First we had Freeview, an electronic program guide (EPG) that could display the programming for all TV channels at once – most just show you the information for the network you're tuned to. It never really took off, and came with some restrictions on record functions like skip and fast forward, forcing you to watch the ads and limiting its usefulness.
Now we have FreeviewPlus, which includes the popular online catch-up apps – well, sort of. They're there, but getting to them isn't quite the seamless exercise the promotional material suggests:
"Now you can access all of the available Catch Up TV programs in one place on your TV. Go backwards in the program guide to find available Catch Up programs or go straight to the network's Catch Up service." – FreeviewPlus website
You can see some program information for each network's catch-up app, but there's information missing, and you have to exit FreeviewPlus and go to the catch-up app to actually watch a program.
The FreeviewPlus help tells you that recording from the FreeviewPlus EPG on a PVR (though we haven't found one on the market with FreeviewPlus so far) may be pretty much just a matter of pressing the record button, but it doesn't tell you that on a TV with PVR function there's no connection. You have to exit the FreeviewPlus EPG before you can schedule a recording either via the TV's EPG or manually. Not very helpful, really.
There are some good features to FreeviewPlus such as:
- the display of all TV networks' programs without the need to change channels
- a search function
- picture in picture, so you can still see the program you're currently tuned to
- a program synopsis
- the ability to set reminders for favourite TV show.
However, it's slow to start and doesn't keep information locally on the TV. Every time you restart it, it has to link to its database via the internet and there's a delay before the program information is available. Of course, no internet means no FreeviewPlus and you'll have to resort to the EPG supplied by the TV manufacturer. At this stage, you can't make FreeviewPlus the default EPG, so you have to put up with the logo and instructions popping up on your screen when you change channel and use the coloured buttons on your remote to access it.
On the whole it's an OK EPG with some nice extra features. But it feels like a beta version, and until the integration with the TV's remote control, PVR and the various catch-up apps improves, it won't be finished.