Nobody wants to be the poor man’s Sky+ but there’s an obvious gap in the market between the cheap but limited Freeview PVR option and signing one’s life away to Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment cavalcade.
That’s where offerings like the BT Vision V-box come in. All you need is a BT Total Broadband package and £90 for installation and you have yourself a 160GB twin-tuner hard-disk video recorder with both RGB Scart and HDMI outputs.
Your flexible friend
Picture performance and recording quality are pretty good, though nothing to shout about, and there’s plenty of flexibility: you can record one Freeview channel while watching another, set timed recordings and pause live TV.
Which is all well and good but there are plenty of Freeview PVRs to be had out there without having to get entangled in any contracts.
Net some movies
What sets the V-box apart, though, is BT’s Vision internet television service. Just hook up the V-box to the net via the Ethernet port and, presto, a whole library of entertainment at your fingertips.
As long as you have a decent broadband connection (2Mbps or better) you can download from a whole selection of on-demand video content.
Prices are reasonable. From as little as 29p you can get everything from classic comedy (Rising Damp stands as the most popular TV download of the moment) to new movies.
Recent releases will set you back £3 (on a par with a DVD rental) and although some of the pricing for staler stuff seems questionable given the avalanche of repeats on multi-channel TV, there’s definitely benefits to being able to pick and choose what you pay for.
A new game in town
Then there’s the recently announced deal to bring full (alas, delayed) coverage of every Premiership game for a limited period after they’ve been played.
The promise of football without a subscription could have Sky+ running scared but whether enough footy fans will see the benefit in paying a fair whack to watch a full game several hours after it’s been played is yet to be seen.
There’s no 5.1 surround sound support or HD yet but BT says it expects to add both in time. Once these features arrive with some genuinely attractive content, BT Vision could snaffle a healthy roster of subscribers.