Review: The UPC Horizon box
UPC’s latest set top box offers consumers more flexibility
It’s been a long time coming, but UPC’s new TV service, Horizon, has hit Irish shores. After a trial lasting a few months, the TV company has decided it’s time to make it available to the general public.
Already launched in the Netherlands and Switzerland, Horizon has been tweaked a bit since then. There’s a new remote control for a start, and some software updates that have made the box more stable and faster.
Horizon TV users will get a new set top box, ditching the old Thompson recordable devices and replacing it with a shiny Samsung-made one instead.
The box itself replaces your modem and your existing digital TV box. It’s got Wifi built in and supports DLNA, so in theory, you should be able to clear a bit of space under the TV and still connect everything you need to.
Ditching the modem has another obvious benefit- it’s one less device that’s running up your electricity bill. According to UPC, the new box uses around the same amount of power when it’s fully active as the old set-top box and modem combo, but uses less power in standby mode. It’s slightly louder in standby mode than its predecessor - there’s an audible hum - but it’s nothing too intrusive.
It’s also got more storage space on the box for recorded programmes than its predecessor, with 320GB for programmes. This comes in handy enough, because the new service also means that you can record four programmes while watching a fifth - a handy feature in a house where there are vastly different tastes in viewers. Plus you can do all that and watch another couple of streams on tablet devices and mobile phones throughout the house. It’s an end to TV arguments (for now, at least).
As part of the package, UPC is now including 19 HD channels from the likes of RTE and BBC free of charge.
You also get apps. If you have a smartTV, this may not be as big a deal to you, but for those who don’t really feel like spending more money on a TV, it’s a good way to get YouTube, Facebook and a few other apps on the big screen. I tried out Twitter, and teamed with the new remote control - which has a keyboard on the back - it might be something I would use occasionally, but it won’t be replacing my smartphone or tablet any time soon for that. One important thing is that you can pin protect your Twitter account on the box, so no one else can access it.
Setting up the box itself is easy enough. There’s no smart card to mess about with, so it’s just a matter of plugging the box in to your UPC cable, and switching it on. Because of the HD channels, you get a HDMI cable in the box, so you can ditch the old scart connection. It took less than five minutes to hook the whole thing up, and at least 50 per cent of that time was trying to untangle the snarl of cables that has sprung up behind the TV.
For the mobile device viewing, downloading the app takes a minute or so, and once you are signed in to your UPC account on the app, you can watch TV or use the remote record function. You can also download a separate app to turn your mobile device into a remote control for the set top box.