Ever since its launch, Telstra TV has stood out as one of the most popular streaming devices on the market. It’s no surprise why. The tiny little box is a one-stop solution to your streaming-service needs. It supports Netflix, Stan, YouTube and more, as well as the best high definition Foxtel Now experience available. And now, Telstra TV 2 is ready to help you take your entertainment to the next level.
The Telstra TV was based on the Roku 2 box that was hugely popular in the US. It remains one of the most-used streaming devices on the market, but Roku developed that box quite some time ago. Since then, they’ve come up with newer and smarter models that improve on the device in almost every way.
Telstra wasn’t about to sit around and watch the box that bears their brand get outpaced by technology, of course. This month, they launch the Telstra TV 2, a highly advanced device based on the Roku 4. It’s slimmer, faster, and far more capable than it’s already much-loved predecessor. But what can this new Telstra TV do that the old one can’t?
Features – what’s here and what’s not
While the Telstra TV 2 is technically a Roku 4, it’s been customised especially for Telstra. As a result, not every feature from the Roku made it past customisation. The most notable omission is voice search. The supplied remote has no microphone, speaker or headphone jack, so searching can only be done by navigating the on-screen search menu. The reason for this is probably due to voice recognition limitations. As an American device, the Roku doesn’t play nice with the Australian accent! Also missing in action is the optical audio output on the back – not a deal breaker in this age of “everything HDMI”, we think.
If you’ve used the first-generation Telstra TV, you’ll be familiar with its lack of a power button. The box is always powered up, 24/7. The Telstra TV 2 has no power button either. But this time, it drops into a low-power mode after around 10 minutes of being left alone, then shuts off completely if not used for 4 hours. While it uses barely any power while idle anyway, it’s great to see the new box going further to keep your power bill as low as possible!
Setting it up
Getting the Telstra TV 2 set up could not be easier. Just plug the supplied plugpack into the power socket and connect the HDMI cable (included in the box, admirably) to the box and your TV. Then, move your antenna cable from the back of your TV to the Telstra TV box. You can also use an antenna splitter if you want to keep your TV’s antenna connection.
Once you power it up, the box walks you through a quick and easy setup process. It installs all of its default apps and asks you to set up internet access (wired and wireless are supported) and activate the box. Activation is fast and easy. It’s handled via a website, where you simply log in with your Telstra account details (you do need a Telstra Home Broadband account to do so, according to Telstra) and then type in a code the box displays on-screen. After that (and a quick software update) you’re ready to go.
If you’re using the Live TV feature, you’ll be prompted during setup to scan for channels. The scan itself is incredibly fast, but our box hung on the scan screen once the process was finished. A quick press of the reset button on the bottom rebooted the box, and all was fine after that.
The updated Telstra TV interface is a big improvement, with extensive use of images that gives it a “Netflix-like” look and feel. Even the live TV guide is enhanced with photos from individual shows. It’s far more welcoming than the old interface, and so it should be. After all, this is going to be your home entertainment hub! Best of all, it’s easy to use and fast to navigate.
All your entertainment is easily accessible on the new Telstra TV 2 home screen. Shows and movies are brought together from all the services you watch – streaming service Foxtel Now, Bigpond Movies, free-to-air catch-up and more. You get an overview of the stuff that’s available for you to dive into right when you get started. Plus, you also get recommendations based on what you’ve been watching, so you can sit down for a night of entertainment and be just a button press away from something new. All the apps you use are right there on the home screen too. No need to dig around in menus to find them.
If you’re familiar with the first-generation Telstra TV, the app selection will look familiar. All the major players are here, from Netflix and Stan to Foxtel Now and Bigpond Movies, as well as all the free-to-air catch-up apps.
Plus, popular reality TV streaming service hayu makes its debut on the brand new device. Apps for a couple of subscription streaming services – like hayu and the excellent DocPlay – are not installed during setup, but they’re easy to add from the small app store on the box.
A unique feature for Netflix and Stan
Buried deep in the Telstra TV 2’s setup menu is an option named “Auto-adjust display refresh rate”. This boring-sounding feature is off by default. But if you have a modern TV that supports it, switching this on will allow both Netflix and Stan to stream movies and many TV shows in what’s known as 24p – the frame rate used in cinemas and on nearly every Blu-ray disc. Of course, as long as they were produced that way in the first place.
The results are stunning. Camera pans are butter-smooth, for example, as you’re seeing the picture as it was actually filmed rather than converted to suit average TVs. The Telstra TV 2 is the only streaming box we’re aware of in Australia that supports this feature. If you’re a big Netflix or Stan user, it’s almost worth the upgrade for this alone!
All the way with 4K
For starters, the new Telstra TV 2 is full 4K and HDR support. It fully supports the format with an update to HDMI 2.0 outputs and, even more importantly, support for HEVC video streams. HEVC is a video format that’s been adopted by Netflix, amongst others, to allow for streaming HD and 4K video using around half the data rate that’s needed for older devices.
That’s a big deal. If you’ve got a 4K TV and want to stream Netflix’s best quality picture on older 4K devices (like many smart TVs) you’d need a minimum connection speed of 25Mb/sec. That’s a speed that ADSL simply cannot reach, and which many NBN services struggle to at peak times. With HEVC, that requirement drops to around 12-15Mb/s. In other words, it allows 4K streaming on many more connections and reduces the data-limit drain at the same time.
If your TV supports 4K, the Telstra TV will automatically detect that and enables 4K in apps that support it automatically. Even if you haven’t bought that new TV yet, getting the Telstra TV 2 now will have you ready for the upgrade when it arrives.
One of the big reasons that Roku devices have been so popular in America for years is a feature you’ll never know you needed in your life until you try it for yourself – universal search. To some extent Apple TV has tried to copy this feature, but it’s at the finely-tuned heart of this device; and it shows.
Covering everything the box can access, universal search on the Telstra TV 2 is the killer addition. Start typing and the box starts guessing what you’re after. And when you click on your search result, you get an overview of where you can watch it across multiple services (including on-demand streaming, live TV and rental). Select, say, a Netflix result and the Telstra TV opens the Netflix app, heads straight for the show or movie you’re after and starts playing it. It’s that easy.
As soon as we start typing a search – say, Friends, for example – the predictive text starts guessing what you’re looking for and shows potential matches on the screen. Once you’ve typed enough to narrow your search down to what you’re looking for, you can see how many seasons and episodes are available on each service – where it’s to stream on-demand, buy or rent. And once you choose an episode you’re right there watching it within seconds. No more navigating through menus on multiple apps – just search for what you want and start watching right away.
The new device fully supports Free-To-Air TV
The millions of people that divide their time between streaming and free-to-air TV have spoken. They’re tired of switching inputs on their TV every time they want to move between Stan and Masterchef! Hence, the Telstra TV 2 has been designed with that functionality in mind. It has a digital free-to-air TV tuner built right into the box. You can effortlessly swap between streaming and broadcast TV from the one remote, complete with full on-screen guide and program information.
The in-built digital TV tuner works in tandem with an on-screen TV guide you can bring up with a dedicated button on the remote – and shows on live TV are included in the global search too. If you’re just channel-surfing and run across something interesting, at the press of a button you can go straight to the channel’s catch-up app to watch it there.
Of course, all the TV catch up apps are on the Telstra TV 2. However, this time they’re integrated right into the TV viewing experience. If you’re watching an episode of Home and Away and want to catch up on the ones you’ve missed, all you need to do is open the guide and press a button. You will be taken directly to the show’s episodes on Plus7, ready to stream.
The Telstra TV found every single digital channel available and assembled program guide info for all of them behind the scenes. It’s a far more interactive TV-watching experience than you’ll get on your TV’s own tuner. The only minor complaint is that changing channels is slower than it should be, and we found Channel 31 Melbourne to have display problems. Both should be fixable in a future software update.
The problem with EPGs – Electronic Program Guides – on most free-to-air devices like TVs and PVRs is that they’re dense, confusing and often downright ugly. The Telstra TV 2’s live EPG overlays the guide text right on top of live television in a clear, non-intrusive and easy to use way. You’ll find yourself browsing through shows without feeling like you’re working on a spreadsheet.
If you see a listing for a free-to-air show you like that’s coming up, you can instantly add a reminder and the Telstra TV 2 will let you know when it’s about to go to air. And if you see something in the guide that you missed, you can just click to play it from that network’s catch-up service instantly.
USB media playback
No matter what kind of downloaded media you want to throw up on the screen, the Telstra TV 2 has it covered. Just copy it to a USB flash drive and plug it into the side of the box – which is smart enough to even handle file systems like Windows’ NTFS. We came up with a bunch of video files to try to find something it couldn’t handle – including raw files direct from a HD camcorder, and some video in the latest HEVC-encoded format (which is used by newer iPhones for their video recordings, by the way). The Telstra TV 2 played them all, flawlessly, with superb picture quality. It’s the most capable media player we’ve seen yet. The easy-access USB port on the side of the box is a big plus.
Enhanced with an app
The new Telstra TV is enhanced even further with the companion app for iOS and Android devices. The app lets you browse the content available to you no matter where you are, add it to a watch-later list for when you get home, make wish lists of shows and movies you want to check out later, and even control your Telstra TV using your smartphone as the command centre.
The Telstra TV 2 is smart enough to remind you when your favourite shows are about to go to air on free-to-air or Foxtel Now, or let you know when new episodes turn up on catch-up services.
Where do I get one?
Telstra TV 2 hit the market October 31. It’s now bundled with Telstra Broadband plans (Entertainment and Entertainment Plus). You don’t need to be a Telstra Broadband customer to get one, though. The gadget is also available to everyone for $192; regardless of which provider or plan you’re on.
Is Telstra TV 2 worth the investment?
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, rock-solid streaming device to handle not only all your streaming TV needs, but also let you seamlessly jump over to live television and stream Foxtel Now in HD, then this one’s hard to beat. Slim and stylish, easy to set up and use, and absolutely packed with features to make your viewing life better, the Telstra TV 2 is a brilliant evolution of the popular original. It’s designed to be a “one-stop shop” for all your viewing – live TV, streaming, rentals, home video and all – and it does it superbly. Plus, the universal search is a massive time-saver.
The Roku hardware is world-famous for a reason. It’s reliable, feature packed and as close to “plug and play” as you’ll find anywhere. The technical upgrades on this new box from the original Telstra TV are substantial, too – 4K and HDR, for starters, with HEVC support to give you the highest possible streaming quality on a 4K TV, faster quad-core processor for snappy operation, and even faster Wi-Fi to support the current generation of modem/routers for flawless streaming without having to plug in a cable.
If you were waiting for the device that brings all your TV entertainment together in the one place, wait no longer – this is it.