Top-Up TV tried and tested

Andrew Everard writes: I've been spending some time with the Top-Up TV Anytime service, courtesy of a loan unit from the company - and while it's really rather good, and a lot less expensive than a full-whack Sky package, it wouldn't tempt me to ditch the dish any time soon.

Having run a few Freeview boxes before we signed on the dotted line with the People from Above, I was pleasantly surprised how smoothly and rapidly the Thomson-made Top-Up TV+ box sniffed out all the available stations, even when used with a relatively modest aerial. And after a bit of use, I soon got the hang of using it to record and pause programmes, either on the fly or using the clear electronic programme guide.

>But I have to say that, despite there being 19 extra channels available, and of course the automatic download of selected programmes every night enabling me to have a pot pourri of stuff I might have missed, there wasn't really that much I wanted to see. For some reason it wasn't like flicking through the Sky planner, with its mass of stations on offer - we take everything except the premium pay-per-channel stuff and the soft-porn (honest).

On the Sky platform, there's always something I find I want to watch when BBC and ITV are trying to duplicate each other's output - Joseph/Grease, Kingdom/Dalziel and Pascoe, Holby Blue/The Bill, stuff like that. And yes, the service is expensive - we currently pay over £60 a month for our HD package - but it's worth when either of us can find something to while away an idle hour.

>But if you have a strong craving for more UKTV Food, or more Discovery channels, or even Hallmark, I can see the Top-Up service being of some interest. And at £140 for the box, complete with 120 hours of recording on its 160GB disc and twin tuners, plus a tenner a month for the subscription, I can imagine it'll find a ready market among the dishphobic and the uncabled.

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.