Who's best for Youview: BT, TalkTalk or Plusnet?
YOUVIEW is a digital TV service which offers up to 80 digital channels, seven-day catch up, and options to pause, rewind and record TV.
TalkTalk and BT offer the service in their pay TV subscriptions alongside additional channels like BT Sport, Sky Sports and Sky Cinema (previously Sky Movies).
In May 2015, Plusnet introduced the service for their existing fibre customers, and while it comes with a Netflix and access to the Sky Store, the extra channels on offer are still somewhat limited.
All three providers offer the Youview boxes, worth from £100 to more than £300, free; as customers need broadband to really benefit from Youview anyway, it's a simple way to bundle the services.
BT versus TalkTalk versus Plusnet
As mentioned, Plusnet's Youview service is only available to existing fibre subscribers. Customers with standard broadband who are thinking about upgrading will find all they need to know here - and if and when the packages become available to new customers we'll add them below.
Each provider offers the basic seven-day Youview catch up service, but beyond that their services differ.
Here are the main differences:
|Package||Record and store programmes?||Premium channels included||Fibre required?|
|Entertainment Plus||Up to 300 SD||28||Yes|
|Total Entertainment||Up to 600 SD / Up to 60 UHD||50||Yes|
|TV Plus||Up to 200 hours SD||30|
|Youview+||Up to 300 hours SD||20||Yes|
In addition to considering each provider's extra channels or services, it's worth bearing in mind the differences between them when it comes to the non TV elements - the broadband and calls - since the service is only available as part of a "triple" bundle.
We compare TalkTalk, BT and Plusnet in terms of broadband in this part of the review.
Packages: the basics plus prices
Here are the basic broadband packages for both providers. As we said above, Youview TV requires broadband, which means customers will also need to sign up for the providers' broadband and home phone services.
And here are the available deals for those willing and able to go for a 38Mb fibre connection:
If up to 52Mb isn't fast enough, the above packages are also available with up to 76Mb fibre as well.
This was more likely to be the case when BT first launched their Ultra HD TV service in August 2015, but is less likely to be an issue now.
That's because the 4K HD package requires a minimum connection of 44Mb, so while it wasn't off limits to people with Infinity 1, they had to have a line "technically capable" of that speed.
Since BT announced that they were upgrading Infinity 1 from up to 38Mb to up to 52Mb for all new and existing customers, almost everyone with the entry level package should be able to get the ultra HD TV service without having to sign up for Infinity 2.
Check out our broadband section below to find out which services are available nearby, or to see why fast broadband boosts the Youview service.
Meanwhile the full range of TalkTalk, Plusnet and BT Youview deals can be found in our full comparison table here.
It's also worth keeping an eye on offers. Most ISPs frequently run promotions these days to encourage new takers. Here is what's available right now:
At the time of this update, TalkTalk have just moved to an all-in method of pricing. They've marked the occasion by offering all of their broadband, and TV and broadband, packages at reduced prices for the full 18 months of the initial contract.
There's more on their new prices in our full review here.
Add more TV
The standard Youview catch up service includes programmes from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, My 5, UKTV On Demand, and Milkshake among others.
TalkTalk and BT also have their own on demand player services, and both have extra channels available for a monthly fee.
Plusnet, being the new kids on the block, offer just a couple of add-ons - but they make up for this by including access to Now TV and Sky Store, for on demand content and variable-length subscriptions to some of Sky's entertainment channels.
All three offer Netflix from £5.99 a month. New and potential subscribers can find out more about the service here; existing subscribers can simply sign in using the app and start watching on their TV.
Extra with BT:
- The BT Sport pack, including BT Sport Europe, is free with BT TV
- Starter and Entertainment Starter customers can add an HD pack for £5 a month (inc. BT Sport in HD)
- Kids TV pack is £4 a month
- Sky Movies is £13.50 a month
- Sky Sports 1 and 2 are available on Infinity for £22 a month (all customers should now receive a Youview box rather than BT's old Vision+ box, following December 2014's temporary ruling allowing BT to show Sky Sports on all its platforms).
- Record up to 300 hours SD TV, or 125 hours HD TV on the 500GB box
- Youview+ 1TB Ultra HD box: stores up to 600 hours SD TV, or 250 hours HD, or 60 hours UHD TV
BT's Ultra HD customers get both the HD and kids packs included in the price of their monthly subscription.
Extra with TalkTalk:
- TV Starter - six Sky channels - is £5 a month
- TV Entertainment (included with TV Plus) adds 30 channels for £12 a month
- Sky Movies is £15 a month
- Sky Sports is £32 a month (six channels)
- Adding both premium Sky packs will cost £42 a month
- Kids TV pack (nine live and three on demand channels) is £5 a month
- Asian TV bundle offers channels including Zee TV and Sony TV Asia for £10 a month
- BT Sport costs £21.99 a month; customers will need to contact BT
- Boxnation (24/7 boxing channel) costs £12 a month
- No HD channels beyond those available on Freeview
- Record with Plus: up to 200 hours of SD TV
Extra with Plusnet:
- Now TV - access to Sky-only channels; passes to Sky Movies and Sky Sports
- Sky Store - on demand movies
- HD pack for £3 a month
- BT Sport including BT Sport Europe for £5 a month
- Record with Youview+ : up to 300 hours of SD TV, or 125 of HD TV
Youview with broadband
Youview isn't a completely online service. The box is connected through the normal TV aerial, but it needs the internet to enable viewers to watch catch up and on demand content.
How fast is fast enough?
Youview suggest a minimum broadband speed of 3Mb for on demand services, which means people with standard broadband should have no problem.
TalkTalk say this 3Mb minimum is fine for standard viewing, but anyone with a monthly boost or who subscribes to a premium service will need a connection of at least 5Mb.
They warn that on demand services will take priority over other online activity - so while the programmes should be free of buffering, anyone with just more than the minimum will find using the internet for anything else slows to a snail's pace.
This is part of the reasoning behind Plusnet's decision to offer TV only to their fibre customers. They say that a decent HD stream will require 5-7Mb per stream - so a Youview+ box could easily eat up to 14Mb of a customer's bandwidth, and they recommend customers have a connection of at least 15Mb.
BT say customers wanting any more than Starter TV must have a minimum connection speed of 23Mb. As we explain in more detail here, they only offer extra HD channels, live Sky Movies and Sky Sports to Infinity customers.
As mentioned above, any BT TV customer hoping to take Entertainment Ultra HD will need to have a connection capable of a minimum of 44Mb.
That's to support streaming their Ultra HD sports content at the same time as watching or recording other HD channels - or Netflix in ultra HD.
According to Ofcom speeds data, Plusnet offer the fastest standard broadband, but only by a tiny amount. BT are slightly faster than TalkTalk on average. But note that while all three advertise speeds of up to 17Mb, none of these averages come close.
|Over 24 hours||Peak (8-10pm weekdays)|
(up to 17Mb)
|8.9Mb to 11.1Mb||8.8Mb to 11.0Mb|
(up to 17Mb)
|9.3Mb to 10.8Mb||9.2Mb to 10.7Mb|
(up to 17Mb)
|7.5Mb to 9.3Mb||7.4Mb to 9.2Mb|
Ofcom figures, released March 2016.
All three providers use the same fibre broadband network, run by BT's Openreach. TalkTalk don't have enough customers with their up to 76Mb broadband for Ofcom to get independent data on their averages, but Plusnet have enough fibre customers for there to be comparison data.
Ofcom's March 2016 speed tests gave the following results:
|Over 24 hours||Peak (8-10pm weekdays)|
|TalkTalk 38Mb||31.7Mb to 35.1Mb||31.3Mb to 34.7Mb|
|Infinity 38Mb||34.3Mb to 35.5Mb||33.8Mb to 35.1Mb|
|Infinity 76Mb||57.4Mb to 61.1Mb||56.9Mb to 60.5Mb|
|Plusnet 38Mb||32.3Mb to 34.2Mb||32.1Mb to 34.0Mb|
|Plusnet 76Mb||54.8Mb to 58.1Mb||53.8Mb to 57.1Mb|
It's clear to see that fibre really is a big jump up in speed terms, so it's well worth considering if the service is available - check whether it is using the postcode checker below.
Anyone worried that their current broadband isn't fast enough can get a good idea by streaming content on their home computer from an on demand provider, like All 4 or BBC iPlayer.
Plusnet resell BT services. BT have a slightly larger LLU network than TalkTalk, so their standard broadband deals may be available where TalkTalk's aren't, especially in more rural areas.
But while Plusnet services should also be available in these regions, they operate geographical pricing. Anyone in a more rural, less competitive, area should check prices carefully, as they may have to pay far more for the same service.
Again, stay informed: search below by postcode and remember all ISPs must provide potential customers with personalised speed estimates before they sign up.
Enter your phone number and / or postcode above to check availability in your area.
Hardware: which Youview box is best?
BT and Plusnet offer very similar, if not identical, boxes to the majority of their customers. TalkTalk's set top boxes are completely different, which makes a substantial difference to the service.
The hardware in the box determines how long viewers can pause live TV, and how much storage is available on the boxes that can record programmes.
Here's a rundown of the boxes available free with broadband, from the worst to the best (sorry, TalkTalk). Skip to quick compare to see them side by side.
TalkTalk TV Youview box
The standard free box with TalkTalk TV is just the basics.
The Huawei-made set top has no way to record TV and therefore, unsurprisingly, has no hard drive for storage, which makes it smaller than many other Youview boxes - but it's still clunky compared to the basic BT and Plusnet boxes.
It can pause TV, though only for up to 30 minutes in SD and less in HD, and it includes the standard seven-day scrollback catch up service.
As recording isn't an option, there's also only one tuner input.
BT Starter / Plusnet Youview box
Made by Humax, it looks to us like the only difference between these two boxes is the Youview model number and a flash of branding on the BT version.
Referred to by Plusnet as the Z4, and by Youview as either the DT2200 or DT2220, the boxes are really neat - less than 15cm square and just 3.3cm deep.
As with the basic TalkTalk box, the smaller size is because there's just one tuner and no hard drive for storage.
These boxes are designed only to pause and rewind limited amounts of live TV. Again, there's a 30 minute maximum when viewing SD, and up to 14 minutes on an HD channel.
TalkTalk TV Plus Youview+ box
Upgrade to TalkTalk's TV Plus and along with 30 extra channels, there's a much larger set top box to be had, with much more inside.
Another Huawei box, on top of the basic seven-day scrollback catch up service, this one can pause, rewind and record TV on 300GB of HDD space.
That's enough for about 200 hours of standard definition TV content.
It also has two tuner inputs, which means viewers can watch one channel and record a second, or record two and watch a recording or on demand content.
See all the specifications for both boxes in detail on TalkTalk's site here.
BT / Plusnet Youview+ box
The BT and Plusnet boxes are better again.
Apart from the odd cosmetic touch - the BT boxes have been designed to co-ordinate with their Home Hubs - and a slight difference in Youview model number, they look to be pretty much identical.
BT customers will get a Humax DTR-T2100 set top, while Plusnet customers get a Humax DTR-T2120. Both come with the standard seven-day Youview catch up service and programme storage of 500GB.
That's enough to record 300 hours of TV in Standard Definition, or 125 hours of High Definition. Again, there are two tuner inputs so users can record two channels at once.
PC Advisor seemed pretty satisfied with BT's new box when it was released in 2014 - have a look at their review here.
It's clear BT are building on their reputation for good hardware. The 2012 box also got a good write-up, from What Hi-Fi - available here - as well as picking up accolades in quite a few independent reviews:
- "Video gadget of the year" by Stuff Magazine (Nov 2012)
- "Best Digital HD Recorder" in the What Hi-Fi Sound and Vision Awards 2012
- "Consumer Elec: Product of the year" in the ERT Awards 2012
BT Youview+ Ultra HD 1TB box
The Ultra HD box being made available to BT TV customers signing up for their headline package is another Humax. Apart from a bright yellow label on the front declaring its Ultra HD status, it's identical in appearance to their standard Youview+ box.
But the DTR-T4000 presents the 2160 pixel output of BT Sport Ultra HD in all its intensely sharp glory - as long as the TV it's connected to is Ultra HD capable too.
If not, reviewers say watching on a good standard HD TV will give a "noticeably superior" picture compared to Full HD.
It's also got that much increased hard drive - 1TB - which can take up to 60 hours of UHD recordings; more likely it'll be filled with up to 250 hours of HD or 600 hours of SD programming.
|Pause TV for...||Capacity for Recordable TV||Tuner inputs|
|TalkTalk Youview||30 minutes in SD||None (can't record TV)||1|
|TalkTalk Youview+||Indefinitely, plus rewind||300GB: 200 hours SD||2|
|Plusnet Youview||30 minutes in SD, 14 in HD||None (can't record TV)||1|
|Plusnet Youview+||Indefinitely, plus rewind||500GB: 300 hours SD||2|
|BT Youview||30 minutes in SD, 14 in HD||None (can't record TV)||1|
|BT Youview+ box||Indefinitely, plus rewind||500GB: 300 hours SD||2|
|BT Youview+ UHD box||Indefinitely, plus rewind||1TB: 600 hours SD / 60 hours UHD||2|
Note that there are also set top boxes from Virgin Media and Sky with at least 500GB and up to 2TB of storage, and different features to boot: the curious and undecided can check them out here.
Ever since Youview launched in July 2012 there has been some scepticism over whether the service would be able to measure up to the big pay TV companies and, indeed, whether it could challenge Freeview.
As the main providers add more services to their offerings, it's becoming a stronger competitor, but it still has some way to go. There's more on that here.
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