BT's new Vision internet TV system combines free-to-air digital TV with access to a vast online library of movies, music videos and standard TV programmes.
The core component is the V-box, a Freeview video recorder with a 160GB hard-disk and twin tuners. It's free to BT Total Broadband customers (though installation costs £30), and includes both RGB Scart and HDMI outputs. There's also the option of a self-installation package for £90.
You can record one Freeview channel while watching another, set timed recordings to the hard disk and pause and rewind ‘live' TV. Off-air performance and recording quality are reasonably good, too.
Similar to renting a DVD
The V-Box includes an Ethernet port: link it to a BT broadband router – so it can connect to the internet – and so long as you've a minimum download speed of 2Mbps, you're away.
In-demand video content costs: new movies are £2.99, but £1.99 is too much for something aeons-old and and oft-repeated, especially when rental and retail prices are so low. But that's arguably better than paying a monthly subscription fee.
Picture quality is surprisingly good – there's very little of the digital noise and pixellation you might expect. You don't get 5.1 surround sound, but as broadband gets faster BT expects to add both that and high-definition content in time.
This is a remarkably clever piece of kit. It's good to use, performs well and offers something genuinely different. Given time, it could evolve into a real winner.