Like everyone I had wondered what exactly was on Britbox that was worth remembering. When I started the month’s free trial I found things I had never watched for a variety of reasons and now with more hours in the day as you cannot go to the cinema or the pub or in my case to my favourite music gigs I started delving into its content.
While I had originally watched some of the later series of Downton Abbey those I did watch were only via my video recorder as all commercial channels are a ‘No No’ for me to watch live. I started with series one which were slightly shorter than later series at only around 45 minutes when there are no adverts to cut out.
The Manhattan SX Freesat HD set top box is a very convenient way for those who have a suitable satellite dish to access the wide range of Freesat TV channels.
As the Freesat transmissions come from a satellite located in the same orbital position as those from Sky, a redundant Sky dish (as long as it is working correctly, has not been used for Sky Q, and is still correctly in situ) will provide access to all the Freesat channels so as to provide, as it says on the SX box, “Subscription Free Satellite TV”. (Sky Q uses a different LNB (low noise block) which is the small receiving unit mounted on the arm attached to a satellite dish.
I received this unit four months ago only to find nothing I had was compatible. I consulted the list and eventually I got something that worked with it; ironically this was the first iPad to pass over my desk, me being a confirmed Android person.
The TabletTV portable tuner has been designed for use when you are out and about. On first use you have to answer that you are in possession of a UK TV Licence. It consists of a 9x5x1cm box that has a tiny three piece 15cm rod aerial at one end, the other end has a micro USB port to charge the units battery, there is a micro USB to USB cable supplied.
A small box that allows you to beam your TV signal anywhere across your Network, it can work with Windows, MAC, Android or even Linux. So once connected you should be able to view your TV signal aerial or cable anywhere in your home.
The instructions consist of a single sheet, attach your aerial the supplied Ethernet cable and the DC power brick lead. The unit should now be showing green then download the software from the link supplied. If all is well it will discover the box and then find sixty or so Freeview TV channels. The first system I tried worked perfectly it was a Windows 8.1 desktop machine via Wi-Fi and everything worked as it should using the default software.
Recently my late evening television viewing habits have changed. The reason for this has been the arrival of the Amazon Fire TV Stick product. This piece of kit consists of the Fire TV Stick device, USB lead and power adapter, remote control with AAA batteries and a HDMI extender cable.
The Fire TV Stick, with dimensions of 75 x 25 x 10mm (H x W x D), has the appearance of a flash drive on steroids. Driving this device is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8064 quad-core processor that is rated at 1.7GHz and backed up by an Adreno 320GPU delivering 1080p output at up 60fps. There is 1GB of memory and 8GB of flash storage. Dual band Wi-Fi is built in along with Bluetooth 4 and support for Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound.
This is very like the Roku Stick, somewhat like Chromecast, but as it is far cheaper than either it would be better, however it also has a lot more features and has another huge plus it is from Amazon so how can it be anything but a big hit.
Of course Amazon are not a benevolent organization and once you have the fireTV Stick the front screen will offer you the chance to download lots of videos and even some ‘Amazon Only’ series, a lot of which are free if you take out a Prime Video subscription, they even offer you a free month to check it out. The stick is 8.5cm long with the last centimetre being the HDMI connection so will not be visible when connected. It is 2.5cm wide and 1cm thick.
With the amount of available content, either free or subscription based, you might need help to access it. This next product could help.
The Roku Streaming Stick, as it name might imply, is a product for adding streaming capabilities to a device. In this case it is your television set. Resembling one of the original flash sticks, the purple coloured Roku Streaming Stick has body dimensions of 70 x 25 x 10mm (L x W x D) and simply slots into a HDMI port of your television set.
Smart TV sets these days are Internet-connected, offer a bewildering variety of programme channels you've never heard of, and can also connect to your LAN to play your music tracks, show your holiday photos and run your home movies. But what if you're perfectly happy with your old, non-smart TV, but fancy getting your hands on these features?
Here comes the Roku Streaming Stick to the rescue. For around £50 it promises to upgrade the IQ of your dumb TV and bring it into line with the latest fashion. But how good a job does it actually make of this?
The device itself closely resembles a large USB memory stick. But instead of using a USB connector it plugs directly into a spare HDMI socket on the back of your television set. It also requires extra power, which is supplied through a microUSB socket that you can connect to the mains, using the mains power adapter Roku supplies, or to any conveniently nearby USB socket.
The PCTV T2 290e Nanostick supports both ordinary Freeview and Freeview HD. Connected via a USB2 port it is a convenient way of adding TV and PVR facilities to a PC. Being both small and light it is ideal for those with limited space who would like their PC to double up as a TV and as a PVR.
The kit, which is designed for light weight and portability, consists of the receiver, remote control, a simple telescopic rod antenna and the installation disc the total weight of which weigh less than 200g. The receiver itself is a somewhat bulky USB stick 6cm long. It is connected to a USB port on the computer using the provided special 34cm cable which has a metallic braid screening. At the opposite end to the USB connector there is the micro-coaxial antenna connector.
Having reviewed TV recording devices from early VHS tape devices through most other methods including those using external memory sticks and hard drives this still came as a shock because of the units sheer lack of size.
This is a Freeview + HD box with a 500GB recording unit inside and the quality to include Dolby Digital Plus sound. It is 27x20x1cm, yes the thickness is just one centimetre. With cables inserted in the rear the depth becomes 25cm. You are totally reliant on the remote control as the unit itself has a single on/standby button with an LED beside it. The rear is where the connections are, Aerial Out, Aerial In, HDMI out, Ethernet, two USB and finally the DC input.
It has been quite a while since I last looked at a Hauppauge television tuner. Now the company has added WiFi capability to a two-tuner device for around the world access.
Co-incidentally on the day I started to check out the various items that make up this next piece of kit, the Internet was full of reports on Super Storm Sandy and the havoc it wrecked on New York with areas underwater. I mention this as a kind of tenuous connection between a popular New York landmark of Broadway and the title of the next product under review which is Broadway 2T from Hauppauge.
Fancy viewing UK TV anywhere in the world? Fancy viewing live TV anywhere in your home even when the aerial is nowhere near -? Want to record but not use the PVR in or near your TV? All these things are more are possible with the PCTV Broadway 2T.
On opening the package I find the Broadway box, its power adapter, an Ethernet cable, a tiny portable aerial and a couple of bits of paper to cover wall mounting – should you wish – the Broadway box and the usual health and safety stuff, no instructions, no CD. So then its look more closely at the outside of the box to find three things to do. Unbelievably they work and I can watch TV remotely using my Wireless router to output the signal.
All you need is a USB port and an aerial then you can watch TV or even record programs anywhere. In theory the supplied mini aerial will be enough but that depends on the reception in the area that you are viewing from.
The PCTV Nano Stick just a USB stick with a connector on the end for an aerial lead, plug in to your PC or Notebook and install the software on the supplied CD and let it search for channels. Certainly I would initially use a roof or loft aerial to find the maximum number of channels, in my case it found 110, once tuned then – dependant on location – the mini aerial supplied may be enough. The receiver is 7x2.4x1.
PCTV are part of Hauppauge who have been making TV cards to fit into PCs for many years. Of course with notebooks the solution had to be USB, here something that works on PC, Android (2.2 or later) and iPhone and iPad as well as the iPod Touch.
Why would you walk round your house watching TV on an ‘i’ anything, of course you probably would not, but from a Wi-Fi hotspot this could be very acceptable and not only does it work in the UK but anywhere in the world via your own router and the Internet. So the PCTV is far more than just a simple wireless enabled TV box. It is 12x14.5x4cm, which has two aerials that can add another 11cm to the last figure the height of the PCTV unit.
This is a company owned by Hauppauge who were one of the first to produce TV cards in the UK. Of course with more notebooks sold than desktops you need a USB stick and not a PC Card, so is this what we all now need?
I have reviewed a few other USB sticks but always although the aerial connection has been the same performance has been less than sparkling. So would this unit fail to shine or would a manufacturer has got things right. The USB stick/receiver is 8x2x1.5cm with the aerial adapter inserted in the end. The only possible problem is with USB ports stacked on top of each other where you may require an extender lead (supplied) to make all ports available.
This is the latest offering from TVonics, the 500GB machine has what some would describe as a bare interface with the front showing up to three pin hole LEDs these appear in different combinations of red and green.
The TVonics DTR-Z500HD measures 18cm long by 22cm deep (with cables inserted) and it's 7cm tall. The unit is black and the corners are rounded off. It is totally controlled by the remote – so don’t lose it – the only connection on the front is a USB socket.
Having looked at an earlier model (not HD) this was an eagerly awaited arrival. Very different in size and shape. My first check was the pass-through and that performed correctly, is this to be the unit I have been looking for?
The TVonics DTR-500HD measures 37x20x9cm but the last figure the height is only 3cm at the front. For me anyway that creates a possible problem. Tuning takes around three minutes mine found 72 TV 23 Radio and 11 Data channels. As with most such units almost everything is controlled from the remote control. Here a 52 key model that of course contains the ubiquitous five position joystick. As always various major buttons are in differing places but once used to the layout it’s easy enough.
Although not a particular TV addict there are times when it's good to be able to tune in. This
natty little USB receiver from AVerMedia allows you to so do while on the move.
The AVerMedia Volar HD Pro is the size of a traditional USB memory stick. One end has a standard USB plug while the other has a standard TV aerial socket. Included with the receiver are a small dual rod antenna, remote control, quick installation guide and CD containing the tuner and video recording software (PVR). Signal strength in our area isn't great however I have to report very little success with the built in aerial.
Like most of us I have little luck in raffles of draws but I was lucky enough to win this in a draw at a recent event. Its a tiny TV receiver that fits into a USB port on a laptop, Netbook or PC however you do need to be running Windows 7.
In its simplest form it also comes with a tiny rod aerial, or another slightly larger is also supplied and there is even an adapter that allows you to fit a standard aerial connection to the unit, however for the first two options everything can fit in a pocket or bug with ease. Of course if I had had it earlier then you could have purchased one for the World Cup or Wimbledon but being so small whatever the event in late summer or autumn it will probably do the job.
HD TV down your aerial is now possible, some people do not want it with a PVR and this solution from Humax is one such option. So currently apart from all the standard definition stations channels 50-52 are HD channels.
The Humax HD-FOXT2 is 27x20x4cm but the middle figure the depth will need 5cm added to insert a standard SCART plug in. It has a 57 key remote that for most will need some explaining as it tries to cover items not included and also futureproofing as well as current use. The 16 page Quick Star Guide should get most up and running. The 92 page User Guide starts by repeating the Quick Start Guide but when you delve further you should get your answers.