4oD on demand - PC

Television isn't just ruled by the schedules any more. No, no, no. Sky, Channel 4 and the BBC are all in for offering on-demand service via a PC and an internet connection.

Channel 4's offering is called 4oD and offers users the chance to catch up with programmes shown on the television station over the last 30 days.

Download the software, available for free from the Channel 4 website after a quick registration and you've then got access to a range of the channel's TV offering.

Not all the offering, mind you, as Channel 4 doesn't have all the rights, but enough to warrant the bother.

In an attempt to help you find stuff easier, the site is spilt into TV, Film, TV schedule, 4oD Recommendations and Free.

Free is the important bit as, on further inspection it seems that not all of it is.

Depending on the programme and the availability of it you can download content for 99p for TV shows to £1.99 for movies.

However while you can watch some programmes like Skins for example for free, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip will cost you 99p to rent.

Take Skins again, and you can watch the next episode before it airs in the UK for 99p but you can only book to record Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, leaving you wondering what you can and can't do at every turn.

Likewise some programmes you can stream, and others you can only download and if you chose to download you can only watch them once they are.

Once you've worked all this out, then there is the downloading to get around.

Downloads aren't forever but merely 30 days and depending on your speed of connection Channel 4 say it will take anywhere from a hour and a half for a TV show to up to 3 hours for a movie. We found however that on a 2MB connection this was normally far quicker than this averaging roughly 27 minutes for a 45 minute show.

It might be quick, but annoyingly you can't download and/or stream at the same time for every programme, but you guessed it, you can for some. However you can prioritise shows to download in order rather than trying to do everything at once.

Finally like Sky+ you can book a series to be downloaded when the next episode comes out, which will automatically download the next episode when it becomes available.

As for quality, it's okay, but not great. Clearly in an attempt to cut download times quality has been compromised, and while it's clear enough to watch on a laptop on the go, because it's throw away TV, it's not HD by any stretch of the imagination.

Verdict

At the core of 4oD there is a really good service trying to get out. If you've not already got Sky+, or merely missed an episode on Channel 4 then this gives you the chance to re-catch the action, either for free or for a quid.

However in use and the interface isn't the most straightforward and you are left trying to work out what you can and can't do for all the different programmes.

If you can cope with the random confusion left, right and centre, its worth persevering.


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