back to article Digital dongle transforms European XBOXen into tellies

Microsoft has announced that European XBOX One owners will soon be able to acquire a digital TV tuner for their games consoles. The ₤24.99 or €29.99 device is pretty simple. Plug one end into a TV antenna. Plug the other into the XBOX. If you don't know which end belongs where, it won't take you long to figure it out. Once …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So they are going to finally deliver the tech needed to make the ads they've been running with somew sort of famous actor actually possible and not complete fabrications.

    1. returnmyjedi

      That functionality had been available for a couple of months now. This is just a DVB-T2 tuner for those who don't have a Freeview box or such to plug into their Xbox.

    2. Boris J's Quiff

      Not quite, I have my sky box running through the HDMI in and it works well. This allows you to watch tv through the device without having a freeview box or similar.

    3. JeffyPoooh


      Inside the ₤24.99 box is a DVB-T USB RTL2832U / R820T Dongle that they probably bought off eBay for about $7 (delivered) in Qty 1.

      Anyone coined the phrase "Microsoft Tax" yet ?

      1. b166er

        Re: ₤24.99

        I actually thought the dongle price was reasonable.

        Hauppauge USB dongles run to more than that and you're also getting support and warranty from a huge multi-national, rather than an eBay seller (which should in theory mean a lot more)

        Your post therefore was quite negative.

      2. donguevas

        Re: ₤24.99

        Stop gobbling on Job's dead noodle. Apple would charge three times as much.

        This is great for people who only use monitors or who actually want to split the screen or just want this advantage in the living room.

        Actually, AT&T in the US did this with Microsoft and their UVERSE service years ago. You could buy a kit that allowed you to use your 360 as an extra cable box and access the dvr and all the features via the Xbox.

  2. James 51

    Have a 360. Was waiting till at least the first redesign to think about buying a One. If this could accept at least two feeds (four would be nice) from satellite dishes and act as a PVR (preferably with an external HDD or swap out internal HDD for something much bigger) I would trade in now. Of course it would need to be able to accept decoder cards. *sigh* Doubt we'll see that any time soon.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      To effectively act as a PVR, you need a twin tuner. One tuner is tuned to the mux containing the channel you are watching, the other tuner to the mux containing the channel you want to record.

      Theoretically a single tuner could watch one channel and record another so long as they were in the same mux. It could also timeshift what you are watching - pause live tv etc. But ordinarily you would want two tuners.

      You wouldn't need a decoder card. The USB dongle would just spew out a transport stream and the software in the computer / xbox would extra the audio & video just like it does with a DVD or other stream of content.

      Anyway, this tuner is DVB-T/T2/C only which is far easier to do and there are plenty such devices already. A satellite tuner would require the dongle to send a voltage and signal to the LNB on the dish to set the polarisation and frequency. This obviously poses issues for a USB device and it would probably require an external power supply. And if you wanted twin tuner then the dongle would have to have an input for each LNB.

      1. James 51

        I've got a Skybox which I am using as FreeSat and a French Freeview box. Need the decoder card for French TV.

        1. DrXym Silver badge

          Some set top boxes take a CAM (conditional access module) which is a PCMCIA card that decrypts subscription channels. Anyway there is no reason decryption has to be done in hardware. If Microsoft intended to show TV from an encrypted service they could do so in software. I doubt they'd bother though.


    Didn't Sony do this a few years ago?

    Wonder how well it turned out. Wikipedia's entry of the device doesn't add up (I've never heard people praise the device or even talk about it since it was launched and reviewed on El Reg a few years ago).

    1. StripeyMiata

      Re: Didn't Sony do this a few years ago?

      I assume you're talking about a PlayTV? I have one, bought shortly after launch for £69.99 and still have it. I dumped Sky at the time which was £40 a month so it's paid for itself.

      So basically it turns your PS3 into a PVR. You are limited by the size of your PS3's HD, with my first 80GB PS3 that meant that I could only record about 10 hours of stuff, when that failed I got one with a bigger HD and it stores more. It has some social media bits, you can live chat with people while watching the same program, post what you are watching to Facebook and recommend stuff to PSN friends to watch.

      As I PVR it's fine, only drawback is it takes about 15 seconds to start. Also twice in the last few years the software got corrupted and I had to reinstall, unfortunately I lost my recordings both times. Bit of a pain and a common problem. Also it upscales the picture to HD apparently but I never really noticed the difference. Speaking of HD, you can't view/record HD channels on it, this is a hardware limitation, not software so will never be fixed.

    2. Anonymoist Cowyard

      Re: Didn't Sony do this a few years ago?

      Sony's device was far superior, as it offered DVR Freeview RECORDING, as well as viewing. This is just viewing.

      Microsoft are still catching up to where Sony was in 2007...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Didn't Sony do this a few years ago?

      Sony did do this in 2007, and it was very successful in Europe, It also acted as a PVR fro recording (which this doesn't).

      The reason it's not talked about on Wikipedia, is PlayTV was never released in the US, because they have a different TV standard and broadcast infrastructure.

      As the console sections of Wikipedia are mostly controlled by American fanboys, it doesn't get much attention.

      It was a nice device however, well priced, effective and reliable. I used my alot before I got a dedicated FreeSat PVR, and now sill use mine to record stuff that isn't on FreeSat but was on Freeview.

    4. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Didn't Sony do this a few years ago?

      PlayTV was dual tuner so it was a genuine PVR. The problem with using a console as a PVR is that the thing has to be always on (even if that means a low power state) in order to respond to recording events and consoles consume far more power than a typical set top box would.

      I think the benefits of using a console for TV are pretty marginal. An XB1 doesn't pass through HDMI when it's turned off so you're burning an extra 200W if you chain the satellite and/or terrestrial through it.

      1. Anonymoist Cowyard

        Re: Didn't Sony do this a few years ago?

        PS3 worked the PlayTV in a low power state that used a whole 3W. I know, I measured it. That's less than a single energy saving lightbulb.

        The PS3 and PS4 both draw much less than 100W even at full power.

    5. Cornholio

      Re: Didn't Sony do this a few years ago?

      Sure did. Mine gets a lot of use, although it is only SD.

      Our new TV will record HD Freeview to USB, but there's no way of getting your hands on the files. At least with the PlayTV you can copy and edit them as you see fit.

  4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Siri, Who's on first base?

    - what’s on BBC One?

    - I'm sorry, Watson is on BBC Two

    - No, WHAT IS on BBC One?

    - "What" is an ITV show, shall I select ITV?

  5. Big_Ted
    Thumb Down

    Wow what a waste of money for almost everyone.....

    I would think that most people have the xbox connected to the TV that also is connected to Sky, Virgin or Freeview.....

    So instead of changing channel on the tv you can now change channel on the xbox......

    Cor what a major update to the hardware.

    1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

      More to the are connecting all the sources to a single display system?

      This may work great in your minimalist loft-style apartment bachelor pad but as soon as you get a life (and at least one more person living in the property) the conflicts start where one wants to play on the XBox (other games consoles are available), one wants to watch the football on Sky (yada yada) and a third has bought that film that everyone wanted to watch but couldn't be arsed to pay out to watch in the cinema.

      1. b166er

        Awwww - did you miss this bit? 'It will also be possible to split your screen so that a big window will be devoted to games and a small one to television programs.'

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Awwww - did you miss this bit? 'It will also be possible to split your screen so that a big window will be devoted to games and a small one to television programs.'

          No-one missed that bit. You apparently missed basic comprehension at school though. He did state that he was referring to the TV's built in Freeview decoder. Just like the poster before him he wasn't talking directly about this device.

          1. b166er

            For the record, the reply was for Kevin Johnston

            ElReg's thread system doesn't quite work

    2. dogged

      Well, we ditched Sky a year ago, relying instead on Netflix on the 360 and Freeview. The issue is that the Freeview receiver is built directly into the telly, meaning the XBone's clever overlay/passthrough thing doesn't work (because there is no "signal out" from the TV set).

      With one of these, you don't need Sky or any kind of STB. I suspect that's the whole point.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Big_Ted "Wow what a waste of money for almost everyone."

      I know that the article didn't explicitly mention that it won't be mandatory for all XBox-One owners to purchase this device, but maybe only people who think they have a use for it will buy one of these, and it won't be a waste of money for at least some of them, and it won't be a waste of money at all for the people who don't buy one (because they won't waste any money on it).

      It's a relatively cheap niche product that some people will find useful, but most Xbox One users probably don't have a need for. Get over it already.

  6. Tom 38 Silver badge

    I wonder whether Xbox Live subscription will be required to use this.</cynic>

  7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    So let me get this right - you plug your Xbox into a television set, and then by spending £24 you can watch television on that same television? Could you not cut out the middleware and connect your TV aerial into the socket in the back of your TV set instead of the £24 dongle?

    Still, if it catches on, I might come up with a USB dongle that you can plug into your PC and then use your mouse, keyboard and monitor as a computer.

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