BT Ultra HD YouView box

The BT Ultra HD YouView has now been around for a number of years, piping out 4K UHD broadcasts to anyone with the kit and money to be able to watch them.

More technically known as the Humax DTR-T4000, it 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?

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.

BT Ultra HD

With live UHD content still thin on the ground, 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.

What does it cost?

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.

You'll also have to pay £50 for the box (free to new customers), line rental of £16.99/month and an installation fee of £44 if a BT Engineer is required to get you going.

New BT customers will have to pay £6.95 for a BT Home Hub router too.

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 248 channels including 47 premium entertainment, documentary and lifestyle channels. Freeview channels are delivered via an aerial, the rest via internet.

BT Ultra HD

Nearly 50 channels are in HD, 13 of which are premium ones (including seven BT Sport Extra channels). You also get the BT Sport Pack (BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, BT Sport Europe, BT Sport ESPN) which includes all of the UEFA Champions League and a number of Premier League games.

Some of these will be shown in 4K on the Ultra HD channel (number 434 on the EPG). Aside from the odd live broadcast there's very little to UHD, just a slew of short promo films designed to show off the format.

Netflix's Ultra HD content has now arrived to add some much-needed extra 4K content. You can also subscribe to Sky Movies, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2, 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 Ultra HD

YouView+ 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), with Netflix now joining the party.

There are also scores of movies, TV shows (including box sets) and music videos to rent or buy from the likes of Sky Store, BT TV, Curzon Cinema, Nat Geo Wild, E!, SyFy, Universal, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, Sony TV, Discovery, TLC, History, Fox, Comedy Central, MTV, and more…

Unfortunately, the box is no quicker to power up than the BT TV YouView box, taking a good 20 seconds or so from standby (and that in the non-eco mode, with the latter taking a full minute).

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. My only gripe here is that fast forward and rewind don't allow you to shuffle through at twice normal speed, four times, eight times, etc. Instead each press of the FF button skips ahead about a minute at a time, which makes it very hard to find a specific incident. Also, there's no slow-mo (as there is on Sky's services).

BT Ultra HD

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. Admittedly, BT Sport 2 is a bit on the soft side anyway compared with football on Sky, which I discovered when I switched over to my Sky box to check out the Dundee United vs Aberdeen match on Sky Sports 1 HD.

Anyway, 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.

BT Ultra HD

One shot that really showed off the extra detail had Jose Mourinho standing on the touch line, taken from afar but framed so that you could see 20 rows of fans behind him, and you can clearly see the faces of around 800 supporters.

Astonishing detail

Another great shot was when Hazard took a free kick, which Cech saved, seen zoomed in from the opposite end, the clarity was a level above anything else ever seen in HD.

BT Ultra 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.

As such, my 2015 model Samsung 48JU7000T looked excellent, especially with its Auto Motion Plus motion control mode set to the Smooth setting, keeping the ball from distorting when moving quickly through the air, and more pertinently, doing so without any processing artefacts.

Colours, set to output via HDMI in 10-bit, were also terrific, though the luminosity of the players' pink and green boots was arguably too intense.

The match proved tricky at times for the cameras because of the immense contrast between sunny and shady parts of the pitch and the technology was clearly at its best when the light level was even (no wonder Sky adopted HDR for its own 4K service).

BT Ultra HD

Even so, the broadcast was without doubt a success, with just a couple of very minor picture glitches and no sound problems at all.

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.

Given that so few boxes were out in the wild at the time of the first UHD broadcast it was perhaps forgivable that BT would skimp on the frills, with Peter Drury expected to provide the commentary and fulfil the pre-match and half-time hosting duties along with single guest Kevin Davies.

HD viewers on the other hand had the A-list – with Glenn Hoddle, Ian Wright and Rio Ferdinand.

It felt a bit like a beta service had been unleashed on the public, but Jake Humphrey, the main BT Sport presenter, was at the birth of his second child on the eve of the broadcast so there was a definite element of reshuffling.

As time has gone on though, 4K has grown in stature, with football matches at least broadcast in the higher Ultra HD resolution as a matter of course.

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.

We liked

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.

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.

BT Ultra HD

We disliked

The UHD channel needs more shows, even with the addition of Netflix and Amazon Prime. The on-demand repository also requires a massive boost to its 4K content.

Recording is fine but the fast forward and rewind functions aren't smooth and make it tricky to shuffle through a recording looking for a specific moment. Neither the remote control nor the box itself are going to win any design awards.

And for a significant portion of the population who don't have the option of a 40Mbps BT fibre broadband this is a complete non-starter.

Final Verdict

More than ten years since the first HD broadcast the, ahem, goalposts have finally shifted again thanks to the BT Sport UHD channel.

The channel itself doesn't yet seem like the finished article but the fact is the picture quality is so spectacularly good it makes it nigh-on impossible to revert to inferior Full HD pics once you've had a taste of the 4K manna.

If you're a sport-loving BT Infinity subscriber the extra cost (£15/month and a one-off £49 charge) is almost a no-brainer, 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.

Ultra HD is just getting started of course, and with Sky and Virgin Media now offering their own packages, the BT Ultra HD box looks a little inferior by comparison.

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Adrian Justins

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