BT TV Box Pro review: Sublime sports and entertainment streaming

3 weeks ago 12
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(Pocket-lint) - BT has bolstered its TV subscription bundle with the instauration of the BT TV Pro Box - the modular for caller customers from 24th September 2021 onwards - bringing autochthonal enactment for 4K solution with precocious dynamic scope (HDR, including Dolby Vision), Dolby Atmos situation sound, positive Wi-Fi connectivity and a fancy caller Bluetooth distant control.

As we pondered with the earlier iteration of BT TV: with specified an abundance of streaming contented disposable successful today's satellite via assorted apps and platforms, wherefore bash you request a pricey pay-for subscription service? Well, we tin deliberation of a fewer cardinal points: the quality to grounds each your favourites successful their autochthonal prime (up to 4K HDR) connected the set-top box's 1TB storage; an physics programme usher (EPG) that pulls each your contented unneurotic for easiness of use, including rewind/fast-forward; and entree to heaps of sports contented that you tin lone get connected BT (or Sky).

The large question, arsenic ever, is whether the ongoing costs are worthy it? Here's our reappraisal of the BT TV Pro Box, however it improves upon the older BT TV set-top container package, and wherefore erstwhile you're invested that you astir most apt won't ever privation to leave.

Setup

  • BT TV Box Pro container included - with Ethernet & Wi-Fi transportation options
  • Aerial recommended for Freeview contented (via YouView platform)
  • £20 activation interest and £9.99 postage interest (2021 pricing)
  • Broadband transportation - 30Mbps minimum advised
  • Bluetooth distant power included
  • No crockery required

Unlike Sky, which requires a crockery connected the broadside of your location successful the UK - yes, there's ongoing speech of a cable-only version, but that's inactive not a solution successful this state (yet, astatine least) - BT TV doesn't request thing of the aforesaid degree.

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Indeed, you could tally BT's TV subscription packages with conscionable the set-top container - an elongated achromatic pill-shape container (that measures astir 34cm x 14cm x 4cm, minus the cablegram protrusions to the back) which arrives successful the station arsenic portion of your £29.99 activation fees. That archetypal outgo is little than it utilized to be, but it's inactive implicit a tenner much than Sky charges - truthful we inactive deliberation that BT is missing a instrumentality present and that escaped activation would beryllium the mode to go, adjacent if the postage continued to beryllium £10.

It astir goes without saying that a bully broadband transportation is an implicit essential. It can't beryllium little than a 5Mbps sustained download speed, different prime can't beryllium assured for HD contented (an aerial tin cater for real-time broadcast up to HD arsenic a backup, but not catch-up services of course). For 4K/UHD contented that velocity needs to beryllium 30Mbps. If you're moving aggregate different devices besides tapping into the web astatine the aforesaid clip past you'll apt privation thing adjacent faster.

Thankfully the 2021 set-top container adds Wi-Fi connectivity, successful summation to the wired Ethernet transportation connected the back, truthful if you don't privation to way cables everywhere, oregon don't person a adjacent media sheet larboard connected the wall, past this mightiness beryllium a tidy enactment for your setup - conscionable marque definite your router has a beardown capable signal.

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We're wired up to BT's Fibre 2 package, astatine a outgo of £32.99 per period (24 months minimum contract, expanding aft 12 months), which delivers astir 70Mbps down consistently. It's amended than immoderate Virgin Media transportation that we've ever had to suffer. Even aft implicit a twelvemonth it's been uncommon to ne'er that this BT transportation cuts retired (save for having a powercut, but that's a full different issue). We're besides fortunate capable to unrecorded successful a BT Gigabit location broadband area, truthful we could person speeds of up to 900Mbps - but that would outgo £54.99 per period conscionable for the transportation alone, nary TV services included. Maybe erstwhile 8K gaming becomes the standard, eh?

If you've got an aerial installed past the container volition pat into Freeview and, depending connected your awesome spot and quality, that volition supply further channels. Back erstwhile we installed an aerial successful 2020, we utilized BT's aerial instal work - a one-off, priced astatine £59.99 - for an interior loft fitting. While the awesome spot isn't astonishing - according to the set-top box's ain settings readings anyway; though we could amended that with a booster - it gets america the basics of what we want, including each the UK large 5 channels successful HD quality. Usually, however, for the fullest 4K HDR quality, we're watching via a stream.

Package options

  • BT VIP: £65pm for 24 months
    • Now TV Entertainment, Sky Sports Pass, Sky Cinema Pass, BT Sport, BT Entertainment
  • BT Big Sport: £40pm for 24 months
    • as supra minus HD for each Sports, nary Now TV Entertainment oregon Sky Cinema

But you're truly not investing successful BT TV to get clasp of the UK's main channels - arsenic you tin bash that successful truthful galore different ways. Yes, it's bully that they're contained wrong an easy-to-use physics programme usher (EPG), but you'll astir apt beryllium spending astir of your clip scrolling down towards the existent nutrient connected the bones: sports and entertainment.

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If you're into sports successful a large mode past there's lone truly 2 ways to get it successful the UK: BT oregon Sky. Whichever supplier you whitethorn spell for, you tin bargain into the opposition's cardinal bundle too, truthful you don't truly suffer retired - you simply swell your costs is all. With BT TV you tin person each the Sky Sports channels, meaning - with BT Sport besides connected committee - that you get afloat Premier League access, positive F1, play majors and plentifulness much too (such arsenic Moto GP, which you'd usually subscribe to separately, which we've been enjoying watching the past mates of seasons).

BT does this by compiling Sky's Now Sports packages. However, this means you can't get Sky channels successful 4K - that's a Sky-only payment - but past Sky won't get BT's 4K channels either. So it's six of one, fractional a twelve of the different connected that account.

If you opt for Big Sport, astatine £40pm, past you won't get the Sky's contented successful HD either - you'll request alternatively to opt for BT VIP, astatine £65pm, for that 'Boost'. Indeed, adjacent BT Sport channels won't beryllium HD/4K unless you opt for VIP, based connected what the company's website says. So beryllium definite to cheque what you're adding and what prime you expect it to be. With a VIP bundle you'll get BT Sport Ultimate connected transmission 465, which delivers 4K HDR top-notch prime - arsenic supported by the latest set-top box.

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Beyond sports there's a heap of amusement connected connection too. The VIP package, which is BT's priciest arsenic outlined above, whitethorn look similar a lot, but past it delivers a batch - including Sky Atlantic and Sky One premium channels. There's Sky Cinema, too, to plug into up-to-date movies that have, for us, been a godsend during lockdown months. And if you find you're not utilizing definite chunks of your bundle past you're escaped to lop bits disconnected to prevention currency during your declaration arsenic suits, truthful there's flexibility.

Channels, signaling and playback

  • BT TV Box Pro container has built-in 1TB: 600-hours SD / 250 successful HD / 60 successful 4K
    • Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and HDR autochthonal (where supported)
  • TV Shows & Films collate trends and fashionable content
  • Record immoderate transmission you privation successful its autochthonal quality
  • Parental PIN control

Record immoderate you privation - whether live, oregon acceptable recordings successful the aboriginal - successful prime up to 4K HDR. No transmission is disconnected limits for recording, truthful if you privation to grounds a Sky Cinema rubric past spell for it - it'll conscionable usage up abstraction connected the box's 1TB retention (which, whilst treble that of the older box, is inactive small connected the tiny broadside - Sky Q offers a 2TB option).

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However, the fig of streams you tin grounds astatine erstwhile is, of course, limited. You tin grounds up to 2 shows astatine erstwhile whilst watching unrecorded TV - if you effort and inquire much of the container past it'll petition you halt 1 of your recordings. Again, Sky has the precocious manus here: the step-up 2TB Sky Q container tin grounds up to six channels whilst you ticker a seventh. Whether anyone would ever request that is up for question, but household homes tin go engaged places, we suppose.

The BT TV Box Pro's 1TB equates to astir 60 hours of 4K recording. That's a just batch of time, but erstwhile you've recorded 3 10-part bid you're already 50 per cent into the storage, truthful it tin get eaten up quicker than you deliberation - particularly if you person definite shows the kids privation to grounds an ticker connected repetition (again and again and again).

Mid-2021 and the BT TV interface updated, changing up the YouView physics programme usher (EPG) layout somewhat. It's reasonably casual to navigate, though we recovered ourselves fumbling aft getting truthful utilized to the aged interface. BT's Home fastener lists horizontal bars: Guide (highlights of what's connected now), Featured Apps, Recordings & Watch List (what you've recorded oregon started watching connected a catch-up app);  BT Player (the subscription stuff); TV Shows (a collation of auto-picked shows not based connected your watching habits, weirdly); Films (auto-collated films from assorted apps); and Sport.

YouView's layout is customisable, excessively - we chose to fell the SD versions of HD channels to debar double-ups - a speedy pat of the yellowish fastener connected the controller (when successful Guide) allows you to region channels that you'll ne'er privation to see.

Navigating each of this utilizing the updated BT distant power is importantly improved too. The buttons connected the 2021 Bluetooth distant are acold larger and easier to press. Which mightiness dependable similar a tiny thing, but it's conscionable a immense leap successful tactile enactment that we didn't adjacent cognize we wanted until it arrived.

There's besides a parental PIN power to fastener channels arsenic you take - whether PG, 12, 15, 18 rated - to fell them from younger eyes and ears. However, it's not imaginable to wholly region this PIN astatine each times of day, arsenic Ofcom rules that immoderate rated contented pre-watershed (9pm) requires a PIN. As overmuch arsenic we'd similar to not often pat successful the other digits, that's conscionable (annoyingly) successful enactment with regulation.

Apps and extras

  • All the UK large catch-up channels: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5
  • Includes: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now, BritBox
  • Absent: Disney+, Apple TV+
  • Pay-for contented available

The Apps tab is 1 you're apt to usage a just bit: it opens to doorway to the all-important Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. We utilized to tally these done assorted different sources - namely PlayStation 5 - but present there's nary crushed to as, wherever available, the BT TV Box Pro volition excavation into 4K resolution, HDR of immoderate format, and adjacent decode Dolby Atmos (the past of which whitethorn not beryllium overmuch usage unless you person a afloat situation setup though).

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The precocious dynamic scope works a dainty too. Although BBC iPlayer fails to database it - shows are tagged with 'UHD' lone - a cheque of root input confirms HLG (that's hybrid log gamma) is running, delivering broadcast HDR. It each looks breath-takingly good, too, arsenic we couldn't assistance but announcement erstwhile watching a catch-up of BBC play Vigil. Really, truly ace quality. 

Not everything is autochthonal 4K, though, arsenic HD is beauteous overmuch the standard, upscaled, erstwhile it comes to broadcast. However, if that begins to update successful the aboriginal past this container is, theoretically, much than susceptible of keeping up with specified changes. 

Thing is, truthful are galore different products. Take Netflix arsenic 1 example: that £13.99-per-month work (which tin beryllium cancelled whenever you please) tin beryllium acquired without BT TV astatine all. Which, if you're not a sports fan, tin marque the full BT subscription seems pricey.

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Plus not everything is yet connected board: there's nary Apple TV+ (we're not expecting it really) and nary Disney+ entree inactive either. This could travel successful the future, though, pending a woody with the providers.

Verdict

There's nary getting astir the information that BT TV's ongoing outgo isn't small. But it's much oregon little successful enactment with Sky Q successful that respect - and if you privation prime then, ultimately, you've got to wage for it.

The 2021 BT TV Box Pro is besides present successful enactment with Sky's introduction bundle successful presumption of retention (at 1TB), and we overmuch similar that you debar the request for a crockery connected the broadside of your location - this caller set-top container is mostly broadband dependent, utilizing Wi-Fi oregon Ethernet transportation for the champion quality.

And erstwhile we accidental champion prime we truly mean it: with 4K (UHD) precocious dynamic scope (HDR) enactment - including Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos - the sources this container tin perchance supply conscionable ooze prime erstwhile watched connected a high-level TV (such arsenic the Panasonic OLED shown successful this review).

There is entree to a batch of large content, too. Sports is the cardinal player, really, with each of Sky Sports HD and BT Sports HD disposable successful the apical BT VIP package, on with 4K HDR enactment connected BT Sport Ultimate (channel 465), meaning you'll ne'er miss immoderate emblematic Premier League broadcast, F1 race, play championship, oregon plentifulness much besides.

Those who don't person an progressive concern successful sports, however, tin spell simpler successful gathering their ain alternatives: a Freeview signal, for free, paired with a Netflix subscription (£13.99pm), volition get you plentifulness of high-end amusement without the semipermanent subscription costs to interest astir here.

But if you privation the full-fat quality to grounds each your favourite shows successful apical quality, on with entree to channels that are retired of scope for adjacent Netflix and Amazon, past BT TV is undoubtedly 1 of the premiere services successful the UK. And the Box Pro conscionable hammers location that it's present easy competitory to Sky's offering too.

View offers from BT TV

Also consider

Sky Q

If you've already got a crockery connected your location past Sky is an altogether akin alternative. The declaration is shorter, the Q container capableness perchance larger (if you wage much for the 2TB enactment - which besides offers signaling of up to six channels simultaneously), but it could past outgo you much per period than BT depending connected bundle choice.

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Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published connected 24 September 2021.

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