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Best for 4oD: Virgin Media TiVo, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, YouView

Channel 4’s 4oD has been around for awhile now and is available on a number of devices. While we’re still waiting for an Android version to see the light of day (hurry up with that Channel 4) there’s plenty of ways you can enjoy 4oD on your TV.

From the Xbox 360 to YouView you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to getting the best of Channel 4’s archive on your big screen. Perhaps less so than with BBC iPlayer, which can be enjoyed on a much greater range of living room devices, but some choice is better than no choice right?

But which one is the best? If like us you’ve got multiple gadgets at your disposal and you’re scratching your head with how best enjoy 4oD read on.

Just because you were badgered into playing charades with the rest of the family doesn’t mean you can’t watch the IT Crowd Christmas Special hours after broadcast…

  • Virgin Media TiVo

  • Microsoft Xbox 360

  • Sony PlayStation 3

  • YouView

4oD on Virgin Media TiVo

What We Like

  • Adverts are skippable
  • Good quality streams
  • Easily accessible through the TiVo catch-up menu

What We Don’t Like

  • Narrow selection of Channel 4 content
  • Hard to search for programmes
  • Not as good as BBC iPlayer TiVo app

Set-up and what you need

A 500GB or 1TB Virgin Media TiVo box and a Virgin Media TV subscription.

What you get

Virgin Media TiVo lets you access 4oD from the main menu but for some reason it’s hidden away on a separate screen from the BBC iPlayer app.

To get there you’ll need to hop on over to the Catch Up menu on TiVo you can find 4oD by going to the following menus: Catch-up On Demand > Catch-up TV > All Channels > 4 on Demand.

This lets you cycle through a number of programmes culled from the last seven days of shows. You can’t search for a specific title, there’s nowhere to type in ‘Made in Chelsea’ or ‘Come Dine With Me’ for example, so you’re stuck to just scaling back throughout the week and picking from what’s available.


While searching for channels is a bit of a faff, we love 4oD on Virgin Media mainly because you can skip through the ad breaks.

When you’re streaming a programme, tapping the OK button brings up a ticker tape progress bar with the scheduled adverts clearly marked out. This way you know when you’ll need to skip forwards or schedule a quick cup of tea/toilet break.

Streaming and Picture Quality

As with streaming programmes on BBC iPlayer, streams are stable with quality fluctuating depending on the connection speed.

programmes are streamed so quality is dependent on your connection and how busy the network is. There’s no option to toggle between SD or HD streams; to get to any HD content you’ve got to go to a separate HD Catch Up menu and search for programmes there.

HD: No

Downloads: No

TV Channels: Channel 4, More 4, E4, 4 Music, 4seven

Conclusion

We love that you can skip adverts and the overall quality of streamed programmes is good. Shame that it’s such a pain to actually search for and find content though.

4oD on Microsoft Xbox 360

What We Like

  • Programmes from up to 30 days ago
  • Archive content including Peep Show and Spaced
  • App design mirrors Xbox 360 Dashboard layout

What We Don’t Like

  • The many, many adverts
  • Not-great streaming quality
  • Slow to start streaming

Set-up and what you need

Xbox 360 with an Xbox LIVE account (Gold), Ethernet or wireless internet connection.

What you get

Access to a range of programmes from the last 30 days from the Channel 4 channels plus an archive of programmes including Peep Show, Spaced, This Is England ‘86 and Misfits.

The layout of the 4oD app mirrors the look and feel of the Xbox 360 Dashboard, making finding your way around using the controller or your Kinect dead easy.

Searching for content is hobbled somewhat, as you’re stuck with using the default Xbox 360 text input method that we know and hate. You hunt and peck for letters through the entire alphabet as if you were entering your name in the high score section of an old-school arcade game. As with BBC iPlayer on the Xbox 360, we found ourselves wishing that Xbox SmartGlass was an option.

Skipping forwards and backwards in shows is easy thanks to the easy to use controls. However one thing we’re really not stoked about is the sheer volume of adverts you’re confronted with. When trying to watch episodes of Homeland and Peep Show we were confronted with no less than eight adverts each time at the start of each show and four ad breaks in between each show.

We realise that 4oD is an ad-supported service and Channel 4 has commercial obligations to fulfil. But we wish that there was a consistency with the approach to advertising – there’s more ads per programme on the Xbox 360 than on any other platform.

Programmes watched on the PS3 app have just three adverts at the start and on Virgin Media TiVo you can skip them. Needless to say, you can’t skip the ads on the Xbox 360 4oD app.


Streaming and Picture Quality

While we love the range of content that you get with 4oD on the Xbox 360, we’re not that chuffed with the streaming quality. It’s not enjoyable and even over a high speed line you don’t get anything that even begins to approach HD-quality video.

HD: No

Downloads: No

TV Channels: Channel 4, More 4, E4, 4 Music, 4seven

Conclusion

4oD on the Xbox 360 is a mixed bag – it’s easy to use, gives you access to a good range of classic Channel 4 content but those adverts come thick and fast and the streaming quality is far from brilliant. 

4oD on Sony PlayStation 3

What We Like

  • Lack of adverts
  • Good selection of content

What We Don’t Like

  • Poor quality streams
  • Only 14 days of catch-up compared to 30
  • Slow loading times

Set-up and what you need

Your Sony PlayStation 3 connected to your home broadband router via Ethernet (wired) or wirelessly. There’s no 4oD app as such; you instead go to ps3.channel4.com via the PS3 browser.

What you get

4oD on the PS3 gives you access to programmes from the last 14 days and a selection of archive content including Peep Show and Misfits. As you access 4oD through the PS3 browser and not a dedicated app, controls are essentially the same as you are if you were browsing a web page when you’re looking for programmes.

Getting hold of what you want is easy enough, though selecting individual links with the cursor can be fiddly on smaller screens.

When you get round to streaming programmes there’s some rudimentary controls available for when it comes to skipping sections of programmes. Sadly you can’t skip through adverts like you can on Virgin Media TiVo but mercifully, the ads aren’t as frequent or in your face.

A tap of the X button when you’re watching a show will bring up a progress bar, similar to the one seen on Virgin Media TiVo, which shows you when abouts the ad breaks are going to land. While you can’t skip the ads, you can at least get a heads up for when they’re about to land. There’s three ads at the start of every programme as well as more in the middle and at the end of a programme.

Streaming and Picture Quality

Streams are really quite poor on the PS3. In fact, compared to everything else we’re comparing here it’s easily the worst. Programmes took a good ten seconds to load on the 100Mbps line and even longer on slower connections. You get a heavily pixellated screen grab of the programme you’re about to watch at the beginning before 4oD launches into the first of the three adverts.

With the standard definition streams being so terrible it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that there’s no HD content available.

HD: No

Downloads: No

TV Channels: Channel 4, More 4, E4, 4 Music, 4seven

Conclusion

Given that the BBC iPlayer app on the PS3 is so good, it’s a real shame that the 4oD service isn’t that great. Be prepared for long load times, low quality streams and ugly, pixellated test cards at the start of programmes.

4oD on YouView

What We Like

  • Easy to use
  • Can skip through intro sequences, credits
  • Good selection of channels and content

What We Don’t Like

  • Quality not that great
  • Slow, programmes stop and start
  • Can’t skip adverts, not as bad as the Xbox 360 version though

Set-up and what you need

During the set-up of YouView all of the on-demand content, including 4oD, should be good to go as soon as you’re ready to start watching TV.

So, no need to download any apps or go into the settings menu. To get the on-demand features of YouView all set up, you’ll need to be connected to your broadband router. As YouView currently doesn’t support wireless connections you’ll need to connect directly in to your router via Ethernet or use a Powerline adapter.

What you get

4oD on YouView is a little slower than what we’ve experienced elsewhere – programmes occasionally take a couple of seconds to load, even SD ones on a fast, uncontended connection.

Obviously with YouView, catch-up content is tightly integrated into the programme guide making finding the stuff you’ve missed a piece of cake. Accessing programmes through the on-demand menu is also easy, thanks to the nicely laid out menu which makes finding what you’re after easy. You get a good range of content pulled from Channel 4, 4seven, More4, E4 and 4 Music but no Channel 4 HD.

Adverts are obviously a fact of life when streaming on 4oD, but when watching programmes on YouView, a tap of the OK button brings up a progress bar which shows you when the ads are likely to kick in – so you can plan your tea breaks accordingly.

Thanks to the DVD style controls on the YouView remote you can also quickly skip back and forth through programmes easily – something that comes in handy when bypassing the incredibly long intro sequence of Homeland. You can’t skip past the ads though, we tried.


Streaming and Picture Quality

Picture quality of streams on YouView 4oD is good – head and shoulders above that on the PS3 – but not quite as sharp or easy on the eye as on Virgin Media TiVo.

YouView says that it needs a minimum download speed of 3Mbps for on-demand content to stream smoothly though in our experience, 4oD works best on something with a speed of around 5-6Mbps. On slower connections picture quality suffers and there’s the usual gremlins such as slowdown and pauses as the programmes try to load. 

Conclusion

The YouView 4oD experience is a nicely integrated and easy to use one and the quality of the streams aren’t bad – but they can’t really hold a candle to the high definition streams available on Virgin Media TiVo.

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