I’ve had Sky TV installed for about 15 years. I’ve seen it grow from a normal satellite TV box to a “timeshifting” one and then, as on-demand TV increased in popularity, we got more choice and flexibility than ever.
However, we consume TV differently now. There’s a huge batch of streaming platforms and subscriptions available. Although Sky are trying to make it all available in one place, you certainly pay for the privilege.
That cost led to me leaving Sky TV. It was a big decision, especially after being so familiar with the user interface and the Sky box, but the monthly cost just kept on increasing and things had to come to a close.
My plan was to continue using the satellite dish fixed to the side of the house, but get Freesat instead. Add in the on-demand apps (like BBC iPlayer, All 4, ITV Hub etc) and get a replacement satellite box that added the recording facility.
Netgem. What is it?
Then, I stumbled across Netgem TV. It gets TV from your rooftop aerial, grabbing all the digital TV channels from your local TV transmitter before layering on all the internet on-demand content you can shake a stick at. Freeview with bells on basically.
The box I have here, the NetBox 4K, is the centrepiece of the operation and is £10 per month. It’ll deliver high-quality images and Dolby Atmos sound plus an endless stream of content. Right now, as I type, Netgem are giving existing customers access to the enhanced Netgem TV service free for 3 months. Excellent lock-down entertainment and new customers get a month for free anyways.
The £10 per month gets you access to 20 exclusive HD channels, including Premier Sports, Music, Kids, and Nature channels.
To kick things off though, you get over 100 free live TV Channels plus 15 in HD. Added to that are catch-up apps including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5 and many more. Then there’s YouTube sections with the hottest new videos, including BT Sport and ESPN and 17 exclusive channels included in your £10 monthly subscription. Added to all that is Prime Video, Rakuten TV, hayu, Hopster, Deezer and a whole load more. Those extra bits may require an extra separate subscription (such as Prime Video) etc, but it’s all available on one box, which is the good thing.
Also, you get to do the whole pause, rewind and recording of Live TV too.
The box doubles as a YouTube receiver, so you can cast from your phone to the box. There’s Alexa compatibility, a pretty cool remote control (which turns your TV on and off automatically) and an app which connects to your box so that you can control everything that way.
I’ve taken it for a serious test drive these last few weeks. I thought I’d be a bit “lost” without my Sky TV fix. Sure, initially I was a bit confused – the user interface was quite different to the Sky one, but it’s very quick and you do find your feet.
I need to show you exactly what this is like, so a video seemed like the best way to do it…
As I mentioned in the video, the setup is relatively simple – plugging in is easy. It’s just adding your login details to all those players (ITV Hub, BBC iPlayer, All4, Prime and so on) which is a slight pain when you first get everything set up.
What I did like is how Netgem took some of my favourite shows and highlighted them on the Home screen. I also like the way that you can do a search from the top left search box and it’ll search… everything. No need to keep jumping around and trying to remember which streaming service is offering your favourite show. Oh, and I should mention that this really comes into its own when several streaming services offer the same show.
Around back then, a USB port for the USB pen that you’ll be using to record shows, a HDMI port for the output, an Ethernet port, aerial port and power lead. There’s also an optical audio output connection. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have an Ethernet cable nearby, you can use WiFi too.
I’ve used this as my main TV box for weeks now. All through lockdown. There are a couple of little things I’ve spotted. Firstly, the additional Netgem channels appear to be presented over IP but they are very high quality and show up as quick as the normal terrestrial channels. They are classed in the Netgem Support section as “Snackable Channels” and include…
903 Football TV – Best of European Football Highlights – Discover the best highlights from the top European football leagues right here on Football TV.
904 Sports TV -Sport around the globe- Keep yourself in the know with the top European sports stories at the click of a button.
905 Failarmy –
906 DJTV – Music heaven – Discover the best music from around the world on DJTV. Always live. Always streaming.
910 Tastemade – Food, Home and Travel – From quick recipes to original series enjoy cooking and travel stories from around the world.
I didn’t really watch these to be honest, but they might be more suitable for yourself. I also found that recording from live TV would block me from switching to other live TV channels, which was something I wasn’t really used to.
One further thing – and this is really tiny – is that there was a slight delay in the audio when casting YouTube content from my phone to the box. This didn’t happen with any other content.
There doesn’t seem to be any Netflix either, although BritBox and Prime Video is here alongside lots of other apps.
Other than these very small quibbles though, this is a fast and well-put-together solution. This isn’t your standard “Android box with some apps and a bit of IPTV chucked in”. This links together the various streams, the various apps and all the content providers in one place – and for a relatively low cost considering that you get the box included in that £10 monthly fee.
The remote control is very good, especially considering how long I’d used the Sky TV remote. I kinda wish that the “Home” button was slightly bigger though, as I spent a lot of time in that particular screen rather than the large “Freeview Play” and “Netgem TV” screens linked to with the larger buttons at the top of the remote.
An app comes with this – install it on your phone for further control. However, I’m going to review that in the second part of this feature. Until then, head to the Netgem website to get more information or start your one month trial here.