We’ve been tracking the ups and downs of Britain’s favourite PVRs in the form of Sky+, Virgin Media V+ and BT Vision
over the last twelve months but what of the competition?
Top Up TV has
been going for a while and in some quarters has been controversial in
as far as introducing a pay TV aspect to digital terrestrial TV not
long after the ITV Digital debacle. So the question is, is it any good?
Top UP TV has had other PVRs out in the past, the previous one being a
160GB version. The newer version (DTI 6300-25) has a whopping 250GB
hard disk (although apparently this can be unofficially modded to a
500GB version). With this bigger disk you can store up to 180 hours of
The box itself is not that different to the 160GB version, save the 250
written down the side of the box. The fascia is pretty much the same,
just a few buttons on the front. The remote looks virtually the same as
the one we tested with the TVonics box (see review) and not looking too dissimilar to the one provided with the Sky+ box.
Setting up the box is really quite easy – power up and let the box find
the channels. With the PVR side of things, the hard disc isn’t
partitioned so you can change the amount of space you have for shows
yourself and on-demand content.
The EPG is quite pleasing, it shows up to 14 days at a time and manages
to fit in nine channels without cluttering up the screen too much. It
is also reasonably quick to whizz through this (unlike the BT Vision
Top Up TV Anytime’s version of on-demand is in essence ‘push’ on
demand. This is achieved by you choosing the channels you want to get
from a list on screen. This then gets downloaded overnight (basically
you can’t then record anything else as it is recording this stuff for
you). This builds
up a collection of programmes that can be watched over a seven-day
period before being automatically deleted. Although these then can be
kept for longer on the hard disk if needed.
Both self-recorded and on-demand programming can be accessed from the
library page (on-demand programming indicates how long you have left to
view the content). To record a programme can be achieved by accessing
the EPG, from the now/next bar on-screen or by pressing the record
button while watching the channel.
The on-demand "channels" feature the likes of Paramount Comedy, Hallmark Channel, Living, Discovery Real
Time, MTV, TCM, Discovery Animal Planet, Bloomberg, Life & Times,
UKTV Food, UKTV Style, UKTV Gold, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Crime
Investigation Network, Sci-Fi, Nickelodeon and History Channel.
The Top Up TV Anytime on-demand service will set you back
£9.99 a month. Should you decide not to subscribe you can still use the
box as a normal PVR. There are also options to subscribe to its Picturebox movies on demand service, which costs £5 (or £7 if you
don’t subscribe to the £9.99 service). For footie fans Setanta Sports is an
extra £9.99 plus a £10 "connection fee".
As for content,the on-demand service is ok. We was a bit
worried that much of the content was in 4:3 aspect raito. We would like
to see much more 16:9 content as we do have a widescreen telly and
would like to use it properly. Also, some of the bitrates seem to be on
the light side so a bit of mosiacing during action scenes which could
be slightly annoying when viewed on a 42-inch plasma screen. Also, when
compared to BT Vision, Top Up TV seems a bit wanting on the on-demand
That said, at £99 (with a 12-month subscription), this
isn’t bad value. If the content was a bit better we would award it a