lets you use your laptop to watch whatever you'd have been able to see if you were still at home, rather than sweating away a dull evening in a poorly air-conditioned business hotel. All you need is a device back at home that could hook up to your web connection and deliver the sights and sounds to your location.

Those with a Media Center Extender, a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360 can copy and stream content from room to room, but more straightforward options are on their way.

This clever ability to port programmes to another location has its appeal. But the most popular function of all has turned out to be simply accessing the content you want, hours, days or even years after its broadcast.

By June, just six months after its launch, ITV's Catch Up Player had achieved 12 million downloads. The BBC iPlayer clocked up 11 million in its first few weeks and goes from strength to strength.

Internet telly

The PC is central to the concept, along with a reliable and steady web connection and either a standalone player or a free applet in the form of Apple's QuickTime or Microsoft Silverlight driving the TV delivery.

But, true to form, Microsoft isn't happy to let all this lovely content be delivered for free via a web browser. For Microsoft, IPTV (TV over the internet) is a golden opportunity to meld what ISPs and broadcasters can offer and provide a means of feeding it all back to whence it came: the TV.

Yes, Microsoft is once again eyeing up the so-called ‘10-foot view' that has previously eluded it. The software giant has amalgamated its Media Center and Microsoft TV development teams to make one last attempt at conquering the living room.

Microsoft Mediaroom is what enables BT Vision to offer IPTV on a TV and Virgin Media customers to get BBC iPlayer and ITV Catch Up on their TVs.

It's in talks with other ISPs to offer a similar content-shifting setup from the home PC back to the living room and expects more products of this nature to launch late this year or in early 2009.

NEXT PAGE: TV over IP on your PC > >

  1. TV on your PC
  2. TV anywhere
  3. Internet telly
  4. TV over IP on your PC
  5. The best time to watch
  6. Mobile TV
  7. Mobile TV, part II
  8. Other options

Where to go to get TV anywhere...

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews

What better way to relax than to curl up in front of a good TV show? PC Advisor explains how you can get your daily fix on your PC, wherever your travels might take you.

TV over IP on your PC

Being able to view TV programmes on your computer isn't actually new. In fact, TV tuners on PCs have been around for as long as the multimedia PC concept. That's at least as long as PC Advisor has been around – a mighty long time indeed.

Many PC graphics cards feature a built-in TV tuner. Yet very few of us bother to make use of them – unless we've specifically chosen or bought a standalone TV card.

This is understandable, of course: many of the programmes you want to watch are now available online, either at the broadcaster's site, via iTunes or on YouTube. Failing that, if you miss an episode of 'Doctor Who', you need only wait a matter of hours before seeing it pop up on BitTorrent.

But you can't find everything you want online via a catch-up TV service. And there's no reason why you should have to wait around for a programme to appear on iPlayer in order to view it.

The best time to watch

For a start, many programmes work best when viewed live, or at least at the time they're originally broadcast. The most obvious examples include live sports tournaments and live reality TV broadcasts.

The Formula 1 grand prix and series such as 'The Apprentice' or 'Big Brother' simply aren't the same when viewed a few days after they first aired. Who wants to discuss whether or not Lewis Hamilton could have taken
that first corner better and got ahead of Massa from the get-go, two days after you know the outcome?

A TV tuner can add to the range of programmes available, too. Freeview cards are now fairly common and can be bought as USB dongles with mini antennae that you plug into a laptop, while the first Freesat cards are also beginning to appear. (Freesat's a slightly trickier case, as it's delivered via satellite, but it will soon be as easy to access from a PC as Freeview is.)

USB TV tuners such as those from Terratec and Pinnacle give you almost instant access to live television on a laptop – weather permitting, you could even marvel at the Olympic athletes while sunning yourself in the garden.

Other options are the now fairly well-established Slingbox and Sony LocationFree devices. Both allow you to access whatever you'd be able to see on your home TV or entertainment setup via an IP address that accesses your home network over your broadband connection.

The advantage with these hardware options are that high-definition (HD) content is supported and you pay nothing beyond the initial cost of the set-top box.

If you want a really portable option, Sony's LocationFree can be played on PlayStation Portable games consoles, while a PDA and smartphone version of the SlingPlayer software, SlingPlayer Mobile, lets you pass a dull commute watching Breakfast News or other live TV shows.

NEXT PAGE: Mobile TV > >

  1. TV on your PC
  2. TV anywhere
  3. Internet telly
  4. TV over IP on your PC
  5. The best time to watch
  6. Mobile TV
  7. Mobile TV, part II
  8. Other options

Where to go to get TV anywhere...

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews

What better way to relax than to curl up in front of a good TV show? PC Advisor explains how you can get your daily fix on your PC, wherever your travels might take you.

Mobile TV

Mobile phones are, of course, the next platform for TV. Virgin's Lobster phone, which launched in 2005, tried to make a go of this but combined a clunky and ugly handset with a limited list of programmes. The content wasn't strictly live, either.

It's also possible to buy TV bundles for your mobile phone as add-ons to your standard monthly contract. These typically cover sport highlights, soaps, news and particular TV series and cost around £5 per month per bundle.

However, in March the EU approved the Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVB-H) platform as the accepted standard for digital TV broadcasts on mobile devices. This cleared the way for a range of devices to launch over here, from the MotorolaTV to the Nokia N96.

As mobile internet devices such as Nokia's N800 internet tablet gather pace, large-screen portable device viewing will also come into its own.

For the time being, here are just a handful of the devices you could be using to watch TV as it's broadcast, on the fly.

AppleTV

AppleTV can play content from your iTunes library through an HDTV. It has its own hard drive and can sync content from a PC, as well as stream media from libraries stored on up to four more computers. It upscales YouTube content and can browse the Flickr online image library.

You can buy music, subscribe to podcasts and buy and rent films and TV programmes from iTunes using the Apple Remote, a fairly fiddly little controller about twice the size of the original iPod shuffle.

To receive HD content – this costs £1 more than standard TV and film content – it's easiest to buy it via the AppleTV box; this way you can get the widescreen version. Programmes and films are expensive, though. And TV content on iTunes is still very limited.

The AppleTV's 160GB hard drive presents a useful way of storing it all, however.

NEXT PAGE: Mobile TV, part II > >

  1. TV on your PC
  2. TV anywhere
  3. Internet telly
  4. TV over IP on your PC
  5. The best time to watch
  6. Mobile TV
  7. Mobile TV, part II
  8. Other options

Where to go to get TV anywhere...

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews

What better way to relax than to curl up in front of a good TV show? PC Advisor explains how you can get your daily fix on your PC, wherever your travels might take you.

Motorola MobileTV DH02

Set for a UK launch this autumn, the MobileTV is a mobile internet access and entertainment device. Some of the entertainment will be provided by mobile network operators in an interactive format, which sounds intriguing.

Navigating the Motorola MobileTV's menus will be a hands-on affair. You'll be able to use your fingers to click, drag and scroll through menu icons to reach mobile TV content. Television and video content will be shown at 25 frames per second on the device's 4.3in display.

Nokia N96

We've had a play with the Nokia N96 (reviewed here), and feel it's an excellent phone and a great successor to the Nokia N95. The reason we cover it here is that its key feature is digital TV.

The screen is nowhere near as large as that of the Motorola MobileTV – the Nokia N96 has a 2.8in screen – but it's comparable to the Apple iPhone's display and, side by side, is a tad lighter, although chunkier. It will also be able to record video footage on its 16GB hard drive, which can be supplemented with an SD memory card.

The Nokia N96 makes use of the newly agreed DVB-H digital TV standard. This is set to become the European standard for mobile digital TV and means you can finally tune in to what you want, when you want, on the move. Hurrah!

NEXT PAGE: Other options > >

  1. TV on your PC
  2. TV anywhere
  3. Internet telly
  4. TV over IP on your PC
  5. The best time to watch
  6. Mobile TV
  7. Mobile TV, part II
  8. Other options

Where to go to get TV anywhere...

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews

What better way to relax than to curl up in front of a good TV show? PC Advisor explains how you can get your daily fix on your PC, wherever your travels might take you.

Other options

Virgin TV On Demand

Rather than bringing TV to your PC, Virgin TV On Demand takes internet content to your TV. It's used as an additional TV platform to access the BBC iPlayer, as well as 4oD.

As part of its TV services, which start at £7 a month, users can access iPlayer by simply pressing the Home button on their Virgin remote control (or the red button when tuned to any BBC channel). Then it's just a case of choosing from more than 350 hours of TV that's been broadcast on any of the BBC channels in the past seven days.

So, whether you want to catch up with the latest happenings in 'EastEnders' or simply feel like reliving a "You're fired!" moment from 'The Apprentice', iPlayer has it all.

Virgin users can also access 4oD through the Channel 4 area in the Catch Up TV function, where they can watch Channel 4 programmes from the past seven days. Classic Channel 4 shows can be found in the TV Choice on Demand function.

Orange


Mobile-phone operator Orange offers its users the chance to watch TV on their mobile, provided they've got a compatible 3G handset and are signed up to one of its subscription packages.

Choose from a wide range of content: terrestrial channels such as Channel 4 and ITV1, dedicated news channels such as CNN, Sky Sports, the Disney channel and music TV channels Kiss and Smash Hits.

Subscription prices range from £5 to £10 per month and offer 1GB of usage, which the mobile-phone operator claims is roughly 20 hours of continuous viewing.

If you don't fancy committing to a monthly subscription, Orange gives you the chance to try a different channel for free each day before you subscribe to the service.

Compatible phones include the Nokia N95, the Sony Ericsson K800i and W880i, the LG Viewty and the HTC P4550.

If you're a fan of watching television on the go but don't want to drag your laptop around with you, Orange's TV on your mobile is an ideal service for you.

  1. TV on your PC
  2. TV anywhere
  3. Internet telly
  4. TV over IP on your PC
  5. The best time to watch
  6. Mobile TV
  7. Mobile TV, part II
  8. Other options

Where to go to get TV anywhere...

Visit Digital World for the latest digital audio, games and home-entertainment news and reviews