Foxtel iQ3 Personal Video Recorder
Catch Up streaming, iOS remote scheduling
Most streaming content is standard-def
$125 plus $25 delivery or $75 installed
With a 1TB hard drive, the iQ3 has the capacity to record up to 172 hours of high-def content from subscription channels and free-to-air. You’ll squeeze in 345 hours if you dial down the picture quality to standard-def. The box can record three channels at once, including one free-to-air channel. You can also perform time-bending tricks like pausing and rewinding live television or watching the start of a movie while you’re still recording the end.
The Foxtel cable service rebroadcasts all the free-to-air channels, but some are missing for satellite subscribers. Thankfully, the iQ3 satellite box features an aerial jack on the back for tuning in to those missing free-to-air channels.
The iQ3’s biggest advancement is tighter integration with Foxtel’s streaming content. The new menus offer Netflix-style content discovery, offering recommendations based on your viewing habits, rather than leaving you to channel-flick.
Like the iQ2, the new iQ3 offers a ‘Look Back’ reverse EPG (electronic program guide), which lets you scroll back up to 24 hours in the on-screen guide to stream shows you’ve missed. Not every show is available, but it’s far more comprehensive than the FreeviewPlus equivalent.
Look Back offers some high-def streaming if you’re paying for the HD package. Foxtel recommends minimum download speeds of 3 Mbps for standard-def and 5 Mbps for high-def.
New to the iQ3 is ‘Start Over’. If you tune in halfway through a movie or TV show, you can jump back to the start and watch it streamed from the internet in standard-def. You can even fast-forward through the advertisements until you catch up to the live broadcast. It’s not available for every show. As with Look Back, a small play icon in the on-screen guide indicates that it’s available to stream.
You can also use the iQ3’s Anytime menu to search through the on-demand Catch Up library, watching shows available in your Foxtel package, but unfortunately all this content is also limited to standard-def. You can, however, rent high-def movies. All your streaming data is unmetered if Bigpond or Foxtel Broadband is your ISP.
As with Foxtel’s old iQ2, it’s possible to control the iQ3 using the Foxtel Go app for the iPhone and iPad. The free app works over Wi-Fi or mobile broadband, letting you change the channel on the iQ3 and schedule recordings (but not create a recurring Series Link). The app also grants you streaming access to the live channels in your Foxtel package, along with Catch Up content from those channels. You can’t watch live free-to-air television, only the Foxtel channels.
The remote control features in the iOS app are handy when you’re sitting on the couch and your iGadget is closer than the Foxtel remote. It’s also handy when you’re working in the next room while the kids watch TV. The iQ3’s remote control relies on Bluetooth rather than infrared, so it should work around corners. Thankfully, the iQ3 box retains an IR (infrared) receiver, so it can still work with your universal remote control.
Along with the Foxtel Go app, there’s also a Foxtel Guide app, which makes it easier to browse the entire program guide over the coming week. The app can also schedule recordings, including Series Links, and change the channel on the iQ3. If you live in a major city, the app lets you schedule recordings on free-to-air channels, but this option is missing for regional viewers.
Unfortunately, Foxtel hasn’t added the ability to stream your iQ3 recordings to your handheld devices, like the rival Fetch TV box, but it’s possible this feature could be added in the future.
Bottom line. If you’re catering to the entertainment needs of a busy household, then it’s certainly worth paying extra for an iQ3, so you can make the most of your Foxtel subscription. The slick iPhone and iPad apps are the icing on the cake. The only major disappointment is that only Look Back streaming is in high-definition, but hopefully this will improve with time.