Telstra over-the-top strategy is to partner with US-based Roku to deliver solid hardware to the Australian audience. After a reasonably successful first generation of Telstra TV, things have moved on and in late 2017, 4K is expected. The second generation, the Telstra TV 2, is built on the Roku Ultra platform, but this time Telstra have greater ambitions.
Owning your HDMI port is the golden aim of any set top box and by adding an antenna port to the back of the Roku Ultra, Telstra are offering an end-to-end solution of broadcast and IP-based content from the same device, meaning its a strong contender to own HDMI1. About the only exception is gaming consoles, but if you were to connect the Telstra TV 2 to the HDMI in port on the Xbox One (or One X) you could actually have gaming, TV, and internet content all available on the same input, a very nice place to live.
While smart TVs have come a long way in the last couple of years, its still only the top tiers that have experiences that don’t suck. Personally I have a 65″ Samsung Q7F which allows you to pin apps like Netflix and YouTube right next to HDMI or even PC inputs, placing them on equal footing. This means switching between live TV and on-demand digital content on the Telstra TV, needs to be fast to compete and I’ll have to spend more time with it to know for sure (look out for the full review). If you’re using a Smart-TV from a few years ago, or a lower-end TV, then its a no brainer, this will be faster.
The design this time around is flater, wider, but you’ll tuck it into a home entertainment cabinet, so design plays 2nd fiddle to functionality and performance. Your interface to the Telstra TV 2 is through an updated remote (also made by Roku) that includes dedicated Live TV, Netflix and Foxtel buttons.
Now its time to talk about quality. The user interface received a massive update with the Telsra TV 2 and is now delivered in 4K which offers crisp, clear text and graphics. The most interesting difference is an aggregation of content that’d make Boxee blush. Browsing through the movies and TV shows, the visual experience is a great one and the source app is displayed as a small icon below the show title, its actually a really nice looks and feel. This also works as a universal search platform so you can spend less time worrying about where the content is, or who owns the rights, just search for your show and get started.
The awkward part of the bump in quality to 4K is that neither Telstra properties Foxtel Now or Bigpond Movies support content in 4K right now. For that you’ll need to jump into 3rd party services Netflix or YouTube. We’ve reached out for comment on the plan to upgrade these services, now they have the hardware, this seems like a logical next step.
The biggest frustration I have right now is the decision to lock the Bigpond movies app to the first position in the app list. This wasn’t the case on the original Telstra TV and is a decision that just outright sucks for consumers, please reconsider Telstra. I actually want to pin Foxtel Now in P1.
I’ll spend some more time before delivering a full review, but initial impressions are very good, even if a little slow to fire up the OTA tuner.