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Is YouView for You?

July 26th, 2012 7 comments

What is YouView?


Wikipedia has an entry on YouView of course, so you can read all about it there, but the long and short of it is:

There was something called Project Kangaroo, which proposed video-on-demand platform offering content from BBC Worldwide, ITV.com and Channel 4′s 4oD that failed on competition grounds. From this Project Canvas was created (whilst Kangaroo turned into SeeSaw) with the same idea of offering on-demand services, internet content, TV and radio (Freeview) all from a set-top box. This venture is a partnership between four broadcasters (BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV) and three communications companies (Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk) and was renamed YouView.

YouView has been Launched!

It was ‘soft’ launched on 4th July 2012, with Humax YouView boxes being shipped out to 2000 trialists or so across the country. Today, 26th July, the Humax YouView boxes are available to buy directly from Humax and from other retailers – just a day before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics!

Is YouView for You?

Is the question of this blog post in which I will attempt to answer, and to do so I will have to nail what this YouView box essentially is. So what is it?

It is essentially a box that allows you to watch the contents offered by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. You can do this already using various devices that can connect to the internet and access iPlayer, ITVplayer, 4OD and Demand5. However, YouView integrates this with live broadcasts viewing and recording from Freeview. No STB on the market at the moment currently offers you this facility. If you had a computer with a Freeview tuner (with recording facility) and internet access to the OD services, then you could say this is what YouView offers.

The question ‘Is the YouView content worth an extra £50′ has been asked in the forums (here), and this question supposes that the YouView box is just a Humax HDR FOX T2 with the added OD content access. My answer to this question is ‘yes’ if the PVR facilities of this YouView box is the same as the FOX T2. But of course, the YouView box’s Freeview recording facilities and features are not going to be anywhere as rich as they are on the FOX T2 – a quick read of the DTR-T1000 FAQ’s will reveal this!

So who is YouView for?

I would say it would be perfect for people who (1) do not have a Freeview recorder, and (2) have no means of accessing OD content otherwise (e.g. via a computer or a smart TV) and would like to record their TV programmes and catch-up on those they’ve missed, and (3) for those (parents and grandparents) who are less technically capable of doing this by other means.

Conclusion

If you currently watch a lot of OD content, say from iPlayer, or from the other major broadcasters, and would like to be able to do this in the lounge on your big TV screen and Series Record your regular soaps and other programmes on Freeview, and don’t want to mess about with computer set-ups, then this is the box for you. It is also a box to purchase for your elderly relatives – you just set it up once, show then how to use it and it should be ‘support’ free.

I am sure the box and service won’t be perfect at launch but hopefully, because Humax are involved, then bugs will get fixed and new services will be added and improved.

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Humax and Harmony Remotes

May 24th, 2011 4 comments

The remote controls that come with the Humax boxes are nothing exciting. True, the recent ones for the PVRs are quite useful with the ability to control other boxes with the device specific buttons at the very top. True, they are far better than remotes that come with other PVRs and TVs. But they could be a lot better.

In this post, I will explore the Harmony 300 and 700 remote controls from Logitech… and show you how to set them up for your PVR/TV system.

Harmony have been replacing their low-end remotes (the 515, 525, 555, etc) with remotes with the similar style and shape as the Harmony One. The Harmony 300 is the lowest of the low range and only has one ‘activity’, but controls 4 devices. (The Harmony 300i is a gloss-black version of the matt black 300.)

The Logitech’s Harmony remote is designed to work on an ‘activity’ basis; the remote control sends individual commands to the system components on the user’s behalf to configure them for the activity that the user selects.

Your standard Universal remote (including Humax own – supplied with the HDR-FOX T2 and FOXSAT-HDR) controls one device at a time. With each device you wish to control, you need to press the device specific switch button. You need to remember what device you have switched the remote to, before you use it or press the specific device button to make sure you are controlling right one. This can be confusing for kids and annoying for older users.

Harmony 300
The new, but most basic, Harmony remote is the 300. It only has one ‘activity’, which is the ‘Watch TV’ one, and you control the 4 devices by pressing the corresponding control buttons. So you pay for what you get, and at £15, but I suppose it can compete with the other universal remotes out there on the market. It can control 4 devices, and with Harmony’s extensive database, it can potentially support any device you might have.

The ‘Watch TV’ activity seems to be all decisive on this basic remote with little room for configuration. You can certainly get it to choose the correct TV input for the STB you wish to use that to watch TV, but the TV set has to support direct input selection. I initially set up the remote for my Sony TV which did not have the direct input selection, but choosing the next model that did, fixed this for me. The remote seems to have asso auto setup the volume control, deciding that since I did not have an amplifier or AV receiver, that the volume was via the TV. I assume that if I had one of my 4 devices as an amp, then it would use that.

In the main this basic model seem to work well, although the kid did give up after a while since the ‘Watch TV’ activity did not work 100% of the time, and there is no ‘Help’ button to rectify the problem when it does go wrong like the other Harmonies. I also found that although most of the buttons feel like the more expensive ones, the OK and directional controls are different and work less well – they being separate button instead of a 4-way or 5-way rocker type of button. That said, this 300 does have two extra buttons that the 700 does not, the List and Live button in the centre.

Harmony 700
I had a Harmony 525 previously, and this lasted me at least 5 years. But like any other well used and abused device, it started giving up the ghost. The buttons got less responsive – some did not work! – and then the display died! It was then time I got it replaced – and another Harmony it had to be. I had been following the Harmony One for a long time, but gave up the idea of getting this for two reasons: 1, it was very expensive; and 2, it did not have the coloured buttons – necessary to use with Humax PVRs.

So when the new range came into existence, I followed these, and things were looking up when they came out with the same shaped as the Harmony One and they had coloured buttons (in the middle too!) Although, still quite expensive, I could think of it as an investment… But looking closely at the specifications, I was disappointed to see these new models could only control a few – max of 8 – devices! My 525 could control 15!

Well, I was put off by this, until I read that if you were to upgrade from another Harmony, the 700 could actually take across ALL the devices from your old remote. So I jumped and bought the 700 to replace my dead 525.

When I got it and started to set it up, I found this was partially true. It does take all the devices across, but it depends on how much memory you are/were using to whether the remote will let you use them or the others!

With regards to using the remote – and just like any other Harmony remote, it is very fiddly to set up. But once you’ve gained the patience, and have the time to suss out how it works and behave, it is a marvel to use.

There have been a few subtle changes and improvements to these Harmony remotes which improves their use and set up. The 700 is also far superior to my 525, with the weight and buttons being made better for action and wear. This remote comes with re-chargeable batteries (AA) and was an adaptor and USB cable for charging. All the buttons are perfectly laid out and feels balanced for single hand usage.

Buy Harmony remotes from Amazon.co.uk:

£15 for a Harmony 300, £25 for a Harmony 300i, £43 for a Harmony 600, and £64 for a Harmony 650.

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