Better late than never: YouView is here. The Humax DTR-1000, with twin tuners and a hearty 500GB hard drive, is the world's first set top box to run the new service, which merges all the catch-up services from the nation's leading broadcasters into one slick interface. All you need is a broadband connection and presto, it's PVR 2.0. YouView was originally planned for 2010 though, and suffered from delays. Two years on, with games consoles and Blu-ray players doing double duty as smart TV boxes, has it been worth the wait?
Specs-wise, the Humax DTR-1000 is a perfectly ordinary set top box: its 500GB hard drive will stash more HD recordings than you could feasibly watch in several rainy weekends, and twin tuners mean you can record one channel while watching another (or two simultaneously while watching catch up).
The hardware is, as you'd expect from Humax, top quality. The remote, usually cheap and tacky with Freeview boxes, is solid and glossy. It feels like a lot of love has been poured into the whole product. It also proudly displays a badge proclaiming its British heritage, and a giant Union Jack on the side of the packaging.
That’s good but not groundbreaking. But YouView really has been worth the wait. There’s no denying that the Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 have become serious entertainment boxes beyond games in the last two years, with the addition of every major terrestrial broadcaster’s catch up service. But they’re all walled off from each other: try getting your gran to figure out their individual kinks and controls.
YouView however, merges them all together into one slick EPG. BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD
and Demand 5 are all there and searchable - Sky's NowTV is on the way too. It achieves the near impossible: it blends a bunch of proprietary on-demand players with a single, sensible UI. You can search for on-demand content across all providers without ever leaving the YouView menu, and the whole experience is incredibly solid.
In fact, it's friendly too. If something's taking a while to load, you'll see messages like "loading..." pop up, followed by "nearly there...". This is on-demand, web-enabled TV that your mum could use. Chances are, she might not even realise that she's using a web-connected TV, and that’s a very good thing indeed.
We can barely fault the software on the Humax DTR-1000. It can only be improved, not fixed: we can’t wait to see what sort of second screen experiences can be woven into YouView.
But for all its ease of use, the box does have its limitations. Despite a USB port on the front, you can't play any videos from a memory stick, as you can with most new video players and set top boxes. There's also no option to push video, images or music to the box over your home network, which seems like a bit of an oversight in the age of AirPlay.
There’s also the issue of connecting the Humax DTR-1000 to the web. The current model doesn’t have Wi-Fi built in, so we hope your TV is next to your router, because otherwise you’re going to have to faff around trying to set up powerline adaptors. And that’s not quite as simple as pressing play, like the rest of YouView is.
The bottom line
The big name shows you search for might be American, but for once, we Brits can be proud: We've built a free TV service to beat all others. Yes, it may be missing Netflix and all of Samsung’s ropey TV apps, but the Humax DTR-1000 is the best example of a true smart TV we’ve seen yet, simply because it works.
Of course, £239 is a big asking point, but if you’re after a new PVR, and not one that does double duty playing Call of Duty, this is the best there is.