The BT TV service and Ultra HD YouView set top box package was among the first to offer 4K content beamed straight to your living room. It's been a few years since its launch, and it's a better service than ever before – despite strong competition from 4K broadcast competitors.
Technically known as the Humax DTR-T4000, the box certainly lives up to the hype surrounding UHD. With compatible systems now on the market from the likes of Sky and Virgin Media though, does the BT option still hold up though?
The Humax DTR-T4000 is 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.
Live UHD content remains mostly limited to sporting events here, so you might well be filling the BT Ultra HD YouView box 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 modern 4K TV screens will play nice with the UHD channels.
Incidentally, you can also watch 4K channels downscaled to 1080p on a non-4K screen, which is something to bear in mind if you've got an older set.
BT Sport is the crown jewel of the package, with picture quality so spectacularly good it makes it nigh-on impossible to revert to inferior Full HD pics once you've had a taste of its 4K heights.
If you're a sport-loving BT Infinity subscriber the extra cost to get the telecom company's 4K TV option thrown in with your package is almost a no-brainer. But for non-BT customers the cost implications are higher and more complicated. You can check what it will cost you here on BT TV's webpage.
With wide-ranging app support that takes in not only Netflix, iPlayer and Sky's Now TV content, it also includes Amazon Prime Video – a streaming service that class-leading Sky hasn't even secured yet. The Now TV addition makes for a complete Sky TV alternative too – even if the Now TV programming isn't offered in 4K, as it would be presented on Sky Q.
But all in, there's a lot to love about BT TV and the YouView box. It's speedy, sharp, and presents its content well, meaning those that make the most of its add-on package options will get a great deal of bang for their buck.
Price and availability
First up, you need to be a BT Infinity broadband customer (with a minimum 40Mbps connection) and a subscriber to BT TV's top-level Ultra HD packages, which start at £15 a month. Regular BT TV starts at £10 a month. What's accessible to customers varies from region to region, so we'd recommend checking out our best BT broadband deals page to find what works for you.
You'll also have to pay £50 for the box (free to new customers), line rental fees and an installation fee if a BT Engineer is required to get you going. So there are plenty of potential additional charges to be aware of during that initial sign up phase.
Note that the IP content including BT Sport will not work if you use a different make of router, and that the Humax box isn't wireless. BT does supply a 10m Ethernet cable, but you could try a Powerline connection.
You get 263 channels at BT's top VIP package tier, including premium entertainment, documentary and lifestyle channels. Freeview channels are delivered via an aerial, the rest via internet.
Various add ons can be bolted on to your package too, offering wider sports, entertainment and movie coverage as you go up the pricing bracket, with the 'VIP' set giving you everything – including full Sky Cinema and Sports access through the Now TV app.
As of September 2020, they're priced as below. (For more info on those packages, check out https://www.bt.com/tv/packages/.)
- Sport Package: Now free for 3 months, 24 month contract – £29.99 upfront. £15 per month from month 4
- Big Sport Now: £20 for 6 months, 24 month contract – £9.99 upfront. £40 per month from month 7
- Entertainment: £12 a month – 24 month contract – £29.99 upfront
- Big Entertainment: £22 a month, 24 month contract – £29.99 upfront
- VIP: £60 a month, 24 month contract – £29.99 upfront
Channels, apps, features
Over 60 channels are in HD, with some of the sporting ones making the jump to 4K as live events allow. As with Sky, there are no dedicated 4K entertainment channels, with over-the-air ultra HD content confined to BT Sports broadcasts.
Netflix's Ultra HD content has now arrived to add some much-needed extra 4K content. You can also subscribe to Sky Movies and Sky Sports channels (as well as Now TV boxset content), but only in HD.
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 TV makes use of the YouView+ platform and technology, which 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).
There are also scores of movies, TV shows (including box sets) and music videos to rent or buy.
Unfortunately, the box is no quicker to power up than the BT TV YouView box, taking a good 20 seconds or so from standby, even when taking the Smart and eco-friendly power up options into account.
Considering how complex the content offering is, the box itself is pretty easy to get to grips with.
Recording shows and accessing them proves a cinch and seems reliable, with the MyTV section of the interface housing recordings and scheduled recordings. In a nice addition, there's also a Watch List option – letting you keep track of things you'd like to give a look at some point, without committing to recording them.
HD vs 4K
While live 4K football is shown simultaneously in HD and Ultra HD each channel has its own cameras, commentators and studio support. And both require a lot of equipment and manpower to capture and deliver the picture.
Having checked out some of the matches broadcast in 4K, we can say the extra resolution proves captivating, especially when compared with the HD feeds. The most obvious difference is the extra detail afforded by the higher resolution format.
Everything is sharper than it is in HD – not just a bit sharper, much sharper. The outline of players in UHD is much clearer, the detail in the grass is better (even in wide shots), and you can actually read the wording on the ads that run round the upper tier of the Wembley stand.
This additional detail allows the camera to zoom out wider, so you see more of an overview of the action. Static detail is especially good since there is some inevitable loss of resolution with motion and the frame rate isn't high enough to keep fast moving objects pin sharp, though it is running at a higher rate than HD.
Any Ultra HD screen will be equipped to show off the extra detail with motion resolution holding up pretty well thanks to a 50fps frame rate.
Happily, the IPTV stream is outside of your internet service, so watching a broadcast won't affect simultaneous streaming or web browsing elsewhere in the home on a computer. Also, the IP stream is user-agnostic so your speed won't be affected by the number of other users in the district.
What's lacking still is BT's own access to 4K movies and entertainment content. It's now a baked in part of Sky's premium Sky Q 4K package. Yes, there's access to streaming services like Netflix to get your 4K kicks from on the BT platform, but that's an additional subscription.
Considering its diminutive size and unremarkable design the Humax DTR-T4000 packs one hell of a punch, offering a broad quantity of free and paid content including the YouView seven day roll-back EPG and BT TV's bespoke entertainment and sports offering.
Undoubtedly though it's the BT Sport Ultra HD channel that we're principally interested in, and without a doubt 4K UHD is the jewel in the BT YouView crown. Don't forget that extra content from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, though.
Get if if...
You want an easy-to-use interface
The box is easy to get to grips with, with an intuitive onscreen menu system that makes you more inclined to explore the on-demand content than before. The EPG is nicely laid out, which makes it a doddle to find and watch TV shows from the past seven days.
You're looking for crisp 4K sports options
The box's most important and likeable trait by far is the quality of the UHD channel. Utterly perfect for live sport, 4K images are astonishingly crisp and highly detailed. We also like the way the live broadcast is directed to take full advantage of the greater clarity on offer.
Don't get it if...
You want a wide array of non-sporting 4K content
More UHD content outside of sport is needed, even with the addition of Netflix and Amazon Prime. The on-demand repository also requires a massive boost to its 4K content.
You don't want to be (or can't be) a BT broadband subscriber
To get the most out of BT TV you're going to need to be a BT Fibre customer, which may not suit everyone, or be available at strong speeds in some regions of the country.