Wednesday, 15 August 2007

BBC iPlayer Review

The BBC iPlayer has been available for beta test for a couple of weeks, so i signed up and last Thursday was granted access to the their new toy. The software installed without any complications, which is always a fine start, although you do need an up to date copy of Active X. Clicking on the shortcut, opens up the iPlayer library, which lets you check out your downloaded files as well as the progress of any new progs you've ordered. It's pretty simple and gives you all details you'd want about your selected prog, i.e Name (duh) file size, length and guidance rating just in case you've ordered a particularly racy episode of Strictly Dance Factor X or whatever it's called.

The first thing i realised was that you can't browse the BBC library via the ap on your PC, you have to have to be logged in to the iPlayer page on their website, which, coincidentally, is a different log in to the one you have selected to join the iPlayer service..... Arrrgh Faff!

Once you're logged in, you're reminded ( a little late in the day frankly) that you need to be running Windows XP, on Internet Explorer and have an up to date vsn of Windows Media Player. After i'd switched over from Firefox (does anyone else feel like IE7 is the equivalent of your dad trying to be cool?) i made a
beeline for the A-Z search option, you can also browse via categories and a 'last 7 days' option too.

Finding your desired entertainment is pretty easy, but i'd like more info about each episode, i.e name, original broadcast date etc as all the thumbnails are the same, which isn't great. After you've trawled through all the episodes of 'Honey we're killing our Kids' to find the one you want, you hit download, more often than not it will ask you to log in again.... Grrrr.

The file appears in your library instantly, where you can keep an eye on the status of your download. All 3 files i ordered, arrived very quickly, although i think i have my works Internet connection to thank for that. The progs are organised under the series name etc, and the library shows you your files lifespan (between 24/28 days it seems) amongst other facts.

Clicking on the play button, brings up a slightly excessive 'Click to Confirm' warning, which is plain odd. The player is simple but effective, and allows full screen viewing which is OK, considering file size etc. Other options include being able to play it in WMP. Navigating through your episode though is awful and could do with a more accurate point and click method or some chapter points maybe.

If you have a dig around the other preferences, you can choose to alter where your files are stored, alter your proxy settings and parents can activate a PIN service which is nice, and would be essential i should imagine if this was an ITV service considering the amount of dross that's on normally. The files are Windows Media 9, and are a native dimension of 672x384 but i'm sure they vary and seem to be about 150MB for a 30min TV programme. I have yet been able to crack them, but i'll keep you posted.

Frankly, the iPlayer does exactly what it says on the tin, but I'm glad it's only a beta vsn. The browsing is a little clunky and the excessive double username and password is slightly prohibitive to the average user. I was impressed with the download and quality of the progs, and it's interesting to see so many little features stolen from bit torrent, within their library facility (you'll know them when you see them). What i would really like though is the ability to subscribe to a series, similar to Sky Plus, with perhaps the ability to move the files onto a portable player, then again, maybe not, the last thing i need is to be sat next to someone watching Eastenders on the Tube, my commute is bad enough already.

Click on the pics, for bigger vsns.

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