First Look: Should Telstra users get a T-Box?

First Look
First Look: Should Telstra users get a T-Box?
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You might have seen the TV advertisements for Telstra's new T-Box. We've completed a hands-on test, and here are our first impressions

Price
Price: $299
> Pricing info

Telstra's new T-Box is a combination Personal Video Recorder and streaming media box which looks rather impressive, until you scratch the surface.

What is the T-Box?
In a nutshell, the T-Box is a twin-HD tuner PVR with an HDMI port for connecting to a widescreen panel, along with legacy connectors for old televisions. The T-Box also offers access to movies and TV rentals along with Bigpond's online TV channels - news, music and several sports channels including AFL, NRL, motor racing and horse racing. Unfortunately the footy channels don't screen live games. Be warned, the online features and Electronic Program Guide only work if you're using Bigpond as your ISP.

The T-Box lets you pause and rewind live TV, as well as watch the start of a show while you're still recording the end. It features two high-def TV tuners, but can only record one channel at a time. While it's recording you can watch another channel (with the ability to timeshift), a previous recording, a downloaded movie or a Bigpond TV online channel.

The good
Like competing streaming boxes such as the Apple TV and TiVo, the T-Box lets you start watching a rented movie while it's still downloading. The picture quality is very impressive, on par with the Apple TV. The streamed Bigpond channels also look great, although you might need to throttle them from 3Mbps to 1Mbps if you're on a slow broadband link. Even on a 4Mbps Bigpond DSL connection, the online TV channels choke if you're downloading a movie in the background. We also experienced audio-sync issues with TV recordings while recording, timeshifting and downloading at the same time.

The T-Box's strength is user-friendliness and its onscreen EPG is the best we've seen on any Australian PVR. It offers easy access to the Series Record feature, which automatically records your favourite shows each week and checks the TV schedule for changes (but can't detect when shows are running late).

The bad
This is where the T-Box loses its shine. It only holds 100 hours of SD recordings or 30 hours of HD, with a capacity meter tucked away in the menus. The T-Box pops up a warning when it hits 90 percent capacity, which means you've got room for roughly another three hours of HD content. If it hits 100 percent, it just stops recording until you delete things.

Admittedly this is how many PVRs work, but the TiVo , Foxtel iQ2 and Windows Media Centre are smarter. They include an auto-delete feature with the ability to nominate which shows shouldn't be deleted. The TiVo and MCE even let you nominate how many episodes of a Series Record to retain, while the TiVo also lets you prioritise Series Recordings in the event of a clash.

The T-Box does let you manually transfer recordings to a USB device, although these transferred recordings can only be played on the T-Box. You can't expand the actual recording capacity using external storage, as you can with a TiVo and many other PVRs.

Conclusion
As a streaming media player the T-Box is an impressive alternative to the Apple TV, albeit with a smaller range of titles. Yet as a PVR the T-Box falls far short of a TiVo or Foxtel iQ2. All three are targeted at the "Mums n' Dads" market, yet the T-Box is far more likely to leave family members disappointed - it can't record two shows at once, lacks advanced Series Record options, doesn't let you expand recording capacity using external storage and seems to choke if you do too much at once.

 

See more about:  tbox  |  tbox  |  telstra  |  iptv
 
 

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Comments: 3
warinpiece
16 July 2010
Yeah! We had decided to upgrade our plan with bigpond(link below) which included 200g downloads and the T-Box is included, and this was about 3 1/2 - 4 weeks ago and we've been onto them trying to find out why we haven't switched yet. One person says "it'll be done within 24hours. another person said he'll do it in his spare time. Another said there was problems with their computer system. and then we ended up ringing them nearly everyday and talking to different people and getting different answers. Last call(on wednesday) they said it's all fixed up and it will take 3 working days for it to take effect. So now we're waiting for monday to see if we have the new plan. http://go.bigpond.com/bundles/159-dollar-plan/index.jsp


Comment made about the PC Authority article:
First Look: Should Telstra users get a T-Box??
You might have seen the TV advertisements for Telstra's new T-Box. We've completed a hands-on test, and here are our first impressions

What do you think? Join the discussion.
Madaz
16 July 2010
looking at some of the info on the T box just makes me wonder why

Quote:
The T-Box lets you pause and rewind live TV, as well as watch the start of a show while you're still recording the end. It features two high-def TV tuners, but can only record one channel at a time.


might as well just make a media center with windows 7 and just 2 twin tuners in, or like myself i put a leadtek hybrid and and a DNTV card that had dual digital and dual analogue tuners i can effectively record 5 sources and watch one
htcs
17 July 2010
Personally, I'm getting very tired of crippled equipment and conditional plans.
T-Box (to a point), Foxtel, Austar etc force the user pays into watching what they offer (endless repeats) for an enourmous amounts of money.
With T-Box, you really need a bigpond plan and I'm really happy with my isp thanks.
Looks like downloading FTA episodes from around the world is still the only way of complete satisfaction.
Where the T box will be successful are for the current savy big-'ponders' or thaose who don't want to do the extra work to find their favourite series.
I wish however that unencumbered online movie HD quality downloads would become more commonplace and perhaps that's a better market model for MPAA and those that are happy to pay and own their movie.
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