- Good picture quality
- Easy to use
- Useful Replay features
- Limited on-demand content
- Limited remote viewing
- EE customers only
EE has branched out into television services. Its first offering, EE TV, lets its broadband customers watch live and on-demand telly via a free set-top-box and a monthly subscription. Here’s our full, in-depth review to help you decide whether it’s worth the cash.
Splash out on EE TV and you’ll be sent a set-top-box and a remote control. The box itself is a simple enough design, with a pleasing turquoise power light and matching logo shade. The abundance of cooling vents on the lid is a little unorthodox, but it means the device doesn’t require cooling fans and is therefore silent (keep it out of sight and ensure small kids don’t spill liquids on the delicate components inside).
The rear of the set-top-box is, predictably, littered with ports. You’ll find an HDMI output port that lets you connect to most TVs, a coaxial aerial port, which you’ll need to connect to your roof aerial wall panel (EE TV receives live TV feeds over the air, like any normal telly does) a power input and an Ethernet port which you’ll use to connect the box to your router.
There are also USB for connecting movies you’ve downloaded, TV-out and digital and coaxial audio ports to be found at the rear.
The EE TV remote is very straightforward. There’s a power button at the top right, some channel selector and text entry number buttons below that, followed by playback controls, a selector rocker and volume and channel selectors.
Back, menu and information buttons are next up, followed by clearly marked guide and record buttons, then a row of ‘R’, ‘G’, ‘Y’, ‘B’ interactive buttons (that’s red, green, yellow and blue) that allow you to trigger red button-style services.
Overall, the remote is incredibly simple to use. Some may bemoan the lack of some options, such as a mute button, or shortcut buttons that take you to directly to some interactive services, but we like the design.
EE TV’s user interface is a breath of fresh air. The home screen consists of six large panels, the largest of which is a live feed or whatever channel you happen to be watching currently. Immediately surrounding this are five smaller thumbnails that give you static preview graphics of the five ‘main’ channels: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – so you have quick access to the things most normal folk watch most of the time.
Finding something else to watch can be achieved in a few ways. A TV guide icon takes you to a fairly standard-looking TV guide. The only major difference between this implementation and rivals’ is the fact there is no live thumbnail view of the channel you’re currently watching. Instead, the slightly transparent guide is overlayed on top of the channel feed.
The radio icon does what it says on the proverbial tin, and the ‘live channels’ icon lets you browse what’s being shown currently on all live channels by way of a grid of large thumbnail previews.
Live channel icons are, by default, organised by category, with thumbnails grouped according to movie, drama, entertainment, lifestyle, kids or ‘new’.
Push the up button whilst you’re watching a particular show and you’ll get a smaller list showing what’s on all channels at that time, without navigating away from what you’re watching at the moment. Pushing the left or right buttons whilst watching a program shows you what’s happening or has happened on that channel earlier or later.
Pushing the navigation arrow on the remote left when sat on the main menu and you’ll find a list of all the interactive services on EE TV.
EE TV offers a Sky Go-style service that allows customers to watch EE TV on their tablet or smartphone. It’s fairly comprehensive, too; you can watch programmes on the TV whilst watching up to three other programmes on three separate handheld devices at the same time – plus you can pause or rewind as normal.
Swiping your finger upwards on the app sends whatever you’re watching onto your TV. Sadly, EE TV doesn’t let you watch programmes on your tablet while you’re out and about – you need to be connected to your home broadband.
EE TV gives you access to over 70 digital terrestrial channels including 13 in HD – the same as you get on Freeview. You can watch everything live as normal, but you can also pause and rewind shows and watch some programmes on demand.
EE TV supports a ‘Replay’ feature. With this, you can assign your six favourite channels and have them automatically record absolutely everything on a 24-hour loop, so those six channels are effectively available on demand.
At the moment, Replay only stores content from these six channels for a day – after that 24 hour cycle is up, the EE TV box will delete your recordings in order to make way for the next lot of content. Eventually, you’ll be able to move Replay-recorded content to the hard drive permanently, if you want more time to catch up.
EE TV also features ‘Restart’, which is an extention of Replay. This lets you skip to the beginning of live programmes if you happen to have missed the start.
You also get on-demand services, which let you watch catch-up TV and movies on demand, including BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Demand 5, Wuaki.tv, BBC Sport, Daily Motion and The Box.
Recombu understands that extra services like BBC Connected Red Button and Hopster are coming soon and that other on-demand services are also in the pipeline. EE isn’t dropping any names right now but we’d be surprised if things like Netflix and ITV Player didn’t eventually make their way to the service.
As EE TV is an HTML5-based platform, it should be easy for developers to migrate existing services to the device.
Picture quality on EE TV is good, if not spectacular. It can’t rival that offered by Sky TV or Virgin Media, but the picture is noticeably better than that offered by TalkTalk TV, which can look pixellated and noisy in contrast.
EE TV is currently available only to EE customers. You’ll need EE home broadband, which costs £9.95 per month, excluding line rental of £15.75 per month. If you’re already an EE home broadband customer, you’ll need to commit to a new 18-month contract for EE TV and broadband costing £9.95 plus line rental. However you go about it, you’ll be paying £25.70 per month.
That’s not especially cheap, but it’s good value for a service that offers TV, home broadband and telephone.
A rivals service from TalkTalk, Essentials TV, will set you back roughy the same amount after any introductory offers are taken into account.
EE TV is a very accomplished service, with a solid, simple user interface and commendable picture quality. It’s a step up from standard Freeview set top boxes, offering a good choice of Freeview and on-demand content.
It’s not perfect by any means. Services such as TalkTalk offer more viewing options, including a bigger library of on-demand content, movies, sports and the ability to add Sky channels. Likewise, if all you want is a slightly better TV service than Freeview and you don’t want broadband or phone, then you’ll be better off buying a YouView box with a one-off payment.
But if you’re already an EE customer and you want a TV service that doesn’t require you to switch broadband providers then EE TV is worth considering.
|No of on-demand services||9|
|TV outputs||HDMI, TV-out|
|Audio outouts||Digital SPDIF; Stereo|
|Number of channels||70+|
|Number of tuners||4|
|Price||£25.70 with broadband and phone|