HD will surely be of interest to anyone reading this article, so we’re pleased to say that at the time of writing around 83 of the films available in the PPV Box Office section are available in HD. However, with 571 Box Office titles in total, that makes the HD proportion around 20%. Which isn’t as high as we might have hoped.
Luckily that’s not the end of the HD film provision if you’re an Unlimited subscriber, though. For the Vision Film section of archive titles features 116 HD films, out of a total selection of 250 titles. That’s a much more impressive 50% or so HD hit rate for the back catalogue movies.
One bit of bad HD news is that there aren’t currently any HD TV shows on BT Vision, which is a shame given how many shows are available in HD via Netflix, for instance.
Finding films you want to watch is reasonably straight forward, thanks to the provision of plenty of genre based filtering options, and a solid if not exactly state of the art text search filter.
Among the Box Office titles that caught our attention at the time of writing were Arthur Christmas, Men In Black 3, The Lorax, The Hunger Games, Warrior and Prometheus.
Running through the other key content categories aside from the Box Office and Vision Film categories, the Kids section contains around 158 titles taking in such classics as Scooby Doo, Angelina Ballerina, Chowder. and Ben 10.
The TV section comprises 302 titles divided into Ambient (!I), Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Lifestyle, Nature, Reality, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Stand-up Comedy, Animation, Crime, Adrenaline, and Late Night themes. Channels covered include BBC, ITV, National Geographic, History, Sony Retro, Comedy Central, Warner TV, ABC, MTV, Discovery, CBS, Eden, World of Redbull, Sony Entertainment, TNA Wrestling, Really, Good Food, Home, Crime and Investigation. Though in many cases there aren’t many titles available from each broadcaster.
The TV section also features a few ‘boxsets’ of full and sometimes multiple series. Key titles here include Dark Blue, The Forsyte Saga, Reaper, Spooks, The Shield, Ashes to Ashes, Vampire Diaries, Dirty Sexy Money, League of Gentlemen, The Killing, Black Adder, Doctor Who, and Grey’s Anatomy.
The Music section is a bit weird. It has this week’s top 40 as its main attraction, which is fair enough, but outside of that you only seem to get around 1000 videos. This might sound a lot, but it doesn’t take much exploring to realise that it’s far from comprehensive.
The biggest problem with the music section, though, is that each video you want to watch costs 50p. And this only gets you a 24-hour ‘rental’. This hardly makes commercial sense when you consider you can buy tracks permanently for not much more than that on iTunes!
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Moving swiftly on to the Sport section, this has 195 streamable titles. But most of the content is very niche; think wrestling, poker, extreme sports and so on rather than mainstream sports fare. To be clear, this sport channel is not to be confused with the Sky Sports offering available with the Sports pack.
More weirdness is in store with the ‘Essentials on Demand’ section. This seems to be a repository for anything that can’t be classified anywhere else, such as Karaoke versions of Frost the Snowman and Last Christmas’;and a Happy Mondays Call the Cops concert. Items here cost around £1.70 each.
Exploration over, it’s time to see how the BT Vision service performs. Streaming three or four of the headline titles and TV shows (you don’t download them anymore like you used to have to with the old BT Vision system), we were mostly pleasantly surprised with the results.
For starters, the streaming is impressively solid and stable – provided your connection is up to the job, of course. Speaking of which, if you choose to watch an HD title, the service runs a speed test on your broadband service first to see if you’re likely to be able to watch HD content satisfactorily.
With our national average 6Mbps broadband connection there was a pause for three or four seconds after we’d selected a title, but then it started streaming smooth as silk with none of the sort of stuttering and glitching you can get with some rival services in the early moments of a stream. In fact, we suffered not even a momentary buffering pause throughout our tests – even while watching the HD version of Prometheus. Simultaneously using both an iPad and laptop for Web browsing also failed to disrupt the stream’s quality.