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The Grand Tour is better on an iPad

TV is TV, of course, and The Grand Tour is really just Top Gear with a bigger budget. But Amazon has a little feature called X-ray that gives the viewer additional insights into what they’re seeing, providing they’re using a web browser or a mobile device app. With dramas, that means you can easily find out the names of actors in the current scene and the music being played, for example.

And with The Grand Tour, you get all of that, plus trivia…

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Question of the week: which UK online streaming services and apps are the best and worst?

Prompted by an ongoing discussion elsewhere on TMINE, this week’s question is one about usability: which online TV services do you find the easiest to use and which ones are the hardest? This question might have different answers depending on whether you access catch-up TV on a computer, TV, set-top box or a mobile device, of course.

For what it’s worth and although I don’t watch a lot of UK TV, I’ve tried various services on various devices and here are my thoughts (some of these are available on Sky set-top boxes in weird forms, but my wife’s in a better position than I to review them, since I don’t use the Sky box these days…):

iPlayer (Roku, Apple TV, Sky Box, iOS apps, OS X, Amazon Fire Stick): probably the easiest to use of the network catch-up services, even if favourites don’t seem to transfer over well. Not as much of a back catalogue as I’d like.

Now TV (Roku, Apple TV, iOS apps, OS X): easier to use than Sky Go (see later) but no downloads! The arrival of ads on the service, usually for other programmes on Now TV, is an unwelcome move. 

Sky Go (iOS, OS X): hard to use, downloads haven’t worked with Macs for about three years now, isn’t available for many platforms, includes ads when streaming but not with downloads, and content hard to find. But a decent back catalogue of shows, including those available on the Five, UK Play and ITV streaming services, a huge range of channels, and does do downloads for most programmes if you’re prepared to pay £5 a month.

All4 (iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, OS X): hard to find content, downloads tend to expire after about five minutes, ads are annoying, didn’t track playback position or favourites across devices (at least not on Roku until recently – I will check) and no Apple TV app (official C4 position: ‘use AirPlay from an iOS device’). But does do downloads, is free and a good range of foreign shows thanks to Walter Presents.

Five on Demand (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick): Has about five programmes on it, none of them good. Not great to use either

S4C for iOS (iOS): easy to find content, but no downloads and problems with subtitles. Mostly subsumed into iPlayer these days, so not worth getting as a standalone app.

ITV Hub (iOS, OS X, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick): Fiddly to use, not much content, no downloads. But works. I use Sky Go instead now (see earlier)

UK Play (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, OS X): Not much on it that I want to watch but decent enough. No downloads. I use Sky Go instead now (see earlier)

Netflix (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, OS X, Roku, Sony Blu-Ray player): works on just about everything, pretty intuitive when actually watching things, even if it’s usually hard to find content without using the Search function. But no downloads!

Amazon (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, OS X, Roku, Sony Blu-Ray player): works on everything except the Apple TV; probably has the best of the iOS apps, downloads work just fine, no ads, interface could be a bit more intuitive, web browser interface makes it harder to find new shows. Given a choice, I’d happily watch any or all my content on this over the other apps.

And just for luck:

Plex (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, OS X, Roku, Sony Blu-Ray player, WD My Passport Wireless Pro): basically how I watch any of my content that’s unencrypted and doesn’t come from an online streaming service; works on every device I have and while the new interface is annoying, it works fine, offers both streaming and downloads, and even does music.

But how about you? And have I missed any good ones?

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