BT Ultra HD YouView box review

Be warned, once you try UHD you'll struggle to accept relatively soft HD channels...

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Our Verdict

It's only available to BT Infinity subscribers and involves a significant financial commitment, but this Humax box takes broadcast TV pictures to the next level, serving up spectacular 4K images on Europe's first UHD channel. But its greatest strength is also a weakness, making Full HD seem mediocre and it desperately needs more UHD content.

For

  • Amazing UHD clarity and detail
  • Easy to operate
  • Slick menu system
  • YouView 7-day rollback EPG

Against

  • Dearth of UHD content
  • Only available to BT broadband users renewing annual contract
  • Slow to boot up
  • HD channels look soft

As a West Ham United supporter I usually give the Community Shield a miss but this year, thanks to BT Sport and its new Ultra HD channel, I was more than happy to settle down to watch Europe's first ever live 4K UHD broadcast.

With my newly installed Humax DTR-T4000, piping its 2160p images at 50 frames per second into an HDMI input of a Samsung 48JU7000T, I was as happy as Larry as I settled down to decide whether UHD would live up to the hype.

Then I remembered there hasn't really been much hype.

Not from BT Sport; no adverts and no campaigns. Compared with the noise about having secured exclusive rights to UEFA Champions League, and some more Premier League games, the silence has been deafening.

Apparently there are only 2,000 Ultra HD YouView boxes out there and as things unfolded on the day it became apparent we were witnessing a soft launch.

The Humax DTR-T4000 is the only box on the market that will allow you to watch live 4K broadcasts. It's a YouView+ box, virtually identical in appearance and functionality to the YouView from BT box, except with a 1TB hard disk capable of storing 60 hours of UHD content.

BT Ultra HD

Given the current paucity of live UHD content you'll probably be filling it with HD or even SD shows, giving 250 hours and 600 hours respectively. Another difference is that this box is fan cooled, which makes it a bit noisy when the TV's been switched off but is totally necessary as it runs hot enough to fry an egg on.

To watch in BT Sport in 4K Ultra HD you'll need a compatible screen with at least one HDMI 2.0 input that can handle HDCP 2.2 content protection and a picture resolution of 2160p (50Hz).

Most 2015 4K TV screens will play nice with the BT Sport UHD channel but many older models won't so you should check first on BT's website if in doubt.

Incidentally, you can watch the 4K channel, downscaled to 1080p on a non-4K screen. For anyone not wanting to buy a 4K screen yet it may be worth investing in the box before buying one, giving you noticeably superior pictures to Full HD channels.

What does it cost?

First up, you need to be a BT Infinity broadband customer (with a minimum 40Mbps connection) and a subscriber to BT TV's top-flight Entertainment Ultra HD package, which is £15 a month.

You'll also have to pay £50 for the box (free to new customers), line rental of £16.99/month and an installation fee of £44 if a BT Engineer is required to get you going.

New BT customers will have to pay £6.95 for a BT Home Hub router too.

Note that the IP content including BT Sport will not work if you use a different make of router and that the Humax box is not wireless. BT does supply a 10m Ethernet cable, but you could try a Powerline connection.

You get 248 channels including 47 premium entertainment, documentary and lifestyle channels. Freeview channels are delivered via an aerial, the rest via internet.

BT Ultra HD

Nearly 50 channels are in HD, 13 of which are premium ones (including seven BT Sport Extra channels). You also get the BT Sport Pack (BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, BT Sport Europe, BT Sport ESPN) which includes all of the UEFA Champions League and a number of Premier League games.

Some of these will be shown in 4K on the Ultra HD channel (number 434 on the EPG). Aside from the odd live broadcast there's very little to UHD, just a slew of short promo films designed to show off the format.

Netflix's Ultra HD content is coming though and you can also subscribe to Sky Movies, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2, but not in HD - these are in standard def only (so why bother?).

To operate the box you use the humungous remote control, which is a touch unwieldy but at least the operating system is pleasing to look at and logically laid out, with carousels of menu options appearing in narrow bands at the bottom of the screen.

BT Ultra HD

YouView+ means you get an EPG that scrolls back seven days as well as forwards and allows you to record shows from the past week so long as they are also contained within the relevant on-demand engine (iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Demand 5, BT Player, Now TV, Milkshake!, UKTV Play, Sky Store, Quest, S4C), plus two apps (BBC News and BBC Sport), with Netflix expected to join the party at a later date.

There are also scores of movies, TV shows (including box sets) and music videos to rent or buy from the likes of Sky Store, BT TV, Curzon Cinema, Nat Geo Wild, E!, SyFy, Universal, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, Sony TV, Discovery, TLC, History, Fox, Comedy Central, MTV, and more…