(Pocket-lint) - There's a new YouView from BT set top box in town, offering the smart TV platform for less of your cash.
However, the new DB-T2200 box strips out some of the connections and features found in the higher-spec DTR-T2100, but allows you to get YouView from BT on the new Starter package. There's also a big play with Netflix, the streaming service, which is a recent addition to the YouView stable.
So what do you gain and what to you lose with this new, stripped-back box? We've been living with the DB-T2200 to find out.
If you're looking for something small and discreet to deliver your TV channels then look no further than the DB-T2200. This mini box measures around 130mm square and stands about 35mm tall. The design matches the original YouView+ box and the BT HomeHub, so you can see it fits immediately within the BT family.
The top has a glossy finish to it, adorned with the BT logo and a ring, in which you have the glowing status lights - blue for on, purple for standby but connected, red for standby and no connection, essentially.
There's just a single button on the top for power/standby, so you don't get the full run of box-based controls like you do on other boxes - for that you'll need to use the included remote. That's one of the main differences, but the overall small size means it can easily be placed alongside your TV out of the way, so is especially good for rooms where you don't have a lot of space.
Connections take a hit
The slim nature of the DB-T2200 means less connectivity than other BT YouView boxes. Arguably there are the essentials - HDMI, Ethernet and aerial input are on board - but for those with older TVs the lack of Scart might be a limitation.
With only the one aerial in there's no pass-through, which might limit your configuration options somewhat, as you won't then be able to simply use your TV's tuner, without splitting the aerial elsewhere. Whether you'd want to or not, is a different matter.
There is a USB connection, which if nothing else is useful for powering other devices: we use it to power a Google Chromecast, for example, to make flinging YouTube clips and the like from laptop and tablet to the TV screen quick and easy.
To make the most out of YouView you'll need to use the Ethernet connection to hook-up to your router, as you can't use the on-demand services without it. There's no option for a wireless connection, sadly, which means trailing a cable to your router or, if that's too far away, then investing in a Powerline adapter will do the job (but at extra cost).
The guide tells you to connect directly to your router (and a long, flat, Ethernet cable is supplied for this), but we found a Powerline adapter worked perfectly well for streaming content, with BT Sport's HD channels arriving without any problems.
Trimmed down hardware
In addition to the slimmed external profile and the reduced connections, there's another big hit inside: there's no hard drive, hence there's no "+" in this box's name. That reduces the functionality of this box fairly substantially compared to the others. You cannot record programmes and you can only pause or rewind for 30 minutes (in SD) or 15 minutes (in HD). Compared to the competition it sits alongside TalkTalk's entry-level box, which also offers 30 minutes of pause or rewind.
The lack of hard drive that means you lose the PVR (personal video recording) functions that have been part of YouView from BT in the past, which is one of the reasons you're paying less. Somewhat confusingly, however, you get the same remote as other boxes, so there's still a record button - but it doesn't do anything.
The removal of the hard drive has another side effect: this mini YouView box is silent in operation. That makes it a great choice for a bedroom, for example, where the clicks and purrs of a hard drive might be annoying in the middle of the night. There's no fan either - so no fan noise - but that means the box can get a little warm in operation, so aim for a well ventilated spot.
If the DB-T2200 is heading for the bedroom there's one other downside: the light on the top is pretty bright and we found it casting light up the dark bedroom wall.
YouView's smart platform
Aside from the trimmed connections and lack of PVR functions, the full YouView smart EPG with integrated catch-up services is on board. You can wind back through the listings and select something you've missed and then hop straight over to the relevant player and stream that content.
There's no record or series link option, but you can still set reminders for programmes in the future. The lack of recording might not be a huge deal for those happy to retrieve programmes missed from catch-up services: for Eastenders or Corrie, that's fine, but for a film that won't be on the catch-up service, it means you can't record for future viewing.
As the DB-T2200 contains a Freeview HD tuner, all the free channels are on board, along with BT Sport delivered over the internet which is free for those who take YouView from BT. There are various add-ons and extras: if you want more HD channels, there's an add-on for those; you can opt to have more kids channels or music, as well as Sky Movies (at £13.99 a month); and there's a range of pay to view BT TV offerings too.
In reality we like the core YouView services and find that the separate BT user interface feels a little clunky by now. It seems to be hanging onto the old BT Vision feel, rather than offering something more dynamic and engaging.
Unlike some services, YouView has the full selection of BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5: that's it's raison d'être. It's a really slick interface and one of the features we really like is how easy it is to search, returning content from various sources.
At the core level there are additional on-demand players in there too: UKTV Play, which encompasses Dave, Yesterday, Really; Milkshake for kids; Sky Store; Now TV; BT Player and S4C. And then there's the newly appointed Netflix.
Netflix comes with a twist
Netflix is a strong addition to the service. Not only is YouView supporting the popular streaming service, but BT is offering to let you pay for it through your phone bill. You don't have to take that option of course, if you have an existing subscription you can just login. If you do take BT's option, then the company provides the login for Netflix on other devices, such as your phone.
The important part here is that Netflix viewing is "free" against your BT broadband allowance when watched through the YouView box. So if you want to binge on HD content then you're not going to bust your data allowance and face a huge bill at the end of that Breaking Bad marathon.
Additionally, content is also integrated into YouView's smart searching. So, if you want to watch Suits, you can search for it and find seasons 1-3 on Netflix and the current season 4 on Dave, for example. Then simply select what you want and jump straight to it.
Netflix works just as well on YouView as from other sources. Being able to use the controls on the provided remote makes it a little more natural than the Chromecast offering, and there's the advantage of that hard wire link, so it's a little more stable than the Chromecast dongle too.
The first few iterations of YouView were a little slow to navigate, but more recently things have got much better. We couldn't detect much difference in performance between this smaller box and the regular T2100 box (which itself is rather compact).
The EPG (electronic programme guide) is fast to load and slick in operation. The loading times on different players seems to be reducing, so, although there's still a pause as you wait for on-demand players to open, it's never too long.
We like the quality of the visuals of the user interface that YouView offers too and we found it nice and sharp on everything from a 32-inch Samsung 720p TV up to LG's 55-inch OLED.
Final word: Pricing
Pulling apart the pricing on YouView from BT is complicated, as it's bundled into TV, broadband and landline deals.
The closest thing to a one-off purchase is through the BT Store, where this box costs £99.99. Whether that is good value for money or not is open to debate, as the Now TV box is only £9.99 and offers plenty of catch-up TV apps, so the rest of the investment covers that Freeview HD tuner and the clever EPG. The bigger brother T2100 box costs £179, which we think is good value, compared with rival products.
However, a one-off purchase is unlikely, as the DB-T2200 comes as part of the TV Starter deal. This comprises BT Broadband (17Mbps, 10GB limit) and TV from £0 a month, along with £16.99 a month phone line rental, plus a one-off £35 activation fee and £6.95 delivery fee - but you can install the box yourself. Any YouView TV content watched on demand doesn't detract from the 10GB/month broadband allowance.
This compares favourably to TalkTalk's cheapest Essentials TV package (currently £4.25), although with TalkTalk you get unlimited broadband. Both BT and TalkTalk offer deals and offers all the time, so be sure to check all the options before committing to one.
The DB-T2200 is also available on BT Infinity, but again check the offers, as you can probably get TV Entertainment (with the YouView+ box), for less - that was the case at the time of writing, with a £5 a month subscription.
Alternatively, you can take the Extra Box route, which adds the DB-T2200 onto your existing YouView deal - although there are various terms and conditions. Basically it offers the mini box for a one-off £49, with an extra £5 a month subscription (for a year contract). That subscription enables the box on BT's network, making anything you watch free, but if you already have unlimited BT Infinity, the one-off £99.99 option makes more sense.
As a compact way to deliver YouView to a second TV, the DB-T2200 mini set top box makes perfect sense. The catch-up functions, now enhanced with Netflix, combined with great handling of Freeview HD, make it a great choice for the bedroom or elsewhere in the house.
However, the T2200 lacks any recording capabilities, as there's no hard drive on board, and no Wi-Fi means you'll need to trail a wire to router or Powerline adapter. The absence of such PVR functions will limit its appeal as a main set top box, despite the trade-off in small size. For all the recording and conventional functions we'd recommend the T2100 YouView from BT box instead - it's a great choice with a lot more functionality (and a bigger footprint).
As an Extra Box on BT's plan, the DB-T2200 feels a little too expensive. If it's purely catch-up TV you're after, then Now TV is a cheaper option, but YouView's smart, integrated, approach has plenty going for it. If BT lowered the price then the BD-T2200 would be a fantastic Trojan horse to march YouView onto the other TVs in the house.