YouView review

YouView brings on-demand TV services together

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Electronic programme guide

The EPG itself has very similar functionality, though stretches seven days in advance (as all Freeview boxes do) and seven days back (like a Virgin Media TiVo box), with the FF/RW buttons used to change days.

Although this EPG is unique to Humax, we suspect that it's fairly standard fare for YouView; it's graced by the platform's logo and an excellent, nuanced colour scheme that's easy to look at for long periods.

YouView review

The live TV thumbnail is also welcome, and though its limit of six channels' schedules at a time can feel a little limiting, it does put all the main terrestrial channels in one place – and they're the ones likely to supply you with possible catch-up TV choices.

YouView user interface

Press the blue YouView button on the remote and the live TV channel is immediately framed by a YouView logo and the current time up top, and five icons below; Search, MyView (a list of scheduled and completed recordings), Guide (that EPG, as described above), On-Demand and Settings.

The Search option is a thing of wonder; begin to type a word and instant, dynamic results in YouView's on-demand archives are presented for one-click watching. Entering P-A-L on the remote brought up Himalayas with Michael Palin, for instance, while even just typing 'T' produced T In The Park The SooTy Show and The IT Crowd.

YouView review

Aside from the speed, what we like best about this function is that the whole process can take place while you're watching almost a full screen of live TV.

On-demand content

On-demand content is split up into Adult, Film, Players, TV and Radio. Adult is a PIN-protected area, but devoid of smut, while Film contains a nicely presented carousel of movies available on all players - prior to Sky's Now TV appearing mid-way through our review, we found 20 titles, but none of them were must-sees.

Players contains individual links to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5, with Sky's Now TV app appearing during our review in one of six tantalizingly empty blocks for further channels, apps or on-demand hubs. TV presents programmes divided by genre. This is probably the easiest way to locate, say, EastEnders as well as random documentaries, viewable both by latest additions and popularity.

YouView review

Finally, in Radio we easily found Lauren Laverne's show for BBC 6 Music, and played it via the BBC iPlayer without issues.

As well as making it easy to find what you want, this On-Demand area is perhaps the most valuable area, since it makes it easy to discover new programmes. In our test we stumbled upon the travel genre, and were soon watching Bill Connolly's Route 66 from ITV4, and Julia Bradbury's Icelandic Walk on the BBC iPlayer, though as with most things on YouView, the source is almost irrelevant.

Our only criticism is that – a little like looking at podcasts on an iPhone – it's not always possible to see more than the first few words of a programme title.

Now TV

Is Sky's just-in Now TV the missing link that makes YouView a must-have slab of TV tech? Well, kind of. At the time of our review the app had just appeared, with Sky offering all YouView users a 30-day free trial of its Sky Movies Pass, although it does involve registering your credit card details and an automatic £15 per month charge after that, which kicks-in automatically after the trial.

Still, we like the option to add the latest films to YouView (better still, a 'pay and play' option enables one-off movies for 99p-£3.49), and Now certainly does that; we spotted Captain America, The Smurfs, Despicable Me, Thor and X-Men: First Class all offered on-demand by Now TV.

YouView review

All of Sky's films are nicely classified into genres (Action, Indie, War, and so on) and collections (Against the Clock, Blockbusters, Brit Hts, and so on), with cover art displayed on a carousel.

Although Now TV is offered as a separate app, its content seeps through into YouView's core GUI. The previously scantly populated Films tab on YouView's home page is now utterly dominated by titles only available to Now TV subscribers.

Yes, it massively beefs up YouView's film library, but to those who refuse to even consider paying for films - or any other content, for that matter - the integration of Now TV titles could annoy.

For those who want YouView to remain the ultimate platform for free-to-air terrestrial programming, there should be an option to switch off Now TV content - we had rather enjoyed seeing a list of all free-to-air on-demand films. Has YouView been hijacked?