UPDATE: There’s an important software update for the T-Box. Check it out here: T-Box introduces new free features including Apps and Weather.

I was invited to test drive the new Telstra T-Box. Having seen one in passing at the local Telstra Shop, my initial reaction was:  ‘not for me thanks – already have FOXTEL at home’.

Then I thought: ‘why not give it a go – after all not everyone has FOXTEL, and the reports I have read are quite positive’.

So, here is my review – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The promise

Here’s Telstra T-Box. Now one exciting device is all you need to integrate internet and free to air entertainment and information, so you can watch what you want, when you want, on your TV”(from the T-Box sales brochure).

Now I am intrigued. What is this T-Box and how is it going to integrate my BigPond, free-to-air TV and other things on my TV screen? And more importantly, what is it going to do to my monthly internet usage allowance?

Before you set up your T-Box

Setting up the T-Box is simple. Before you start, make sure you have the following:

  1. An eligible BigPond broadband connection
  2. Wi-Fi (if your TV and BigPond modem are not close by) or Ethernet connection to your BigPond broadband service
  3. An external TV Antenna (digital)
  4. TV (preferably HD Ready or full HD TV)
  5. Credit/Debit card details (for BigPond Movies sign up)
  6. About 10 – 15 minutes

Menu

Seeing the setup menu in action really evokes the “wow” factor. When the T-Box searches for the free-to-air stations, I admit I had a grin on my face. It was a good show – dropping the stations in one by one. If you are already connected to the internet, BigPond TV stations will also be included in the TV Programme Guide.

All reviews I have read on the T-Box echo my thoughts that this menu system is second to none.

Navigation through the menu is performed via the remote control (yes that’s right, another one…..)

Security

The T-Box offers two levels of security – one covers your movie rentals and most of the other content is covered by parental control. Both of these are important, and you must remember to keep these PINs in a safe place.

Register your T-Box.

Registration allows you to get the full benefit from your T-Box. Make sure your computer is connected to the internet, and follow the prompts at telstra.com/boxsetup. During this process you will be able to join up with BigPond Movies.

So what does your T-Box give you?

Through your BigPond Broadband connection, you will receive the following UNMETERED stations:

  • BigPond News
  • BigPond Racing (TVN)
  • BigPond Sports News
  • BigPond Footy (AFL)
  • BigPond League (NRL)
  • BigPond V8
  • BigPond Music Channel

All of these stations, over your BigPond connection, and NO impact on your monthly usage!

You can also get BigPond Videos – BigPond’s video-on-demand service. Access thousands of videos whenever the mood hits you. Forget about waiting for session times. You chose the video, the starting time, and how you watch it (quarter screen vs full screen).

Video categories include Sport, News and Entertainment. On-screen prompts allow you to set the features – e.g. full screen, quarter screen (while you browse other videos to watch) etc. The number of videos in the catalogue is growing, so there is always something to watch.

And to top it off, BigPond Videos and BigPond Movies are also UNMETERED. This means you do not pay for the data used to download these movies or TV shows — just the rental fee associated with them. (This is where your credit / debit card is required).

Once again the menu system is great

T-Box main menu

An advantage of being connected to the internet is that you can access YouTube on your TV.  A word of warning – this content is METERED, meaning it will contribute to your monthly BigPond data usage allowance. This is probably a good place to use the Parent Control feature! Given the wide variety of content on YouTube, you can block any inappropriate content using YouTube filtering or block the whole application using the parental control feature.

Personal Video Recorder (PVR)

The T-Box from TelstraThe T-Box allows you to record, pause and rewind free-to-air TV, and store over 100 hours of standard definition TV. Basically, you control what you watch, and when. The Programme Guide allows you to plan up to seven days in advance. And, you can set the T-Box to “Series Record” to automatically record each episode of a series.

If you manage to fill the internal 200GB storage, you can attach an external hard drive or flash memory via the USB port on the T-Box, allowing you to offload free to air programmes, one at a time, to this external storage. I look forward to the day this port also allows the T-Box to become a media player, so that I can play my home movies through it.

The Verdict:

I like it. Why? It’s simple and it works well.

If you find your Wi-Fi signal strength is not as strong as it could be and you can’t use an Ethernet connection, there are several options to boost your signal without having to move your router or TV.

Telstra carry one that I saw, and there are others on the market that works through your power points. There’s also an excellent long-range wireless solution from Rukus called the MediaFlex 7000. The Rukus system provides long-range transmission of IP-based video and attaches to a Telstra home gateway and T-Hub via Ethernet adaptors.

The T-Box has some great features – including, but not limited to, an easy to use menu that is second to none, a compelling range of programmes that are unmetered, no contract, and it’s a personal video recorder that can hold many hours of content.

This is just the beginning of what this product will be capable of.