So EE has decided to get into the TV business – but it is already a very crowded market place. What alternatives to their new set-top-box are already out there? Read on to find out.
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Perhaps the most obvious (and perhaps most expensive) example is TV veterans Sky, which can match pretty much all of EE’s functionality. You get your Sky+ HD box which acts as a digital video recorder, allowing you to pause, rewind and record TV. Then once you hook it up to an internet connection (which is increasingly standard) Sky have added a tonne of on-demand options: If you subscribe to Sky’s movie package, the whole catalogue is available on demand, and the box also has most of the major catch-up services built in.
Sky also has its Sky Go service, for watching TV online/via streaming, which means that you can also watch your shows on a phone or tablet in other rooms, or even when on the bus.
If Sky is a bit pricey, or you don’t fancy having a satellite dish on the side of your house, then Now TV might be a good alternative. A small box that plugs into your TV and connects to your wifi, Now TV offers many of Sky’s features without such hefty subscriptions. You can watch films from Sky Movies on demand, and you can even buy day-passes to Sky Sports if there’s a match on you want to watch, but don’t want the monthly fee.
Now TV as a Sky service is available as a stand alone box or as an app on a wide range of devices (games consoles, tablets, pretty much everything) – but if you go for a Now TV box, then the good news is that Sky has also let it contain other major catch-up services, including the BBC iPlayer.
You can get a Now TV box for as little as a tenner – though obviously it’ll be pretty useless if you don’t buy anything on the Now TV itself.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
If getting digital content on your TV is your concern, then Apple TV is another option. If you have an iPad or iPhone, it can mirror your small screen to the big one, and of course, you can access all of the content on iTunes. There’s also support for Netflix and a number of other services too.
There is also rumours doing the rounds at the time of writing about Apple having big plans for Apple TV – which could see it become central to your digital home in the future.
Apple recently cut the price of Apple TV to just £79 – but speculation is that the company will be launching an updated device shortly.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon has also waded into TV boxes – with the Fire TV making for a surprisingly powerful little device. Positioned as an “open” device it features apps from the likes of Netflix and other content providers. With its own Amazon Instant Video service, it will even pre-buffer stuff it thinks you might want to watch next, so there will be no waiting around for the next episode to start. There’s also support for voice controls on the remote.
Perhaps most interestingly is that because the box runs Android, it can also run a number of Android games on the big screen – so if you buy the separate gaming controller, you can play Asphalt on the big screen as well as watch TV.
Fire TV is currently £79, which is about the same as an Apple TV.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
YouView was created by a consortium of traditional broadcasters like the BBC, and essentially mashes together a Freeview DVR with all of the major catch-up services – so it is perhaps the most similar to the EE TV.
Notably, YouView has the ability to “scroll back” through the TV guide and watch stuff from the last week – by hooking up directly with the different on demand services. So there’s no need to navigate through the iPlayer or 4oD separately – just scroll back through the programme guide, find the show you want and hit play.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
If you’re on a budget and just need a way to sling YouTube videos and maybe a bit of iPlayer on to your TV then Google’s Chromecast is the way to go. The dongle is only £30 and plugs into the back of your TV so it will be virtually invisible.
The clever stuff happens back on your phone, tablet or computer where you can use different apps to “cast” content to the TV – so if you’re watching a YouTube video you want to share with the room you can just hit the icon and, as if by magic, it will appear on your TV.
Only a handful of services are supported at the moment but YouTube, iPlayer, BT Sport and Netflix all are. What more could you need?[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next”]
Finally, if you’re looking for something a bit high powered, then check out the Xbox One. This has a built in pass-through for your TV receiver (so probably Sky box) so you can use Xbox Kinect voice and gesture commands to control the TV. Xbox One also supports a huge number of streaming video services and, of course, can play all of the latest games too.
The only drawback is the price – which at £329 is one of the most expensive options.[/nextpage]