Telstra TV review

The Telstra TV is comprehensive Australia streaming

Telstra TV

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Telstra has included Stan and Netflix apps straight out of the box.

This combination - straight out of the gate - means that it's got the best collection of SVOD services available on Australian boxes anywhere.

Catch up TV services are also well catered for – Yahoo!7's Plus 7 app is there, as is SBS On Demand and the newly added 9Now, which lets users watch on demand and live content from Nine's stable of channels.

A recent update saw both TenPlay and ABC iview land on the device as well, which gives a fairly complete free-to-air suite of catch up services.

Telstra TV review

Also on the app front, you get BigPond Movies, YouTube, GoPro and RedBull out of the box. But the list of apps is fairly short: Alongside the ones already mentioned, there's the Roku Media Player, Crunchyroll, TuneIn radio, WSJ Video, Vimeo, and AwesomenessTV.

Plus, a recent update saw the arrival of Telstra's NRL and AFL apps, Fox Sports, and an NBA streaming channel.

Unfortunately though, anyone hoping to leverage the Telstra TV as a tool to access global streaming services, like the US Netflix catalogue or HBO Now will be entirely out of luck.

One of the biggest restrictions of the Telstra TV is that it locks down any ability to play with the device's settings. So those who like to tweak the DNS to access the US streaming services and their larger libraries.

In and of itself, this probably isn't going to phase too many customers. But when you factor in that Telstra has locked down one of the Roku 2's most endearing features - more than 2,000 niche content channels to choose from.

Telstra TV review

Instead, everything you get on the Telstra TV has been carefully curated by the telco. Again, for most people having access to Stan and Netflix will be enough, but for anyone hoping for the Australian Roku, this probably isn't it.


Like the Roku box that it's based on, the Telstra TV is incredibly easy to control. The remote has a simple, minimal button layout that is easy to come to terms with for even the most novice user.

At the top, home and back buttons prove to be key navigational tools. The four-way D-pad is next, with the OK button conveniently located in the centre.

Below the D-pad is the Roku's two distinct buttons – a short rewind button that allows users to jump back 30 seconds to let you quickly catch up on missed bits of a show, while the asterisks button offers contextual menu options in certain situations.

Unfortunately, the remote isn't the most responsive unit we've ever wrapped our hands around, especially when compared to the quick touchpad-unit paired with the new Apple TV. Trying to cycle quickly through a list of programs, or even type out your login details to Netflix takes time, especially when not every press is recognised.

Telstra TV review

However, the bigger challenge isn't in the remote itself, but in some of the local apps. While the Netflix app shows all the polish you'd expect from the global streaming service, some of the local offerings are comparatively archaic.

Presto, though no longer available, was a disappointing experience. When you'd launch the app, you'd see a large splash page suggesting you sign up if you're new. That happens even after you've logged in and are regularly running the program.

That splash page would remain onscreen for about five seconds before a countdown clock appears in the bottom left corner that tells you it is about to start the app. So, 10 seconds after launching Presto from the menu, the app would finally launch.

However, it still takes the Telstra TV about another 20 seconds to actually present you with the content selection. 30 seconds to access content is pretty terrible in today's day and age, especially when Netflix will get you to the content in a couple of seconds.

Telstra TV review

However, this issue won't matter much longer – with Presto now a thing of the past, Foxtel is hoping that subscribers will transition over to its redesigned Foxtel Play app. Thankfully, Foxtel Play is now available on Telstra TV. It's also the first device to allow the app to live stream in HD.

The catch up TV services aren't quite as disappointing – they all have the same navigation with a rather clunky on screen font and probably require a press too many to actually access content, but otherwise they are fairly responsive.

Stan's app is a familiar experience to anyone who has used the PS4 or iOS version of the app. It's also fairly quick to launch and easy to navigate, despite the remote's seeming lethargy.

The recent additions of Telstra's AFL and NRL apps also seem a little underwhelming. While the navigation is quick and clear, actual playback struggled. When running off WiFi, playing a replay of a match was impossible to watch: the stream would constantly launch, play 10 seconds of the match, and then restart on a loop.

Plugging it in to the wired connection helped – It only restarted twice. The picture was also clearer than the Pacman-era blocks we saw on a wireless connection. But it was far from an HD stream, which is extremely frustrating if you're watching on a nice, large 4K TV.

So overall, we can comfortably say that the experience wasn't fantastic. It was easy, sure, but it seemed to lack polish and speed, something the new Apple TV delivers in spades.

Telstra TV review

One other quirk we noticed while reviewing was the fact that when you're playing your own mkv files using the Roku Media Player app, the Roku box doesn't decode a Dolby Digital audio signal.

Instead, it offers support via HDMI pass through, meaning that you need to have the Roku box plugged into a device (like an AV receiver) capable of decoding the format.

Depending on your setup, this could be a massive frustration, or it could be nothing.

Also missing from the Telstra TV is Roku's universal search functionality, which lets you search for your favourite show and have the device tell you where you can watch it across your streaming services.

Apparently this will be released down the track in a firmware update which will help improve the device. But for the moment, it's simply not there, which makes navigating to your favourite program just that little bit more difficult.


Until every streaming service manages to make its way to every smart TV and games console (or to an Apple TV app), the Telstra TV has a relatively unique selling point in being a one-stop shop for video streaming for Australians.

That's a pretty enticing offer, given the variety of content between the services (and the fact that a subscription to all three is still cheaper than a decent Foxtel plan).

Telstra TV review

But having the content available isn't the same as being a good product. And performance-wise, there's still a long way to go for the Telstra TV before it becomes an essential partner to home viewing.

The good news is that almost every issue we have with the Telstra TV can be fixed with a firmware update, so we're keen to see just how far Telstra takes this device in the future.

We Liked

Well, you can't go past the content selection. Telstra's ability to bring Netflix, and Stan, plus all the catch up services, onto a single platform is certainly noteworthy.

The controls and setup are fairly simple – easy enough for most punters to get right without calling up the family tech-support member at least.

And once things are streaming - well, the quality is generally pretty good.

We Disliked

Some of the apps, with the exceptions of the big global apps like Netflix, also suffer on the usability front, although not to the same extent as the Presto app did while it was around.

Telstra has also cut back the versatility of the box this is based on, which means the wide variety of channels and custom settings have been locked down. While that probably won't affect most users, it's certain to challenge tech-savvy adopters looking for an Australian Roku product.

Final verdict

Even though externally, the Telstra TV is identical to the Roku 2 box it is based on, Telstra has done enough on the software front to deliver an entirely different product.

Sadly, we don't think that these changes have actually improved the offer for Australian SVOD fans.

Sure, they've managed to collect all the local SVOD platforms in one place, but the truth is that the experience isn't up to scratch, especially compared to the latest Apple TV's UI.

There's also the fact that the Sony Playstation consoles have all the SVOD services now, although lack the complete collection of catch up services

Still, for $99, the Telstra TV is priced well, and does have a unique content offering. With a few firmware updates, it could even become a must-have device. But for now, you're probably better off saving your cash.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.