(Pocket-lint) - YouView is available via a number of different routes, in a number of different guises. The smart TV platform was launched in July 2012, offering a new approach to television viewing.
YouView looks to combine live broadcast television with growing catch-up services. It was one of the first platforms to offer all the main internet catch-up services in one place, where others were - and still are - rather piecemeal.
That makes YouView an interesting proposition, offering all your terrestrial broadcast TV, including HD, the internet catch-up services and a lot of additional goodies, depending on how you choose to buy YouView.
But there's the potential for confusion. Which is the best YouView box? What's the difference between the YouView providers? What does YouView give you for the money?
Read on and we'll detail what you get where, from who, and how.
What do you need for YouView?
To get YouView in your house you need two essential elements: an internet connection and a TV aerial.
Those are pretty common things these days, but importantly you don't need a dish, or hooking-up to cable in the street. So for anyone with a broadband connection and a roof aerial, YouView can be installed with minimal fuss.
That make self-installation very simple, because it's just a case of connecting a few cables and you're good to go.
Of course, you need the actual YouView box - and a TV - and getting the YouView box is where you really have to make your choices.
You can walk down the high street and buy yourself a YouView box. There's no contract, no installation appointments, you just buy it and take it home and hook it up, regardless of your broadband supplier.
That's one of the appealing things about YouView: it exists in a pure form without all the conditions that you get from TV services like Sky and Virgin Media, although, admittedly, there's a huge difference in the content you'll get.
At a basic level, all YouView boxes will give you the same common features of the YouView platform: full Freeview HD TV reception; record, pause and rewind functions; access to domestic catch-up TV services; an integrated electronic programme guide (EPG) that lets you scroll back in time, as well as forward; Now TV access (subscription required); and clever integrated searching that returns results from both broadcast and catch-up services.
On the high street, you can get YouView from a number of retailers. For example, Currys PC World has the latest BT-branded box, the Humax DTR-T2100, for £199. John Lewis also offers the same, and there are plenty of other options from a number of retailers.
The new BT box from Amazon will cost you as little as £165 - a real bargain - and you can get the old Humax T1000 box for a little as £156, although we'd advise against that: it's just not as fast as the new models. You can also buy direct from Humax.
YouView from your broadband supplier
Buying YouView on the high street isn't the only route to getting setup with the system.
It's available from two ISPs: BT and TalkTalk. Both offer additional services, as well as providing the hardware as part of the subscription so the box is subsidised, which we'll deal with in the next sections.
If you happen to have a YouView box, however, you can connect it to any ISP and get the online services offered at YouView's core. If BT is your broadband supplier, you could then pay £5 a month and access the BT Essentials TV package (12 months), and all your YouView data won't count against your any data cap you have.
If you are already a TalkTalk customer, you can pay £5 a month upgrade to your package (for 24 months) and get a free box, which will be cheaper than buying one on the high street. If, for example, you're given a YouView box, you can plug it in, enjoy your unlimited broadband still access TalkTalk's pay-as-you-go Box Office films, without an on-going subscription.
It also doesn't matter what box you use: plug a TalkTalk box into a BT line and you'll get BT services and vice versa, because those elements are delivered down the line by the ISP, rather than from the box's software itself.
YouView from BT
We've mentioned the BT box a couple of times. That's because BT offers YouView as part of its TV service and the latest box has been branded as a BT device. Humax builds it and it's the DTR-T2100 model.
Previously BT supplied the Humax T1000 box, which was also available on the high street, but having used the T2100, we'd advise steering clear of the older T1000 if you want the best experience.
BT offers various packages to get you connected with YouView. This includes the box and they start from £17 a month, for BT Broadband and YouView on a 12-month contract. You also have to pay the £15.99 a month telephone line rental, so that's £32.99 a month, for phone, broadband and the YouView TV box, along with a £35 activation fee.
There are then packages in incremental steps upwards, increasing the broadband speed and data limits.
Included in the deal is any online data you use through YouView. So if you watch BBC iPlayer in HD every night, that won't be deducted from the broadband allowance you might have.
You also get BT Sport included in the deal, so you can watch select Premier League matches, and a whole lot more, through YouView.
BT offers a range of additional subscription content too, with bolt-ons that start from £3 a month, extra TV channels if you take the TV Entertainment package, as well as the option to add things like Sky Movies (£16 a month). You can't get Sky Sports on YouView from BT, however.
There are lots of terms and conditions, so check what you're getting and what you're paying before you commit.
YouView from TalkTalk
TalkTalk also offers YouView and like BT, it's rolled into a larger package encompassing phone, broadband and the YouView box.
TalkTalk offers its own branded boxes too, this time made by Huawei. There are two boxes on offer, one offering an internal hard disc drive for recording TV programmes and one without.
The box you receive differs depending on the package you choose, unlike BT that gives the same box to all.
The TalkTalk Essentials TV package starts from £8.50 a month, including unlimited broadband and the smaller box that doesn't offer the ability to record. You'll also have to pay £15.95 a month telephone line rental on this 18-month contract and there's a £50 installation fee, but you can opt out and have that returned as bill credit.
Then there's the TalkTalk Plus TV package for £18.50 a month, including the bigger box with 300GB hard drive and unlimited broadband. You'll have to pay £15.95 in telephone line rental. This package is again an 18-month package, with the same installation fee, but you get anytime calls with it too.
The difference in content between the two packages really comes down to inclusion of seven additional Sky channels on the latter, including Sky 1, Sky 2, Sky Living, Sky Livingit, Sky Arts 1, Sky Arts 2 and Sky Sports News.
Both packages include access to TalkTalk Box Office movies on demand, as well as the option of adding TV Boosts, so you can easily add extra channels at varying prices, including Sky Movies at £15 a month, or the Sky Sports package at £30 a month.
There are terms and conditions, online offers and lots of options, so be sure to check exactly what you get and what you have to pay.
Which YouView box is the best value for money?
That's a very subjective question. If you don't want to change your telephone and broadband supplier, the cheapest option is probably to buy a YouView box online. We can recommend the BT YouView+ Humax DTR-T2100 - although there are cheaper alternatives - via that route you just won't get any BT features.
If you're happy to look at changing providers, then TalkTalk's Essentials TV deal is the cheapest, around £23 a month for the first year (but with an 18-month contract), compared to BT's £32 a month for TV Essential (on a 12-month contract).
Bear in mind, however, that the cheapest TalkTalk package doesn't include TV recording; BT's cheapest deal doesn't include unlimited broadband.
However, both let you keep the box at the end of the contract, so you can always cancel at the end of the term and then continue to enjoy the YouView experience in its pure form and move to the telephone and broadband deal that suits you best.
For more information visit: www.youview.com, on Twitter @YouView and Facebook at facebook.com/youview.