OPINION PIECE - Not so long ago, we made do with a mere two TV channels. Nowadays, the number is a boggling 60+ channels. Then there's also Online video streaming services such as Netflix.
One other nifty recent development I couldn’t live without is the ability to pause/rewind/FFW live TV. That used to need bulky VHS cassettes. Even then, you were only able to pause/FFW/rewind shows that you’d recorded.
Yup, TV has come a very long way in a very short amount of time….
This was all very much on my mind as I set up Vodafone’s new set top box, the Vodafone TV and put it through its paces...
What is it?
Vodafone TV is a collaboration between by SkyTV and Vodafone. Using Vodafone Fibre or Fibre X, you can access SKYTV, Freeview and content from Netflix/YouTube. I was able to view all this peeper pleasing goodness in crisp HD (Vodafone TV also supports 4K UHD content and TVs too).
Unpacking the Vodafone TV, my first impression is that its petite. Most set top boxes resemble windowless buildings with a remote. The Vodafone TV is a smallish puck sized device. This makes finding it a home in my lounge dead easy.
Getting Set up
Setup was so simple that even I got it right first time around. After plugging its power in, I connected the Vodafone TV to my router, and then to my TV. After putting the bundled batteries in its remote, I was all good to go. Total setup time was mere minutes. Total frustration levels zero.
Setup is easy thanks to an illustrated and easy to read setup guide. It stepped me through the entire process, making it about as easy as falling off a log.
All the cables needed are in the box. That my Fibre X Router sits behind my TV helped with installation. When the Router isn’t close to your TV, Vodafone bundle wireless range extenders. One plugs into your router and the other connects to the Vodafone TV.
Access to lots of TV channels mightn't be anything new, but Vodafone have added some clever twists. These make using the Vodafone TV a compelling experience.
The most useful is the Vodafone TV app for IOS and Android. With it, you can pause some shows on the Vodafone TV in your lounge and carry on watching it on your phone when out and about. The app also allows you to schedule recordings. Vodafone TV clearly points out which shows are able to be switched between devices and recorded using an R icon on the EPG, and they expect more to come on board in the future.
The other clever bit is its capacity. All your recorded shows get stored offsite (instead of on a hard drive in Vodafone TV box). This means you don't lose shows if your box ever needs replacing. You also gain a near infinite recording capacity. So unlike old school My Sky boxes, you won’t run out of room. Last (but by no means least), you can also record dozens of shows at once.
In short, the Vodafone TV improves the how, when and where of watching and recording TV.
The first thing that struck me when first using Vodafone TV was how good everything looked. Limited broadcast bandwidth means that TV content gets compressed when broadcast via satellite. This usually doesn’t apply to content streamed to Vodafone TV. The difference is startling. I tested Vodafone TV on my homes Fibre X connection and there were no drop outs either.
As good as all this sounds, at the end of the day, it all comes down to one simple thing: How easy is the Vodafone TV to use?
Thanks to both an intuitive user interface and a well laid out remote there’s next to no learning curve needed. If you’ve ever used a sky/Freeview box or a smart TV, you’re likely to find driving the Vodafone TV a complete doddle.
Simplicity aside, The Vodafone TV user Interface is responsive. It consists of 4 panels. The first lists TV shows you’ve recorded. This gets followed by programme guide. This is a calendar-like list of when TV shows are airing. Next is on demand content which consists of movies and TV shows. Last (but by no means least) are streaming services. These consist of Netflix, YouTube 3Now (and soon TVNZ on Demand).
Finding your way around isn’t difficult at all thanks to a directional D-pad on the remote. A favourite feature is the ability to skip 20 seconds. This lets me zap through adverts without having to spend an eternity holding down the FFW button.
Vodafone TV is proof that good things do indeed come in small packages. HD content looks great, and the box is a joy to use. Best of all, Vodafone TV does the lot. You only need one remote, so you don’t have a dozen different boxes and remotes cluttering up your lounge. Unlimited recording and capacity plus the security of recorded content stored off-site make Vodafone TV a great way to get your tube-time fix.