The Telstra T-Box is a personal video recorder (PVR) with a 320GB internal hard drive and two high-definition digital television tuners. The T-Box, due for release later this month, also has access (when connected to the Internet via Telstra's BigPond service) to seven IPTV channels and BigPond Movies on Demand. A smooth and good-looking interface makes the device easy to use without any prior experience, and download speeds are excellent. If you're a Telstra BigPond customer, you're in for a treat. If you're not, the T-Box is far less inviting.
- Smooth and intuitive interface, super-fast buffering and downloading (on Telstra BigPond cable and ADSL2+), wide range of content on BigPond TV and BigPond Movies on Demand, low initial price
- Requires a BigPond Internet connection to access BigPond online content, new release movie content is slightly expensive
The Telstra T-Box PVR is a viable alternative to the TiVo and other set-top box offerings, and its movies on demand and linear streaming channels provide a compelling value-add option for anyone looking for reasons to switch ISPs to Telstra BigPond. It is only appealing to those with Telstra BigPond Internet, though - users of other ISPs will be unable to access most functions.
The Telstra T-Box is the telecommunications giant's attempt at bringing its BigPond TV IPTV channels and BigPond Movies on Demand service to your television screen. Connecting to your home network via 10/100MBps Ethernet or 802.11b/g/n wireless, the Telstra T-Box's 320GB hard drive is split up into two segments — you'll be able to use around 200GB for storing recorded free-to-air television, while the other 120GB is devoted to BigPond Movies downloads and caching for BigPond streaming IPTV.
You must have a Telstra BigPond Internet connection to be able to access the BigPond TV and BigPond Movies on Demand content on the Telstra T-Box. If you don't, these features will be unavailable and the T-Box loses most of its appeal.
Telstra T-Box: design and connectivity
The T-Box is quite attractive for a PVR. Its glossy black and brushed black aluminium fascia has only a USB port and a power LED. Head to the rear of the unit and you'll find an antenna jack, Ethernet port, HDMI output and break-out for composite and component analog video connectors. SP/DIF optical audio and stereo RCA analog audio output allows a home theatre system to be connected.
In the retail package of the Telstra T-Box you can expect to find an aerial cable, HDMI cable, break-out analog video cable and Ethernet network cable — everything you'll need to get the T-Box hooked up and running. The unit we tested was connected to a 30 megabit Telstra BigPond cable connection and a Samsung television via HDMI.
Telstra T-Box: interface
The graphical user interface of the Telstra T-Box is one of the best we've seen on a standalone personal video recorder (short of buying a media centre, which allow a huge range of customisation). The interface is vaguely reminiscent of the PlayStation 3's XMB style in that it uses both horizontal and vertical scrolling — after navigating through a vertical list of options in the main menu, you can scroll horizontally to find the specific content you're after. Animations are smooth and the on-screen icons are brightly coloured and easy to read. Menus are also laid out intuitively, and often there is more than one way to access content — one example we saw was the ability to access rented movies via My Rentals the main menu, but also via the rentals option in the BigPond Movies menu.