This week, Foxtel started rolling out their seventh major update for their iQ3 box – and this time, it’s not just under-the-hood bug fixes. This is going to be an update you notice, thanks to the addition of several very welcome new features.
The iQ3 has been around for a good long while now, and Foxtel’s software engineers have been busily working out ways to get even more out of the box. In general, you’ll find that the iQ3’s interface performs far more quickly and responsively than before, indicating that quite a lot of optimising has been going on behind the scenes.
But when you first hit the “Home” button on the remote control after the update, the first thing you’ll notice are the new features. Let’s take a quick look at some highlights.
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On Demand Streaming
No waiting, and no downloads to manage later. Photo: Foxtel site
You’ve been able to watch shows on demand on the iQ3 for a long time, with an update last year adding the ability to do so in HD. But you weren’t actually streaming – instead, you were downloading episodes or movies to the iQ3 hard disc and playing them from there – and you had to manually delete them after you were done. The new update changes all that – now On Demand leverages the Foxtel Now infrastructure to make actual streaming possible – and it works beautifully. Just pick what you want to watch, select “Stream” and after a screen showing you the expected data usage, you’re off and running in HD. No waiting, and no downloads to manage later.
This ties into on-demand streaming, doing exactly what it says on the tin – automatically playing the next episode after one finishes. A great feature for entire-series binge sessions (especially now you don’t have to manage downloads) it’s turned on by default, but if you don’t want it, you can hit the Select button during playback and disable it.
“Continue Watching” screen. Photo: Foxtel site
The revamped Home menu now launches onto a “Continue Watching” screen which shows you at a glance where you’re up to in shows and movies you’ve been streaming and the ones you’ve recorded off the air. Instead of having to hunt through the menus to manually find the next episode in a series, it’ll be right there on the home screen waiting for you, alongside anything you haven’t finished watching yet.
Manage Team Links is for the sports fans. Photo: Foxtel site
This one’s a huge one for sports fans, especially as the two major codes are kicking off, with the NRL premiership season fully underway since March 8, and the 2018 AFL premiership opener on March 22. Selecting Team Link in the Sports menu screen takes you to a choice of sporting codes (AFL, NRL etc) and a list of teams that compete in each one. All you need to do is choose a team and the iQ3 will make sure you never miss one of their games again. Immediately, and on an ongoing basis, every single live game your team plays is automatically recorded for you. For example, we selected Richmond in the AFL, and their opening game the following week on Fox Footy HD was instantly added to the recording schedule. If you’re worried about running out of hard disc space you can opt to record all Team Link games in SD, but if you have the HD option on your account they’re set for HD by default. At the moment, available sports are NRL, AFL, AFLW, A-League, Super Rugby and NBL. If you love your live sport on Foxtel, you’re going to love Team Link.
One-stop place to watch highlights and news from all the sports covered by Foxtel. Photo: Foxtel site
On your way to Team Link you may notice the new Sports menu – which is a one-stop place to watch highlights and news from all of the many, many sports covered by Foxtel, and to see what events are coming up in the near future that you might want to watch. Nobody covers sport like Foxtel does, and this new menu’s great as a sports-only version of the home screen’s much-liked “Highlights” and “Trending” screens (which of course are still there!)
TV Guide Update
This is a small change, but a welcome one. In the past, if you hit the TV Guide button on the remote and wanted to see a list of just the HD channels, you’d have to press the remote’s buttons seven more times to navigate to the HD Channels category. Not any more – every category is assigned a number on the remote’s keypad. So, press TV Guide, then press “0” and you’re looking at the HD channel guide in half a second. The same ease of use applies to every Guide category – and your favourite channels are accessible from the “star” button too.
How Do I Get the Update?
As with previous Foxtel iQ3 updates, the provider distributes them to all boxes as a gradual rollout, and your iQ3 will eventually update itself while you’re not around (it updates via satellite or cable, by the way). If the new features sound like something you want right now, though, you can request to have an update pushed to your iQ3 as soon as possible by entering your Foxtel account number in the link on Foxtel’s community site (scroll down to “please update my iQ3”). That’s done manually, so your request will be processed during business hours.
You’ll know the update is happening when your iQ3 lights up by itself with the power light a bright orange.
If you’re keen to get the new features without waiting, you can force an update manually – though it requires a bit of button-pressing on the iQ3 box itself. Don’t do this if you’ve got recordings scheduled, as your iQ3 will be out of action for a little while to install the update.
The tricky part is the first step – you need to turn off the power to the iQ3, hold the box’s “standby” button (on the right hand side of the front panel) down, then turn the power back on. You can turn the power off at the wall, or pull the power cord out of the iQ3 and plug it back in. Either way, keep holding that standby button. You’ll see its light turn from red to blue twice – it’ll take around 20 seconds. Once you’ve seen that, release the standby button and quickly press the up then the down arrow buttons on the front of the iQ3, then the standby button again. If you did it right, you’ll see an blue screen on your TV saying “updating system software”. Then leave it to do its thing – the update takes around half an hour to complete. And it’s well worth the wait!