back to article Four tuner frenzy: The all-you-can-EEat TV Freeview PVR

Television's a lot smarter than it used to be, and there's an ever-increasing number of ways that the basic experience can be enhanced, whether it's by providing extra Over-The-Top (OTT) content with services such as Netflix, or convenient features, such as the ability to set recordings when you're out and about, using text …

  1. Tom Wood

    Doesn't work with any broadband

    I took my EE TV box into work to show to some colleagues (I work in the digital TV sector). At work, the EE box complained that it wasn't connected to my home broadband, and deactivated all the on-demand and networking features (live TV and recordings worked OK, but streaming to the mobile app did not). It also popped up some error message which hinted it would only work for a limited time without connection to EE's network.

    (I worked around this for demonstration purposes by connecting it to a router at work which was connected by a layer 2 VPN to a raspberry pi at home, making it look to the box as if it was connected to my home broadband. )

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: Doesn't work with any broadband

      The replay feature is slightly better than described in the article.

      It basically works by recording the entire multiplex for the PSB1 and PSB2 multiplexes. Any channel on that multiplex has a "start over" button, meaning if you tune in late you can restart the current programme from the beginning. From those multiplexes you can select up to six channels and it will keep those recordings for 24 hours (or so, it seems to be a little longer on our box), whereas the other channels on those two muxes will only be kept until the end of the current programme.

      This is actually surprisingly useful and gives a good selection of content ready to watch straight from the guide.

      The downside is not being able to record (well, save the recording) for one of the replay shows. If the show is still running, you can select record and it will save the whole thing, but once it has run its course the recording will be lost after the 24 hour period.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Doesn't work with any broadband

      I suspect this is probably down to the fact that it had previously been activated on EE broadband. Certainly, it worked without a glitch on my own non-EE service when I was testing it (but perhaps they made allowances on the review kit). I do know from an EE source that they can tell when the box has been turned on, so they may deliberately check if the box has previously been used via a specific ISP.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Doesn't work with any broadband

        I've amended that section of the article to reflect the updates here.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Soon to be redundant?

    If BT Buy EE then this box will soon be consigned to landfill because everyone will be upgraded to Infinity.

    Or BT might buy O2?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Soon to be redundant?

      Well, yes; that is the big question. Had this come out a few years back, it would have looked pretty amazing, but as I said in the review, it's fallen in an odd space bewteen YouView and Freeview Connect, and if EE were to be snapped up by someone else who already has a TV service, you'd probably worry whether or not it has a long term future.

  3. Graham 24

    Generous Space?

    Since the retail price difference between a 1TB drive and a 2TB drive is about £25, and the cost of the contract over 18 months is about £460, 1TB of space hardly seems "generous".

    No mention of extending storage with an external device, so I assume that's not possible either.

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: Generous Space?

      It's a 2.5 inch (laptop sized) hard disk, not a 3.5" one.

      The £460 covers broadband and landline costs too...it's a pretty good deal.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Generous Space?

      Generous not necessarily in financial terms, but regarding the amount of telly you can store. My main Freeview PVR has a third of that storage, yet still manages to hold a backlog of worthy programmes with subtitles that is likely to take me months to get through.

  4. Wokstation

    Can you change the order of the channels? Can on my aging Humax, how about on this?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      No, sorry - the best you can do is list them by category/genre, but you that's it.

  5. The Onymous Coward

    This seems to me to be a step in the right direction. Why implement video on demand using millions of separate video streams, necessitating huge server capacity, massive bandwidth etc, when there are already existing mechanisms of broadcasting the content which can then be stored locally?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      This is the first box to do this in the UK, at least on the high street, but I recall there was a Japanese one that did the same thing, across all muxes, and possibly a BBC R&D project.

      On the face of it, it's a neat idea - but to cover everything, you'd need seven tuners now, in areas where the temporary HD mux is available. And what happens if another mux is launched? You'd have a subset of channels that can't be recorded, which would confuse users.

      The EE box manages 24 hours, across a selection of channels. If you were to do it for every channel, on every mux, for even 7 days, you'd need a lot more storage. To get up to the 30 days now offered by iPlayer, you'd need even more, and the cost of the boxes would likely go up a fair bit.

      At some point, you're throwing quite a lot of extra money at each receiver, compared to the cost of a dumber one with no local storage. If that money were spent instead on upgrading the UK's broadband, it might make quite a difference. Plucking a figure from the air, you might well have the equivalent of over £100 per subscriber to spend on infrastructure.

      Of course, the problem there is that the people saving the money (the broadband providers) aren't necessarily the ones who need to invest in the infrastructure, because the crucial parts of that are owned by BT Openreach. Because competition. Yay!

      Nevertheless, it's a reasonable point - and perhaps hybrid systems where, for example, a few days catch up is stored locally on a disk and anything further back comes from the net, may well hit a sweet spot. It would be interesting to know the metrics, for instance, of how long after broadcast most programmes peak on services like iPlayer. Shifting some of that burden to the local device could be a stop-gap pending probably infrastructure upgrades.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "The EE box manages 24 hours, across a selection of channels. If you were to do it for every channel, on every mux, for even 7 days, you'd need a lot more storage. To get up to the 30 days now offered by iPlayer, you'd need even more, and the cost of the boxes would likely go up a fair bit."

        Sounds like an ideal situation for a P2P network of PVRs. Each box records a selection and shares it out over a P2P network. It won't take all that many subscribers to store all channels for 30 days and with enough subscribers, each users upload bandwidth should be low enough to be manageble. Preference for peers to connect to could be given to those on the same exchange.

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Well, if the idea is to use local storage rather than upgrade the network, I'm not sure that would work brilliantly. While I can get 15/16Mbps downstream, my upstream is only 0.6 - admittedly I'm on aluminium rather than copper, but probably not even 500 metres from the exchange. You'd have to limit the peer sharing quite substantially to make sure it didn't impact on my downstream (as can be see when the wretched iDevices bork everything as they upload to iCloud).

          You may also need some technical tweaks to the copyright rules; the exemption allowing recording at home is "for timeshifting" and explicitly precludes "a library for repeat viewing", which is almost exactly what would be created here.

          While it may indeed be a rather archaic description that hangs over from the days of the VCR, and something ordinary punters won't worry about, it would very likely exercise the minds of a company's legal department, if they wanted to create a system based on something like this.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "it would very likely exercise the minds of a company's legal department, if they wanted to create a system based on something like this."

            Oh yes, I'm sure you are right. They could start by using the distributed storage to duplicate the contents of the current catchup services such as iPlayer and since in many cases, such as Sky and VM, the supplier controls the box and so can restrict the access to the programs in line with the current T&Cs/licensing already in place. After all not only do iPlayer and their ilk already use distributed caching systems such Akamai, but according to a recent arcticle on VMs system, VM use some distributed caching at the headends. This, in an initial phase at least, would simply be moving the cache onto the customers STBs. Virgin in particular are probably in the best postion to make something like this work since they can push updates out to the entire userbase meaning the number of peers will be very large right from the start. That alone ought to minimise the upload bandwidth usage.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Mythtv

    Alternatively build a box to run Mythtv. A Hauggauge card has 2 tuners per card. Plug in as many as you think the motherboard can handle and add as much disk as you please.

    1. future research

      Re: Mythtv

      You only need 2 dvb-t2 tuners and 5 dvb-t to record everything, but I have no idea how to watch that much stuff. I have recordings going back to 2004 on my mythtv setup with only 2 tuners. Currently 1.6 TB used and a watch time of 1 month 13 days 7 hrs 23 mins

      1. kevjs

        Re: Mythtv

        You'd need 6 DVB-T tuners for all the services here, and a third DVB-T2 one in parts of Northern Ireland...

        The EE TV box works fine for SD content but has too many audio issues with the HD channels (playing recordings only) and long you tube videos. Shame replay TV is so limited, have access to ask those channels via the now TV box, recoding Dave and Notts tv would be more useful...

    2. se99paj

      Re: Mythtv

      I second Mythtv - been running mine for years and its been great.

      Mind you this device installed with Mythtv would be great, probably cheaper than building one yourself and you can have multiple devices in each room sharing storage. But I doubt EE would ever let that happen.

    3. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Mythtv

      While I would have upvoted this not even a Six Months ago.

      This fails on Two counts...

      1) Its not Linux VDR.Which kicks the Analog / DVB-T ONLY MythTV in the Nutz. TBF though, my Stichk was in DVB-S2 though.

      2) And, mor importantly here is the cost to run a hugh beast of a HTPC ca.~450W+. As opposed to something like the Review Unit that can do the same. Or, damn well near enough of the same Jobs as that HTPC with a micro-fraction of the Power consumed.

      That's why I finally ditched the HTPC for One those China XBMC Boxes. A Fritzbox Wall Wart with a Built-in DVB-C Tunner to IP. Has both the Box, and my Phablets covers. And, I could care less if the run Day or Night now.

      1. Monty Burns

        Re: Mythtv

        Not sure about MythTV but this little box doesn't come anywhere close to Windows Media Center, 4 tuners, CAD/CAM implementation decoding 4 channels of glorious Sky HD, which of course then also links through to ALL the online players via IE shortcuts within MCE. Let's also not forget the unlimited network sharing of a simple media file.

        I'll gladly take the hit on a 450w PSU (and did!) for all that functionality... and in fact, all this functionality is about the ONLY thing I miss about living in the UK.

        Anyone know how to get a Middle East OSN subscription in to MCE? :(

        Such a shame it was a b*tch to setup the card emulation and decoding or, it might have become much more popular!

        1. Michael Habel Silver badge

          Re: Mythtv

          Not sure about MythTV but this little box doesn't come anywhere close to Windows Media Center, 4 tuners, CAD/CAM implementation decoding 4 channels of glorious Sky HD, which of course then also links through to ALL the online players via IE shortcuts within MCE. Let's also not forget the unlimited network sharing of a simple media file.

          I'll gladly take the hit on a 450w PSU (and did!) for all that functionality... and in fact, all this functionality is about the ONLY thing I miss about living in the UK.

          Anyone know how to get a Middle East OSN subscription in to MCE? :(

          Such a shame it was a b*tch to setup the card emulation and decoding or, it might have become much more popular!

          No clue abut the CAD/CAM stuff. That kind of stuff is to niche and perhaps to specialised for Linux.

          But, if your just into simple crap like DVB-C / S / S2 or T. Then (Linux) VDR would be the way to go!

          As you could run OSCam off your Linux Router (e.g. Fritzbox), and decode to every Device on the Network.

          Given that your also asking about International TV. It seems to me that you should take some time to look into XBMC / Kodi. As its capable of tapping into hundreds of real-time Streams from the World Over.

          Its how I'm keeping up with most of the Programs out ta the US these Days.

          Its also great at keeping up with BBCs 1~4, now that the Satellite coverage has shrunk to a point where I'm no longer able to view it.

          So I don't morn the loss of that HTPC at all...

          BTW Windows Media Center really?!? ' Cause that's an even harder fail the MythTV. For strictly TV.

          1. Monty Burns

            Re: Mythtv

            When I was doing this, XBMC couldn't use TV tuners, let alone CAD/CAM emulation.

            Btw, the same decryption key and viewing card could also be used across the network with this solution.

            As for "BTW Windows Media Center really?!? ' Cause that's an even harder fail .." it's a matter of choice. I think XBMC looks like a child's toy and is in no way as professional looking as MC but, that's MY opinion and is not everyone else's.

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Interesting...

    ... but not the box I'm looking for.

    One day the right hardware will emerge that allows aggregation from several providers but this isn't it.

  8. MrWibble

    Interface

    I hate the big boxes of images... Can recordings /replay stuff be put into a text list instead?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Interface

      Sorry, no luck with that. There are no options other than those shown on screen. I've just had a good rummage in the settings for you.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    buy stuff

    Its funny that freeview has nothing to do with the internet but people have been conditioned to think its all 'connected' and you need to buy some sort of package.

    All part of the plan to shut of TV broadcasts and ration content out like a utility that can be shut off if you cant pay.

    I have a 90% full up 2 tuner pvr. You will never catch up with everything you have in your library unless you are stephen hawkings in between theories.

  10. Ali on the Reg

    Excellent. Now I can record even more crap I will never get round to watching.

  11. FlossyThePig

    Wuaki.tv?

    I'm confused! Their website states:

    We are deeply sorry but Wuaki.tv is not available in your country.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Wuaki.tv?

      I think that must be your IP / the info relating to it in whatever database Wuaki are using for geolocation.

      http://uk.wuakit.tv works just fine for me here - I get directed there automatically.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That EE box design, looks like something Amstrad would have churned out in the early 1990s.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      to be fair...

      EE/orange/wannadoo's first broadband box came with a note on the second ethernet port of webtv and mentioned it buried in admin area. (only changed over from it as I moved and switched to vdsl and their new shiny router)

  13. Nigel Whitfield.

    BT to buy EE

    Well, this is going to be interesting... I wonder how many of these they have sitting in a warehouse. And whether they'll end up having services like BT Sport added to them.

    Perhaps in years to come, these will end up being as much a novelty as a HomeChoice box.

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: BT to buy EE

      Well it's a better box (from a hardware perspective) than BT's YouView box. Presumably BT's software could be ported to it, or some hybrid of the two. Possibly this could become the hybrid box you hinted at above?

      But, I hope the sale to BT doesn't go through. I've been a long-standing T-mobile (and now EE) mobile customer, and only moved to EE broadband when O2 sold their broadband business to Sky. There is a reason I haven't signed contracts with Sky or BT and I'd rather not be forced into it...

  14. RDW
    Thumb Down

    No 4od / ITVplayer is a bit of a dealbreaker. Even a £10 Now TV box has the full set of UK catchup services...

  15. JDX Gold badge

    Great techy ideals, typical techy implementation?

    This sounds the exact reason Apple is able to do so well. Put the same functionality in a prettier box with an interface that just works and laugh to the bank.

  16. Barry Mahon

    EPG is slow to load

    .... especially if your trying to get the Cheltenham races in December.... ;)

  17. a well wisher

    Another good try from Netgem

    Netgem have had a number of good outings in the freeview arena usually ahead of the curve , there was the original Netgem freeview box with full wireless keyboard, then later the quite popular Tesco HD pvr from Fetch TV which was a re-badged netgem unit/software - but Fetch folded killing that box ( can't remember exact cause now)

    Netgen : always the best man but never the groom and if BT buy EE the same may happen again -

  18. Tezfair
    FAIL

    EE BB

    I enquired online into EE broadband a few weeks ago but because i'm outside EE's area they cap it to 20Gb.

    I got the sales call and basically said I averaged 250Gb a month and it was no good for me to switch. So even if I wanted an EE box, the limits they impose is going to prevent me from using their service.

  19. Chris Parsons

    There is always...

    ...something better to do than watch TV.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is always...

      Like commenting on The Register?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Re: There is always...

      No there isn't, it is everything I tell ee

  20. zaax

    My friends who use it, assure me that EE stands for "Extremely Expensive".

  21. MJI Silver badge

    How does it compare?

    To say the PVRs from Humax?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: How does it compare?

      Well, I guess it depends which ones you mean, and in what way.

      For example, I still rely on my old Toppy 5800 (I loved it so much I created a website...) to find things for me using EPG search keywords. But for a lot of day to day stuff, including recording in HD, I use a DigitalStream box.

      If I were picking something for a non-techy family member, this might well fit the bill (or a YouView, more likely because of the simple backwards EPG).

      If I wanted customistation, I'd go for an old Toppy or Humax - but few boxes have that level of control any more, especially once they have to start jumping through hoops to get FreeviewHD certification.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019