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Preview: 3view's connected Freeview box

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Digital Spy takes a look at 3view's new hybrid Freeview HD receiver, which supports access to television channels and internet content.

Unveiled last month, the set top box supports over 50 standard definition Freeview channels and the Freeview HD channels - BBC HD, ITV1 HD and Channel 4 HD.

Dual HD tuners in the box enable users to record programmes to the 500GB hard drive, while USB, HDMI and RF ports feature on the back, along with a SCART slot.

However, the receiver's most interesting aspect is its in-built browser for accessing a range of websites, including Amazon, MSN and YouTube. Viewers can also use social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook while still watching TV via an in-picture application.

3view managing director John Donovan said that the hybrid receiver is all about users consuming television and web content on their own terms.

"If you want to tweet while watching TV, then why not? It's about making TV interactive, which is what sets this product apart from the others," he said.

"What people really want is one box that can seamlessly talk to every other piece of technology in the home, which gives you great TV and great access to the internet."

3view is so confident about the product's user-friendliness that it will be shipped without a hard copy instructional guide. Instead, the on-screen setup instructions are deemed sufficiently simple for any user to understand.

The product has a fairly standard main menu and electronic programming guide, which will feel instantly familiar to most digital TV users. The menu includes tabs for BBC iPlayer and Sky Player, with the latter requiring a monthly subscription to access its linear channels and on-demand content.

Donovan said that Sky Player will most probably not be available until June, but iPlayer should be live at the product's launch in late May. He also said that the platform will consider bringing on content aggregators, such as SeeSaw and Blinkbox, in the future.

"We're not really a Freeview set top box, because we're not just about free-to-view content. We're a hybrid, not just in terms of technology but also in terms of customer payments. There is free TV but also a lot of good quality pay-TV as well," said Donovan.

"Sky Player is the first example of that. It's a subscription service but it's only for a minimum of 30 days, so you don't have to commit to an 18-month contract. Equally, something like LoveFilm or Blockbuster would mean accessing content to own or rent. And all of that would be via the remote control and within the security of Freeview's platform."

Alongside the live and on-demand television, the box also enables users to watch YouTube videos via a dedicated link. However, the service will not support YouTube's Five On Demand or 4OD channels due to advertising agreements around that content.

To browse the web services, 3view has opted for a remote control product called the Dolphin, which is basically a two-way wireless air-mouse. Users point the infrared remote at the screen to move around the cursor, while a text keypad is available for more complicated functions.

Donovan believes that the hybrid receiver will initially be the choice of early adopters and technology enthusiasts, but that will change as it gets into mainstream retailers.

"If the box goes into outlets like John Lewis, which is very respectable and has good sales people who can communicate its benefits, then I think the average consumer will buy it," said Donovan.

"The product does need some explanation and the right sales approach, but if we get those things right then I think that it will be a fantastic success."

Priced at £299, 3view's set top box will reach retail outlets at the end of May, with the company already taking advance orders.

However, any consumers intending to purchase the product should first use Freeview's postcode checker to see whether they can receive Freeview HD.

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