Many critics have said that YouView is too little, too late. The combined Freeview HD and on-demand TV service was supposed to launch around years ago, but has suffered from various delays. It officially launched back in July 2012, but BT's YouView box on review here didn't arrive until November.
BT uses the same Humax DTR-T1000 set-top box that you can buy from the shops, but you get an extra menu item: BT Vision. We'll look at this on-demand video service later on.
See also: all digital home reviews
BT YouView: catch-up TV
The main reason to get a YouView box as opposed to a run-of-the-mill Freeview HD recorder is to access catch-up TV services from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. Of course, just about every new TV and set-top box, even Blu-ray players, has an internet portal where you can watch some on-demand video from YouTube, iPlayer and others.
However, what none have managed so far is to combine all the services we've just listed into a coherent interface. That's precisely what YouView is all about.
It lets you watch all broadcasts that are available on-demand from the four main providers from the last seven days. One way to do this is to bring up the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) and scroll back in time until you find what you're looking for. Programmes that are available on-demand have a little play icon so it's obvious what you can and can't watch.
It's very easy to jump to the previous or next day, and the guide itself is one of the best we've seen. It's big, easy to read and shows six channels at once, over a 90-minute period. Navigating is supremely easy thanks to a calendar at the top which shows the day you're viewing, and it's fast at scrolling left and right as you navigate from the beginning to end of the day. There's a handy shortcut to jump back to the current time, which some PVRs lack.
If you don't know when a programme was shown, an easier way to find it is to use the search option from the main menu. This searches everything in one: TV shows yet to be broadcast, on-demand programmes, radio shows and even content available from BT Vision. You can filter results by each of these to narrow the list of results.
You have to enter letters using a mobile phone-style keypad on the remote, but usually the first few letters are sufficient.
Yet another way to browse catch-up TV is by using the Players menu option. You can choose iPlayer for example and use the familiar big-screen interface to browse the BBC's on-demand shows and search within it. Alternatively, you could browse by genre or choose the 'most popular' option to see a list of all catch-up TV ordered by popularity.
If you have young children, you'll particularly appreciate the inclusion of a dedicated Milkshake player for Channel Five. This includes all the popular kids shows and also have pre-made playlists which show episodes back to back. There's even a facility to make your own playlists.
Another extra player is Sky's Now TV. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial, but after this you'll need to pay £15 per month to watch movies. Essentially, it's an alternative to Netflix, Lovefilm and BT Vision's blockbuster services.
BT YouView: the hardware
We've always liked Humax PVRs, and the DTR-T1000 is one of the best yet. It looks sleek with just four touch-sensitive buttons and a large, central power button. At the bottom right is a hidden USB port which has no current use.
Internally there's a 500GB hard disk which is good for recording 300 hours of standard TV shows, or 125 hours of HD programmes. Currently you get four HD channels on Freeview: BBC One HD, ITV HD, Channel 4 HD and BBC HD.
You get an HDMI cable in the box, and that's what most people should use to hook the DTR-T1000 to their TV or home cinema amp. It supports 5.1 Dolby Digital on those channels which provide it. There's also a Scart output if you have an older TV, and even composite video.
Audio-wise, there's optical S/PDIF and stereo phono, if you're not going to take audio via HDMI. You'll also find Ethernet and USB ports, RF in and passthrough sockets, plus a hardware power switch at the rear.
The USB port is for an optional Wi-Fi dongle - it's a shame it isn't built in. However, BT supplies a pair of HomePlug adaptors so you can route an internet connection to the box even if your BT Home Hub isn't nearby. To watch on-demand shows, you'll need a minimum download speed of around 2Mbps, and around 3.5Mbps for HD shows.
By default, the box arrives with an Eco mode enabled. This sounds good, but when you put it into standby mode it takes a couple of minutes to turn back on (2 mins 10 seconds to be precise). That's not practical, so you'll quickly be switching that off and using the quick start-up option which uses a lot of power (16W), but means you have to wait 20-odd seconds instead. Crucially, the super-low-power model means the aerial pass-through doesn't work, so you won't get a signal on your TV unless the DTR-T1000 is on. All-in-all, that's pretty disappointing.
The remote control, on the other hand, is excellent. It's comfortable to hold, perfectly weighted and has just the right number of buttons to give control, but without getting too confusing.