Review: Three Days with WOW Ultra TV (UPDATE: Now with Photo/Video)

Ultra TV Grid Guide
It took a couple of days and a half-dozen false starts, but after getting the primary box replaced, we have a fully operational Ultra TV setup. We are going to keep it for at least a few months. Here is the rundown:

1. Install was a bit of a trial. We have a very new home, so this shouldn't have been a wiring issue... But for the first couple of days, WOW simply could get high definition to work. They'd reset the box remotely (or I'd unplug it), HD would work for a couple minutes, and then a black screen and a "Signal Loss Detected" error message. We got a box replacement, and a $10 statement credit. Fair enough!

2. The channel lineup is a bit on the slight side. It's not bad, mind you - but there's no way to get NFL/NHL/NBA networks, no Bravo HD (SD only, which is just odd...) and a number of channels I'd expect to see in "basic" are on the "signature" tier, which I don't get. We also would have liked to have seen an option for Fox Soccer, which I didn't see.

3. The hardware is great-looking. Not much to say about that, but after years of seeing those atrocious motorola boxes, this minimalism is appreciated.

4. The add-ons and special features are excellent- but unwieldy to access. Why, for instance, is there no remote button to access the EXCELLENT "Ticker" feature? I have been waiting for this customizable ticker for YEARS, but the whole point is that it should be turn-on/off able with a single button- not after crawling through menus.

5. Whole home DVR is great. Really, divorcing ourselves from the "recordings are in THIS TV" mindset will take time, but it's just a serious upgrade. We're able to access recordings and VOD with very little lag. It works, and a standard subscription comes with 2 boxes for TVs - no additional charges for a 2nd set.

6. The lack of iOS control is disappointing. We are trying to build an iOS controlled home here.

7. The interface is good looking - if a little busy. The grid guide is great. Channel logos, high definition, solid all around. The "currently playing" vertical menu is less useful, but pretty. If I have an issue with the overall interface, it's the number of screens and all the horizontal scrolling that they entail.

Ultra TV typical menu structure
Several of the "primary" options are unnecessary - i.e., I am not sure "Music" needs to be top-level, if it's just a list of shows currently playing that are music-related. That may have been better as a search result, or a subfolder under a "Genres" top-level option.

At one point in the VOD menu, it seemed we were scrolling left and right, all the while moving deeper into the menus (i.e., "Kids" (swipe right) "Disney XD" (swipe left) "Phineas and Ferb" (swipe right)...) and if you want to back out entirely, you have to hit "OK". Not the simplest interface. Again video will help, and will follow tonight.

8. There are features we haven't tried yet. The one I'm most excited about is the ability to stream movies from a hard drive. That could be an XBMC-level game changer.

In short, Ultra TV does everything that we'd expect, and it does some stuff we didn't expect. I wouldn't give it a "WOW!", but it's not a "meh" either. Probably a "Huh!". Considering that we didn't have to sign a contract, we're very happy with giving this product a test drive.

UPDATE: Video! Ultra TV in action.


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