TVCatchup has been available via your browser for sometime, and better still, is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch. TVCatchup for iPad, available via ipad.tvcatchup.com and currently in beta, brings the online streaming TV service to Apple's popular tablet device. The move is a welcome one as TV watching benefits from the larger iPad screen.
TVCatchup consists of around 40 TV channels, similar to Freeview, only with the addition of some variations of Movies4Men, a cheap and cheerful channel devoted to mostly low budget B movies. You'll need to sign up and login to view the channels but generally the iPad remembers your password if you're a regular viewer.
The iPad version includes a very basic EPG showing the programme currently being broadcast and when it started. This is useful as TVCatchup offers +1 versions of channels, such as Film4+1, so you can always wait a while if you have missed the start of a favourite film or show.
Beyond the EPG, things look pretty similar to the iPhone version, with viewing a real hit-and-miss affair. As the name suggests, streaming is slightly delayed compared to Freeview, Sky and Virgin, sometimes by a few seconds, sometimes by minutes.
Sadly, you need a UK-based IP address, or the ability to fake one, to watch due to copyright restrictions. There is also a question over whether you need a TV licence or not, something debated in the useful TVCatchup forums.
Apparent bugs can make viewing problematic, with 'pre-roll' adverts loading but no content, or occasionally no video but audio or vice versa. Sometimes content simply won't load and you're left with TVCatchup's version of Apple's dreaded spinning beach ball. Refreshing the browser can help resolve this, and the company recommends you check your bandwidth when problems persist.
While generally streaming over a home Wi-Fi network produced watchable results, 3G viewing was hard work. Trying to view an old episode of On The Buses on ITV3, in the middle of a sleepless night in Hull, required the iPad to be held at arm's length while in bed. 3G users should also note streaming TV will quickly eat into your data allowance, especially those who have opted for an internet pay-as-you-go iPad deal.
TVCatchup for iPad beta: pros and cons
Pros: Great idea, good range of channels, potentially solid streaming sound and vision, limited but useful EPG, shows when channels are off-air, good TVCatchup forum support
Cons: Picture can appear soft and blurry, image quality suffers on larger iPad screen, some channels simply don't load, additional 'pre-roll' ads, potential TV licensing grey area, not available outside UK
Next page: Our expert verdict >>