The second problem is that it’s not a particularly competent wireless streamer. It’s UPnP compatible, which means that sharing videos, music and photos across a network is pain free, but the picture quality and stability of signal is poor. Using an episode of the Armstrong and Miller show downloaded via BBC iPlayer as a test video, I streamed from a Wi-Fi connected laptop via an 802.11g router and again over Wi-Fi to the TV+, with all the devices in the same small living room. The result? Regular picture break-up – something I hadn’t seen before when using the same setup to stream standard definition files from other media streamers – the Netgear EVA8000 or D-Link DSM-330, for instance.
Not only that, but when the image was stable, it was of poor quality, with over-saturated colours and a blocky, pixellated picture. The TV+ isn’t an HD device (despite the presence of HDMI and component outputs), and that tends to show up on an HD-capable TV. A bog-standard Sky tuner, external Freeview recorder box and the internal Freeview tuner in the TV all manage to produce better picture than that on the TV+. Again, other streamers I’ve tested, such as D-Link’s DSM-330, have had much better quality moving images.
And I was none too impressed with the TV+’s video format support. Out of the box you can play MPEG-4 AVI files, standard definition DivX files or WMV files up to DVD resolution – nothing more. You can playback ripped VOB files (MPEG-2), and standard definition H.264 files as well, but to do this, annoyingly, you have to pay extra (£15 a pop) for a couple of plug-ins.
Music streaming is a little more impressive, with the ability to browse during playback – a distinct advantage over most competitive media streamers. But the file format support is again unimpressive (just MP3 and WMA) until you add AAC via one of the aforementioned plug-ins.
Of course streaming is not the only feather in the TV+’s cap. It also boasts of being able to record TV. But the way this is achieved is very clunky. Instead of including a digital Freeview tuner with access to an over-the-air TV guide, it uses a combination of an online Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), called TVTV, and an infrared emitter on the box itself, which it uses to cleverly turn on your satellite box and change channel in preparation for recording.
This worked fine for me during testing, but it’s no substitute for a decent twin-tuner recorder, which can do all this, plus allow you to watch another channel simultaneously or even record two at once. To compound all this, after an initial year of free EPG, you then have to pay a subscription if you want to continue using it.