In a world where streaming dominates and is often easy to access, some might question the need to buy a fancy set-top box like the BT TV Box Pro.
Our answer is quite simple: BT TV will give you access to recording your favorite shows to watch at your leisure; an electronic program guide (EPG) in the form of YouView which makes navigation enjoyable and easy; and access to content that even your favorite streaming platforms can’t provide, like BT Sport (in 4K resolution with Dolby Atmos, no less).
The BT TV Box Pro uses Wi-Fi and aerial connections to get its content, unlike Sky Q where you’ll need a satellite dish – something that many landlords, councils, listed buildings and the like won’t even allow. ‘be installed. No problem with BT. Indeed, this feature alone could well make it the UK’s number one TV platform.
BT TV Box Pro: price and availability
BT TV is only available in the UK and you’ll need a suitable broadband connection – which BT also provides. If you sign up for a BT TV and broadband package, a £30 activation fee and £9.99 delivery charge applies. So unless you have a special promo code, that’s an initial cost of £39.99 for the Smart Hub 2 router and Box Pro set-top box.
Thereafter, the cost can vary greatly depending on what you select. Broadband ranges from just £26.99 per month for 2 years at a guaranteed downlink speed of 18Mbps, to a flat £55.99 per month over 2 years for a guaranteed 700Mbps. This will, of course, depend on whether you live in a properly wired area to get the best speeds.
But really, we’re here to talk TV. Combined with broadband, you can expect a Sports package to cost you £43.99 per month; Entertainment is a bit more, at £49.99 per month; then there are the ‘Big Sport’, ‘Big Entertainment’ and ‘VIP’ packages which go up to £106.99 per month. You can also tinker with what you want/don’t want to put together your own packages, including adding services like Amazon and/or Netflix if you want.
Cheap? No. But then it’s comparable: Sky Q’s flagship packages seem to be cheaper, but will cost you just as much, or even more, when you start adding extras (such as Ultra HD+HD, Sport, Cinema, etc.).
Setup – is it easy?
As we said above: with the BT TV Box Pro you don’t need a satellite dish. All you really need is your broadband connection. However, this will not give you access to channels via Freeview (including UK terrestrial channels), for which BT recommends that you also ensure you have an aerial connection (this will also allow for greater simultaneous recording potential).
The Box Pro itself is 34cm across, 14cm deep and just 4cm tall from a surface – so it’s not really big enough to get in the way of anything if you have to. position it, for example, in front of your television.
Once the Box Pro is plugged in – using the dedicated power adapter that comes in the box – there’s access to an Ethernet port to ensure the fastest connection, although Wi-Fi is also available here in case where it would not be convenient for you. There’s those antenna in/out jacks, plus an HDMI port that supports passthrough – which, as we’ve configured, is really handy for use with a soundbar system setup .
To ensure quality, BT says you’ll need at least 5 Mbps download speed for non-air source HD content. If you look at 4K/UHD quality, that increases a lot, to 30 Mbps. But with the kind of broadband available these days, that shouldn’t be a problem (after running a speed test here, on a different floor, and through several closed doors, our Smart Hub 2 delivers 230Mbps – and c is wireless, so the wired speed should be even faster!).
Channels, services, recording and playback
Turn on the set-top box for the first time and it will go through various setup screens, search for your channels from all available sources and present them in the nicely laid out and easy to use Electronic Program Guide (EPG). . It’s easy to access live channels, set recordings (single or serial) using the included remote, or dive into streaming services to catch up on things you missed and didn’t want. haven’t recorded. This is how Freeview works: you can “scroll back” and it will launch the appropriate catch-up platform. Intelligent.
That said, you’ll probably spend more time scrolling through the main menu and discovering what BT TV really has to offer: sports and entertainment. After all, these are the essentials of the package and what you’re really paying for.
If you like sports a lot, there are only two logical ways to get it: BT or Sky. Whichever provider you choose, you can also buy the opposition package, so you don’t lose (you just increase the cost of your package). BT TV has all the Sky Sports channels, for the full Premier League, F1, Motorsport, Golf, Cycling, and more. However, it comes from Sky’s Now Sports packages, meaning it’s capped at HD, while BT Sport content is 4K (Sky customers have the reverse ‘problem’: HD BT but 4K Sky sports content) .
Not into sports? You don’t need to pay for it on BT TV. There’s access to Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Sky Cinema – all direct through the Box Pro. You can record all of that too, so if you want that latest movie in 4K quality, it’s there for the taking.
That said, the number of sources you can record simultaneously has its limits. It’s only two broadband broadcasts at a time if you watch a third channel, but more if you record broadcasts from antennas. Sky offers more than BT in this regard: it’s up to six channels at a time, while you watch a seventh (the kind of thing big families might appreciate!).
For the sake of BT TV Box Pro, there are a few weaknesses. The first being that this is a 1TB enclosure. Yes, we know that a terabyte is not a small amount of space, but we believe it should be double that capacity. After all, while it will cover 60 hours of 4K recordings, that will mean a half-full situation after recording three sets of a favorite.
The other absences are a bit more apparent in terms of access to streaming services: there’s no Disney+ or Apple TV+ in the interface (but you do get Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BritBox (if anyone). one cares about the last of them) It’s not the end of the world, as you can simply plug the appropriate dongle into a spare HDMI port and source it some other way (your TV’s own interface may even solve the problem). But realistically you want everything in one place – that’s half the point of a product like BT TV.
The final point we’ll make here isn’t so much an absence, but rather a repetition of the cost (it’s an absence in a sense: the money is no longer in your bank account). If all you really need is Freeview, you can get it, you guessed it, for free. That’ll be enough to watch the UK’s ‘big four’ live, plus a few extras. Many streaming services also provide great content that you can spend most of your time watching anyway, perhaps negating the need for a fancy set-top box.
BT TV Box Pro review: Verdict
If you like sports and/or entertainment and want the best quality TV service in the UK – and you absolutely don’t want or can’t have a satellite dish at the side of your house – then BT TV’s Box Pro solution is by far the best money can buy.
Yes, it will cost a pretty penny over time, and there are some absences from Disney+ that aren’t built into the interface, but when it comes to having access to a wide range of premium 4K content plan, all of which is recordable, having a BT TV Pro Box under the TV will quickly become something you won’t want to be without.
BT TV’s Box Pro’s main rival is Sky Q – but for that you’ll need a dish on your house, which for us is less preferable. Satellite-free Sky is possible, in the form of Sky Glass, but it’s an all-in-one TV offering, not just a service, so really won’t suit everyone. In the near future there will also be Virgin Media’s Stream product, which is a dongle that can enter any HDMI socket, so could be a cheaper entry point – especially for those in areas where BT and/or Sky cannot offer service.