If you want free to air TV in New Zealand then you’re either getting it through Freeview or Sky TV. Sky relies on set-top boxes and whilst they have updated the interface Sky continues to lag behind the competition. Freeview on the other hand has continued to evolve.
Any modern Smart TV will come with Freeview built into it supporting satellite or UHF, more and more you’ll find your TV will support both. That doesn’t mean the good old set-top box has gone the way of the dinosaurs though. If you want the ability to record channels without having to fork over your hard earned cash to Sky every month then a set-top box is going to be one of your only options.
Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) have been a around for a while. They have supported Freeview but let’s be honest they haven’t been all that smart. All that has changed.
The new Dual Tuner PVR made by Dish TV is the first Freeview set-top box that runs on Android TV. The PVR becomes your one-stop shop for content whether its live TV, recorded TV, streaming on demand content or flinging content from your phone onto the TV with its in-built Chromecast functionality.
All of this comes inside a sleek, minimalist design that is just 220mm wide x 180mm deep x 47mm high.
Before I get into the Android side of things allow me to go old-school and talk about something we all used to do in the years before Netflix came to our shores, watching TV live. I know scary right? Who watches content that isn’t on demand any more? Actually a lot of people. After all not EVERYTHING is available on demand (although most stuff is).
In any case for the live TV buffs out there this new Freeview PVR has dual tuner capability. What that means is it doesn’t matter where you live in New Zealand you can purchase this and be safe in the knowledge it will work for you. It supports both satellite and UHF antenna so you don’t need to be in a digital UHF nirvana for it to work, hook it up to that satellite on your roof and you’re away. The flip side of that is if you get UHF coverage you don’t need to tap into that decaying relic of years gone by.
Set up is relatively painless although a tad slow. Android TV takes a while to boot up and then you have to go through the usual Google-centric set-up steps of signing into your Wi-fi (or to bypass that plug in to your router via ethernet), sign in to your Google account and of course, like any connected device these days, update the firmware and have the option to install a few recommended Android apps.
That process is the longest part of the set-up process. It is cumbersome but once you get through that setting up your Freeview channels is a breeze. I tried it with both Satellite and UHF and in both cases it completed the scans quickly and programmed the channels in.
Once you’re fully up and running the UI is pretty clean and intuitive, supported by a remote control with minimal buttons that makes navigation a breeze.
The Android TV interface isn’t the cleanest in the world but that is Google’s problem not Freeviews. Once you slip into the Freeview side of things the experience is a lot cleaner with horizontal tiles displaying show, etc, not too dissimilar from what you get within the likes of Netflix and Lightbox.
From there you can see your recordings, access Freeview on demand and search as well. If you really wanna go full lazy you can use the voice assistant on the remote to get you around, although it can be hit and miss.
When it comes to recording the dual tuner capability has a special trick up its sleeve. You can actually use the dual tuner on satelitte OR terrestrial connections so you can record two channels at once or record one channel and watch another. The recorder features 1TB of storage so you can pack a massive 500 hours worth of TV goodness inside this thing.
For the On Demand side of things Lightbox is here but surprisingly Netflix isn’t. You can find extra apps (not Netflix though) from the Google Play store but I still find Android TV surprisingly light on quality apps. Is that a problem? Not at all. Why? Because this box has Chromecast built-in.
It’s not any old Chromecast either, this PVR is 4K capable which essentially means you’ve got Chromecast Ultra capabilities to show off 4K content if your TV can handle 4K. Having Chromecast on there means that it doesn’t really matter if you can’t find apps streaming apps in the Play store on the box. Just open the app on your Android phone and cast it to the TV and you’re away and laughing. Whether it’s your favourite streaming app that you want to watch or just throw up some photos and videos to show family, having the Chromecast functionality means that the Freeview PVR becomes the one stop hub to power your TV.
Yes most of us have a Smart TV these days that have a plethora of apps available direct from the TV and Freeview built in but TV operating systems all differ between providers. Some only have Freeview for UHF or Satellite. Most let you plug in a USB drive to record. What none of that does is offer a clean, neat experience. Plugging in a USB Drive to record does work with modern TVs but it is ugly.
For those with a Smart TV, the Freeview PVR is a great way to bring all of your TV needs into one single ecosystem in a clean user-friendly manner. For those without a Smart TV then it’s hard to go past the Freeview PVR, you get the power of a Smart TV with recording functionality, on demand content and third party apps all without the need to upgrade.
The FreeviewDual Tuner PVR is available from Freeview retailers for $439.
The Freeview Dish TV Dual Tuner PVR was provided by Freeview for Review purposes.