TalkTalk YouView: The box
A very appealing thing about YouView is that TalkTalk will give you the box for free, although you have to pay a £50 fee for an engineer to install it. If you have an old router like we did, this will be upgraded for free. The only catch is that you need to be on TalkTalk's more expensive Plus package which costs £15.50 per month (not including line rental).
When compared with services like Sky and Virgin Media this is pretty cheap. TalkTalk Plus includes broadband and phone.
The box itself (made by Huawei) is good looking with one curved corner giving it a unique style. Build quality is distinctly plastic, though. A set of three lights in keeping with TalkTalk's blue and purple colour schemer sit on the front. The middle indicates power and when a show is being recorded, all three pulse in order.
A 500GB hard drive allows you to record two programmes at the same time. You can also watch a pre-recorded show while two are recording or access the on-demand features since they are streamed from the internet. Up to 74 Freeview channels are available including HD channels.
As you would expect you can choose to record a single episode or an entire series where appropriate. The YouView box will handily tell you if a programme or series is available in HD.
Physical ports include both HDMI and SCART outputs which means it doesn't matter if you have a new or old TV.
TalkTalk Youview: TV Boosts
TalkTalk's YouView service is largely the same as BT's. However, where BT offers its BT Vision service, TalkTalk has its own offering in TalkTalk Player which has its own button on the remote control. This allows users to optionally purchase extra bundles called TV Boosts costing between £5 and £30 per month.
There's a good selection on offer with the cheapest just adding a few channels from Sky. We tried out the entertainment boost for £10 per month which added both live and on-demand programming including Sky 1, Comedy Central, Fox, Gold and Discovery Channel.
If you have more money to splash then you can also opt for ESPN, Sky Movies and Sky Sports for £10, £15 and £30 respectively. This is one area where TalkTalk Player has one up on the BT version.
The main problem with the added channels is they are streamed via the internet and cannot be recorded onto the hard drive like regular Freeview. You'll need a 5Mbps broadband speed to stream the extra channels smoothly.
The TalkTalk Player is easily accessed via a large central button on the remote. However, it's a shame that the TV Boost channels are shown in a separate EPG to the regular YouView Freeview. It feels like you have two set-top boxes in one.
TalkTalk YouView: Remote control and app
A remote control is an important element for a Freeview box and the TalkTalk YouView comes with a pretty decent one. Buttons are easy to reach, spaced nicely apart and the device fits well in the hand.
One thing we couldn't understand is why the page up and page down buttons are place right at the bottom of the controller. These are used a lot to browse the EPG so should be placed with more importance. Even stranger is the fact that we eventually discovered that the channel up and down buttons do the same job.
As well as the remote control there is an app which you can download. It’s a shame that this is only available for iPhone at the moment. It shows you the EPG like it would be displayed on your TV screen and you can even send requests to the box for recordings.