Foxtel Now Box Review: The Verdict
The Foxtel Now Box solely exists to get Foxtel Now on your TV. It does this well, but the remainder of the Foxtel Now Box's functionality feels like an afterthought. This might not bother you If Foxtel Now is the only streaming service you're interested in, but it means the Foxtel Now Box feels incomplete when compared to other set-top boxes on the market, and isn't quite unique enough to be guaranteed a HDMI port.
What we love
- Good value
- Easy to use for the most part
- Runs Android TV
- Comes with a two free month subscription to all Foxtel Now packs if you grab it soon
What could be improved
- Non Foxtel Now content is a little hidden
- Missing key streaming apps
- Free to air integration is limited
What is the Foxtel Now Box?
There's possibly never been a more literal product name than Foxtel Now Box. It's literally a box that runs Foxtel Now. Well, it's actually less of a box, and more of a puck, but its raison d'être is getting Foxtel Now on your TV.
The Foxtel Now Box is actually powered by Google Android TV, but the smart TV operating system has been completely overhauled to look and feel like a Foxtel product. There's support for a couple of other streaming services available (Netflix not included), it doubles as Chromecast, and it can even play free-to-air channels using its aerial input, but the Foxtel Now Box puts Foxtel content front and centre.
What's good about the Foxtel Now Box?
If you want to watch Foxtel Now on a TV, the Foxtel Now Box is a simple and easy way to do so. The user interface is almost identical to what you'll find in the web version, on your tablet, on a Telstra TV, or on a PlayStation 4. It prioritises shows and movies you've got access to in the subscription you're paying for, burying "locked" content further down in the user interface.
While lock content isn't obscured entirely, there's no way to change your Foxtel Now subscription from the Box itself, although a representative told us this functionality will arrive down the line.
Since the Foxtel Now Box runs Android TV, you've got a little bit of freedom thanks to access to access to the Play Store. There isn't exactly a huge number of Android TV optimised apps, but it does give you access to software that isn't pre-loaded. In terms of streaming, there's apps like Spotify, Vimeo, Crunchyroll, and Plex. There's also Facebook in case you want it on your TV for some reason, and a couple of games. Some are playable with the Foxtel Now Box's remote, but others will require a Bluetooth gamepad. Play Store listings state which apps need a gamepad.
The Foxtel Now Box is also 4K and HDR ready. Foxtel Now doesn't support qualities higher than 1080p at present, but 4K content is available through apps like Stan and YouTube.
4K movies are also available to rent and buy through the Google Play Store, but at present, the range available in Australia is quite limited.
What's not so good about the Foxtel Now Box?
The biggest issue with the Foxtel Now Box is that everything other than Foxtel Now seems like an afterthought.
Free-to-air integration is a nice touch, but it's incredibly basic. There's no PVR functionality, there's no way to pause or rewind live TV, and it seems like there might be some missing channels (NITV, wouldn't show up for me, for example). While having access to live TV channels through the Foxtel Now Box is nice, it doesn't necessarily make the experience better. Since there's no numbers on the remote, you'll have to scroll through a large, poorly ordered list to tune into the channel you're after. Just picking up a different remote is far easier.
The Foxtel Now Box isn't quite complete as set-top box either. While you get access to Foxtel Now, Stan, ABC iView, TenPlay, and Plus7, Netflix, 9Now, and SBS On Demand are all missing. The absence of On Demand and 9Now can be chalked up to the platforms' lack of Android TV apps, but Netflix's omission is a different situation.
Netflix is available on the Android TV operating system, but won't run on the Foxtel Now Box, no matter how hard you try. You can't sideload an APK, you can't Chromecast content. Foxtel says it's in negotiations with Netflix about changing this, but who knows how that will go.
We wouldn't call the lack of Netflix a deal breaker - if you're a Netflix subscriber, you probably already have a way to watch it on your TV - but it does stop the Foxtel Now Box from being your all in one solution.
Even with the non-Foxtel apps available on the Box, the content is hidden within individual apps, rather than splashed out on the home screen alongside your Foxtel Now recommendations. While part of this may be working within the limitations of Android TV, competing set-top boxes like the Telstra TV 2 and Apple TV 4K are all about aggregating content from across multiple services into a single place. This not only facilitates discovery, but answers the frustrating question of "where the hell do I watch this?".
Foxtel says its adding universal search in the future, which will allow you to search for shows and movies across multiple services, but it hasn't provided any specifics as to when.
Who's the Foxtel Now Box for?
While the Foxtel Now Box isn't an all in one set-top box solution in the same way the Apple TV 4K or the Telstra TV 2 is, it nonetheless gives you a cheap way to get Foxtel Now on your TV. At $99, it's half the price of its competitors, but it's also less complete due to the smaller app selection.
It could also be a good option for existing Foxtel customers who might want to cut the cable and get a bit more freedom with a Foxtel Now plan, rather than with traditional cable. You can stand to save a bit of money, you've for a lot more flexibility in the content you're paying for, there's no need for a technician to set it up, and you don't need to sign a contract.
Foxtel Now will certainly come to other platforms - it's also available on Telstra TV and PlayStation 4, and Foxtel says the Apple TV will have a Foxtel Now app soon - but for now, the Foxtel Now Box is a cheap and simple way to get Foxtel Now on your TV (or on your spare TV). It's just not much else.
But hey, if you pick up the Foxtel Now Box before the end of January 2018, you'll get two months of free access to every Foxtel Now pack. That's worth $104 per month, which more than covers the cost of the Box.