BT TV Starter review
Choosing a broadband provider is tricky enough, but it’s even more complex if you want TV thrown in as well, especially now there are so many on-demand services. BT’s latest offering - BT TV Starter - sounds like an amazing bargain, including Infinity (fibre) broadband, a Mini YouView box and access to Netflix through your TV for just £5.99 per month.
As with any offer, it’s crucial to read the small print, and it almost goes without saying that the £5.99 is in addition to BT’s mandatory line rental which currently costs £16.99 per month unless you pay for 12 months in advance. This Line Rental Saver cuts the price to £14.16 each month.
If you're an existing BT broadband customer, there’s also a one-off activation charge of £35 for BT TV. If you can’t install it yourself, that’s another £35. If you're switching to BT from another provider, the activation cost for broadband and BT TV is £49, plus £6.95 for delivery of the kit.
Apart from these costs, it's free for six months, but you pay £5.99 for the Netflix subscription which is conveniently added to your BT bill. If you already have a Netflix subscription, you can just sign in as usual: make sure you don't tick the box for the Netflix subscription when signing up to TV Starter on BT's website.
After the first six months, the monthly fee for TV Starter is £20.99. This means the average cost over 18 months is £15.99 including the Netflix subscription but not the activation, delivery or installation charges. Don't forget that BT TV includes the two BT Sport channels in standard definition. You can bolt-on the HD versions for an extra £3 per month.
If you're an existing customer, you'll carry on with your current broadband package. However, if you're a new customer, you get BT Infinity 1 included for free for six months as well. This offers up to 38Mb/s and a monthly usage limit of 20GB. If you can't get infinity at your address, then you may still be able to get BT TV (and Netflix) via BT's 'standard' ADSL broadband which is up to 17Mb/s. The actual download speed you’ll get will depend on your location.
BT TV Starter package review: YouView box
Bundled with the TV Starter package is BT’s new Mini YouView box. This has the same easy-to-use interface as the full-size box, as well as access to the full range of on-demand players. Most are free, but some – including Netflix – will require you to pay a monthly fee.
Watching on-demand content via the YouView box won’t count against the 20GB monthly download cap, so you can binge-watch as many TV series and movies as you like.
The box itself is tiny – just 13cm square - but thankfully comes with the same excellent remote control as the bigger box. It’s a pain that there’s still no Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to either use the super-long network cable in the box to get an internet connection from your router, or else employ some powerline networking adapters.
The box has no capacity to record shows broadcast live, but you can pause TV for around 30 minutes (14 minutes for HD channels) and rewind and fast-forward through the buffered video.
Disappointingly, there’s no synchronisation or communication between BT’s YouView boxes. If you planned to use the mini YouView box as an ‘Extra Box’ alongside an existing DTR-2100 YouView recorder, then you might be annoyed that there’s no way to watch recorded shows via the mini box: MyView is missing from the YouView menu.
You’ll also have to enter usernames and passwords for Netflix and other services again using the awkward on-screen keyboard.
There’s no RF loop-through as this is designed to be the only TV box attached to a display. HDMI is your only option for sending video and audio to a TV: there are no other AV outputs.
The good news is that the Mini YouView box’s performance seems just as good as the DTR-2100, so it’s fast to scroll through the guide and launch and use the on-demand players. The great search function includes broadcast and on-demand content, so it’s easy to find what you want to watch. You can also use the YouView app, but you can’t schedule recordings of course. You have the same power-saving options which means you’ll have to disable Eco mode if you want the box to boot up in seconds rather than minutes.
BT TV Starter package review: bottom line
The fact you can’t record shows on the new Mini YouView box will be a deal-breaker for some, but with so many shows now available on-demand it may not be for others. You’ll really only miss out on blockbuster movies and US shows which often aren’t available for free on-demand. However, the Netflix integration is excellent and the interface is slick and responsive.
You’ll need to tot up the total cost over the 18-month contract to decide if BT TV Starter is good value for you: existing BT customers can switch to this package as long as they have 12 months left on an existing one, or sign up for another 12-month contract. The deal isn't nearly as cheap as the £5.99 price makes it sound. TalkTalk has a similar offer excluding Netflix for under £5 for 12 months.
Those that want to be able to record shows should opt for the TV Essential or TV Entertainment packages which come with the DTR-2100 YouView recorder.
Although £5.99 per month sounds ridiculously cheap, the average monthly cost over 18 months is closer to £20. Since you can't record shows using the bundled YouView box, you may not be saving all that much compared to a package that includes the full-blown YouView recorder.