Five’s TV player certainly lives up to its name: it was by far the most demanding of any of the services on test here.
Aside from streaming shows from the website, Five also offers a desktop player so that can you can rent or buy permanent copies of selected shows. But that desktop player is a fussy blighter: Windows 7 isn’t supported, neither is the Google Chrome web browser.
To convince the software to install on our Windows 7 system, we had to run Firefox in Windows XP compatibility mode. A barrage of unfriendly requests to run ActiveX components during installation hardly adds to the experience, either.
Five uses the unpopular Kontiki peer-to-peer software, which used to power the BBC iPlayer and sparked many complaints
Shows take a while to download: a mere 41MB file took more than 20 minutes on our superfast work network. A 300MB file from BBC iPlayer took less than three minutes. That’s because Five uses the unpopular Kontiki peer-to-peer software, which used to power the BBC iPlayer and sparked many complaints.
At least the video quality passes muster. The downloaded videos are 720 x 408 at an impressive bit-rate of 1,200Kbits/sec – plenty sharp enough for our 13in laptop, and more than bearable on our 38in TV. The bit-rate is dialled down to 768Kbits/sec for the free streamed shows, which makes matters a little fuzzier, but still perfectly watchable.
Which leaves us with the content itself. Five is hardly renowned for top-drawer programming, with the soap Neighbours and US crime shows such as CSI Miami among its more popular offerings. The Gadget Show may offer further appeal for PC Pro readers.
Internet TV software reviewed:
4 on Demand
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