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UPC Horizon Review

UPC Horizon Review
Tony
  • On August 15, 2013
  • http://www.theeffect.net

Earlier this week UPC Ireland launched their Horizon service to the market (see full press release below), but luckily enough a number of us here at The Effect.net have been trialing the service for a number of months now, and well we thought we’d put together a quick reivew of our experience of the service so far.

I must note this before continuing the review, the trial was a beta with the purpose to find and fix as many issues as possible so it had it’s ups and downs, in saying that, this should give a fairly good idea of what you can expect.

I won’t be able to cover everything in this review, but I’ll touch on the highlights and come back with other element specific reviews (or answer any questions you might have about it)

Horizon_remote-and-box-1

So, what is ‘Horizon’ is the first question that should be answered. Well, UPC are calling it their ‘Next Gen’ TV Service, and in a way, I guess it is. The center of the Horizon is a new set-top box / media hub. This new box is leaps and bounds beyond what UPC has offered in the past. It’s made by Samsung and contains an Intel chipset, 500gb hard drive, HDMI 1.3, 1080p output and 6 tuners!! Why 6 tuners, well, this box allows you to record up to 4 programmes at once and watch another, the 6th tuner is to preload the next channel / show the preview of the channel you’re about to watch. It’s very slick and has gotten better and better through the trial. The channel changes are quick and instant now. On top of the usual TV bits and bobs, it’s also your new Modem. It contains a 4 port gigabit ethernet hub and a B/G/N dual antenna array for better wireless distance and signal.

“Intel chipset, 500gb hard drive, HDMI 1.3, 1080p output and 6 tuners!!”

During the trial, there has been some issues maintaining a solid internet connection, both on the ethernet and the Wifi. UPC have been working hard to resolve these, sometimes calling at 8 or 9pm at night and tweaking settings to increase range on the Wifi or tweaking general settings to get the best results.

Horizon-mediabox

The box is pretty slick looking with sloping front and nice transparent accents. My favourite part is the light on the front. It’s aimed down so reflects off the surface it’s on and the transparent edge allows the light to shine through. When it’s on, the light is blue, when it’s off, for me, it’s yellow. When I say ‘for me’, I mean I have the box set at ‘High Power’ Standby. I like it like this as it allows the box to boot very quickly when I want to watch some TV.

” you’re going to notice first and foremost is the new User Interface and boy is it slick”

The thing that you’re going to notice first and foremost is the new User Interface and boy is it slick. Don’t get me wrong it’s still missing some very important features, but it’s better than it was when I got the box first and it just goes to show that the power of the box will allow alot of new functionality to be added going forward. I guess I should touch on what features I think are missing: 1) A delete entire series option 2) a select day on the guide 3) more than now and next in the guide 4) more cover art on the shows… and that’s just what jumps to mind right this second.

 “I’ve yet to come across a case where I missed the start or end of a show I was watching”

Don’t let any of those elements put you off upgrading, it’s soo worth it, especially those extra tuners. I know I didn’t know why I’d ever need so many tuners, but then I started to realise what the box was doing. Say for example I was recording something on BBC at 8.00pm until 8.30pm and then another show on BBC again from 8.30pm onwards, well the box will record a few mins before the show at 8pm and a few mins after it’s finished and it will use another tunes to start recording the other show a few mins before 8.30 and again a few mins after. I’ve yet to come across a case where I missed the start or end of a show I was watching. It’s also now intelligent as if the show moves, the box appears to know, which is nice.

Horizon_screenshot-300x169

The system also contains ‘Apps’, according to UPC, 27 in total. The apps are quite handy. If you’re watching a TV or movie and want to find out more, you can open the Wikipedia app and it will ‘float’ on screen giving you that extra information you were looking for. Also, very hand is the YouTube app. I’ve used when I’ve been watching shows and wanted to see if I could find any more. Opening the YouTube all while your watching the show, searching for the show your watching and shows you results form YouTube. On top of that, there’s weather, news and even a ‘screen saver’ app. This is quite fun and can turn your TV into a fireplace, or a window with rain trickling off it.

“The On Demand movie rental selection is great and bang up to date”

UPC are well known for for their On Demand service and well, it doesn’t disappoint here. You have your full selection of Catch Up services from TV3 and RTE as well as some UK providers. There’s loads of TV Box sets that are presented much nicer than I’ve seen anywhere else. You get to see the cover art for the show you’re browsing. The On Demand movie rental selection is great and bang up to date. You have the choice of SD or HD, with the HD costing a little more. They play instantly and the quality is amazing! Surround sound and all!

Horizon_Menu

The trial has been interesting, with it’s up’s and downs, but what I will say is UPC have been stellar to deal with. I had an issue with the box not upgrading the software correctly on a Friday morning, and by lunch time, and a dozen or so calls to try and fix the issue a guy called out and replaced the box. From my experience, I can only commend the Horizon staff and the Social Media support team, they’ve been great to deal with and helps all along the way.

There’s much much more I could go on about, but I’ll save that for another time (or if you’ve anything specific you’d like to know, please get in touch).

“I hope that UPC keep rolling out the software updates as quickly as they have been”

Right now, UPC Horizon is a great service. Can it get better? Absolutely, there’s a large number of areas I think UPC could improve on, and I hope that UPC keep rolling out the software updates as quickly as they have been to date. If they do, I’d say go for it and upgrade now, if there’s any sign of slow down, I’d say hold off upgrading your service until some of the issues I noted at the start are resolved (you can be sure we’ll post when the next software update hits)

Here’s the official press release from UPC:

UPC unveils a New Horizon for Irish TV

 Extraordinary new UPC Horizon TV provides HD channels as standard, recording for 4 shows at once, programme suggestions, TV to any screen & 100Mb Broadband

All-in-one clever box

 Monday 12th August 2013, UPC, Ireland’s leading provider of TV entertainment, information and communications, has today launched its revolutionary new Horizon TV service to the Irish market.  Horizon TV changes the boundaries of Irish television providing a range of exciting new services which will delight TV lovers usingHorizon’s clever new set top box.

In April, UPC introduced its new Irish Horizon TV App and Horizon TV Online service, offering customers the unique access to 45 channels across multiple devices, addressing the growing viewership of TV content on PC’s, laptops, mobiles and tablets for free in-home.

Horizon TV brings Irish consumers closer to the TV they love with: 

  • 19 HD channels as standard – HD channels at no additional cost. This includes all the major HD broadcasters including RTE, TG4, Sky and the BBC
  • Record up to four programmes at once and watch a fifth
  • Programme suggestions for shows you might like based on your viewing
  • Access your favourite TV across multiple devices (laptop, iPad and iPhone)

And Horizon contains all your services in one clever box:

  • 100Mb broadband as standard as part of the Horizon Essential Bundle – faster than any other provider on the market
  • All your TV, broadband and phone in one box

Speaking at the launch Mark Coan, Vice President Sales & Marketing of UPC Ireland said,

“When it comes to TV, UPC is Ireland’s leading innovator. Today we’re taking television to the next level with the introduction of Horizon TV.”

“UPC Horizon TV will completely transform consumers’ TV experience, by doing two extraordinary things, bringing Irish consumers closer to the TV they love in better and new ways, and putting all their services together in one clever box. These services combine to make a unique product which is unmatched by any other TV provider.”

The launch of Horizon TV has been enabled by UPC’s investment of over half a billion euro in its fibre powered network.

In addition Horizon also features:

  • 27 Apps (on your TV!) from key local content players such as the Irish Times and Score.ie, as well as great Apps including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter.

Comments

  1. Matt

    We’ve been using the Horizon box for a week and would thoroughly recommend UPC customers to wait 6 months at least before getting it. The box freezes or pauses on almost every task, some of the most user friendly options that were available before have been taken away and we’ve lost our broadband connection and TV services three times in 7 days.
    It could well be brilliant in time, but at the moment I find that there are too many glitches and it is too clumsy.

    • jimmy

      the main question i have is, is the reception clear? e.g. in football is the ball round or is the ball all blurred and blocky instead of crystal clear?

  2. Gabby

    We have the same problem after upgrading to horizon box with channels freezing. Upc state they cannot fix it until Saturday 21 sept extremely bad service from upc and will not give us discount on our monthly payments – we will be a week without proper usage.

    • Hey Gabby.

      Have you set the box to scan for media on your network? If so, reset that and try it again. I’d recommend not having it scan. I don’t think UPC have gotten that part right yet and notice a significant slow down when that feature is used

      Hope this helps

      • Gabby

        Hi Tony and all thank you for your advice.

        UPc sent out a technician on 21 sept. He was with us for over two hours. He changed the cable coming into the house as it was “not high spec enough”. Freezing problem continued so he changed box and service resumed until last Monday. Freezing channels again same as last time. Awaiting on our next visit which may happen 2moro if they can fit us in!

        UPC guy told us they were flat out dealing with similar problems and that UPC had rolled out horizon service too soon despite all warnings about problems with freezing channels and other TECH issues -they were under pressure to compete with SKY.

        I should state after some persistence about lack of service UPC gave us €20 of our last bill -we had to ask for this it was not offered and we still have full telephone and internet service! Just can’t watch TV

  3. MAXi

    Hello ALL

    I am with UPC in Switzerland.

    My HORIZON unit, suddenly stopped to respond after the tech. support command me to make a HARD RESET on the unit ( to turn off from the i/O switch in the back , wait 10 secs, turn it again on and immediately to press the Power “O’ sing digital button in the front panel ( right down where it say SAMSUNG ) for about 20 secs.

    Then the Unit, erases everthing, and takes about 40 mins to scan and downlowad the updated new system from the cable company. ( during the process the TV shows the welcome messages as usual and there is a point that it turns the complete screen RED. for about 30 mins )

    Then the 50% sign and R LOADING is it shown in the digital display of Horizon, and then, after a while.. the ” —- ” signs are ping-poinging from left to right …

    As from there, the unit should show the LANGUAGE selection and continue with the normal set up, but…. but… buuuuttt…..

    that is is were my problem shows : .. my unit stays there and nothing else happens… ( and even for hours !! )

    any ideas to help ? UPC tech support does no have a clue.

    • Paula Bracken

      My first box was bad when I got it first, but froze completely after UPC advised me to do the reset Maxi from Switzerland mentions. That was the one UPC recommended throwing into the river. I am now on my 3rd box. It seems to be working so far, although when scrolling through the menu, it may not stop at the channel you want. It can fly through many and only stop when you press the same button again

  4. Noel Kelleher

    Wireless is poor, we live in a house with solid block walls and lose the signal walking down the hall. Having the modem built into the box means we dont have the option of putting the modem in a better location. The basic internet signal is a bit hit and miss at times.

  5. Paula Bracken

    I wish I had never upgraded. I’ve been without proper service for over a month now. I’ve had 2 boxes and neither work. The first so bad, the technician who called was advised by headquarters to throw it in the river. The current one freezes continuously. When I tried to rewind 20 minutes of live tv, the box rewound through 1 hour 46 minutes of programmes across different channels before deciding to stop. It takes 10-15 minutes to bring up the guide, scroll through 5-6 channels to choose what you want, and see the one you want. I was told my LG 3D tv was conflicting with the signal from the box. I was advised to unplug the HDMI cable and use wirelessly. The above problems occurred after that (no difference in fact).
    It takes at least 8 days to get a technician. UPC must be under some pressure! They have been totally let down by incredibly shoddy equipment in my view. Samsung’s name is really going to suffer. UPC should forget about advertising for the moment, and put the money towards solving the problem instead.

  6. Paula Bracken

    In my last reply I mentioned being advised by UPC to unplug the HDMI cable, which was daft. It was the Ethernet cable of course. Pity it didn’t work. Any suggestions welcome

  7. Noel D.

    I have been a loyal customer of UPC for a long time now and was always plugging their internet service. However this loyalty is fast disappearing with the help of the Horizon box, this is without doubt one of the worst pieces of kit that I have had to endure and is certainly not fit for purpose. UPC and Samsung need to scrap it and start again.

    Noel D.

  8. fay

    Hi how do you get screen saver app??

  9. Mark Finucane

    Agree with all the above. We opted for 200 mbs download speed and have achieved a max of … 38!!! (Connected via Ethernet, not wirelessly!!) only three days in, but not happy campers. All the same issues as mentioned above including channel freezing, wifi outages and also sound being stripped of recordings, we have recorded about 5 programmes watched three of which 2 just failed half way thru. Was convinced that using a samsung device would help to guarantee quality of service, but obviously not. Our previous UPC device was superior at doing all the basics. This seems to fail at just about everything. Not at all happy

  10. Paddy Trehy

    Have to agree with a lot of above. Box freezes regularly, sound disappears both on live TV and recorded programs, and very poor EPG service. Obviously UPC jumped in at the deep end before fully testing and trialling the service. Not good advertising for either UPC or Samsung.

  11. John Kane

    Internet not as good as the old box.have box at front of house had old one in kitchen .better reception when in kitchen even upstairs . Was watching a film on itv4 last week half way through film it went off said not subscribed.have no sound on 2 stations at the moment.

  12. John kenneally

    With the old modem The wi fi signal was excellent anywhere in my home. The horizon box was not too bad to install but took a bit of time setting up the laptop, phone , iPads etc that are part of everyone’s household nowadays. Very handy at my age to watch the telly on the phone and get to bed that bit earlier.
    Problems with the range of the wi fi spoilt this, timed out every time on netflix and my bedroom is directly over the horizon box.
    I got on to UPC yesterday, thinking I was wasting my time.
    The girl on the helpline could not have been more friendly, or helpful.
    She talked me through the moves which were simple enough even for someone of my age.
    I’m typing this in bed right now, everything is back to normal and while I spoke to her on my mobile ( which is free to UPC) just for those of you who didn’t realise, I walked to the end of my garden and out to my car and actually drove about 400 yards before the signal dropped again.
    All this time the girl was more than courteous, and obliging.
    My advice is phone UPC and speak to someone on their helpline.
    Excellent service and my wi fi problems were sorted.
    Ring up, it’s free and it works.
    Granted , I went over the top driving off in my car but I’m a cranky ol man, I’m entitled to do that type of stuff, just to make sure I had a good signal.

  13. Peter Halpenny

    Just installed Horizon box yesterday and very unhappy. Despite the website stating that UPC would do everything, the box was delivered by courier who insisted I surrender my existing box and modem before he would let me have the horizon box, so if installation does not work I am left with no TV, PHONE OR WIFI………CLEVER! I was left to install it myself!
    Installation was painful and slow. UPC telephone support useless! Not a dedicated line for Horizon problems so must go through the tortuous recorded message process before queuing.
    Remote control a disaster. It will only operate when within a few feet of the box so I cannot operate from a seat anywhere in my living room. While the box is clearly Samsung, the remote has no Samsung branding on it. Is that the problem? It reminds me of the 60’s and 70’s when we all needed to get up from our armchair to change channels by pushing a button on the TV set. Perhaps this is the UPC social conscience in play, ensuring we all exercise while watching TV. Watch out for a claim by them that as well as all the other unfounded claims of its excellence, the UPC Horizon is a fitness aid!
    Favourites! You can set them up but cannot access them as before through the blue button.
    If this equipment was brought to the market in this condition in the full knowledge of those at the helm, they should be fired. If they did not know they should still be fired as they should have fully satisfied themselves of its performance before launch.
    Customers ……… BEWARE
    Shereholders…………BEWARE

  14. Jean

    I too am so disappointed with my horizon box,if I had of known how bad it was I would have stuck with the old one.the wifi goes constantly the telly freezes how can they get away with selling us this product it’s disgraceful.

  15. Aidan

    After two months of frustration and over an hour and a half on the phone to UPC we’ve told UPC to come and take the Horizon Box away. The user interface is a maze of pop up menus that wants to do everything except let you watch a programme, and recorded programmes freeze or the sound goes every time. They did replace one box but the replacement is just as bad. Keep away from it

    • Paula Bracken

      I am normally a polite, reasonable person, but after over a month of problems and UPC trying to tell me my new tv was at fault, they finally agreed to put in a 4th box and completely replace the hardware bringing the signal into the house and to the box.
      This seems to have worked.
      The only problem now is the strength of wireless signal in other rooms of my small house

  16. Noel

    Terrible box and broadband is at 5mbp with an ethernet cable.
    Customer service try fob you off with its the device, I have an ipad air and macbook pro retina ,clearly not the tech I use.
    They claim testing the soeed with flash player is better, flash player speed tests are very inaccurate. When the engineer tests the speed he uses upc speed test at their website using a upc rigged laptop and claims its fine on his most of the time, even using upc speed test and his laptop the speed is still nowhere near it should be.
    I feel ripped off and fuming , I have been calling daily now for 2 weeks registering complaints.
    Small claims court is next.

  17. Grant Beckwith

    Got the Horizon box back in December after moving to Dublin.
    Have had nothing but problems with it and the service I’ve received :
    – You cannot select radio stations from the guide, hitting select does nothing. Customer service told me to go to the first TV channel, select that then use the channel up/down buttons to get to the radio station I want! HAHAHAHA!
    – The box crashes ALL the time (not once but several times daily).
    – Recordings take several minutes to delete just one, have stopped recording things because it takes to long to clean up!
    – On occasion the system (when not crashing) shows me that I’m not subscribed to anything.
    – Customer service have no idea of my complaint / problem history every time I call so I have to start again from scratch.
    – Billing was completely stuffed because they promised me I could change packages during the first month of usage to a higher package and keep my introductory offer (the CS Agent even noted it on my file), apparently their system doesn’t support that.
    – Customer service reset my box while I was on the phone to them without telling me they were going to and disconnected my call – how stupid can you be!
    – The interface is RIDICULOUSLY slow!
    I could be kind and say I must have just a faulty box (which is being replaced today) but I have a sinking feeling this is going to be an ongoing problem after reading this thread!
    If I could change to Sky I would but my apartment block doesn’t have a shared Sky dish and I can’t put one on my balcony as it’s against the rules 🙁

  18. Paul

    We ve been fibre f–ked !!!!!!!!.

    Firstly we were taken in by the slick UPC Horizon presentation on national TV. The promise of so much by such a little box. We originally had UPC TV and Eircom phone and internet in the house and they all did what they said they would. We decided to consolidate the three utility services to ” upgrade “( HA ) and to save money. And so our nightmare began and continues
    .
    The Horizon box was installed, the TV reception was quite good in the adjacent rooms and ok in the rooms further away. The first problem was with the internet which required you to be within 8 to 10 feet of the Horizon box to maintain any type of WIFI signal i.e in the same room. Note also that the phone has to be connected to the Horizon box. So we called UPC and the technician called to the house. He introduced himself and then asked why we had chosen Horizon. He continued by informing us that the system had numerous ongoing glitches and technical issues, and that one of the main issues was with the modem. After communicating with UPC HQ and testing the signal in each room of the house he recommended that we de-couple the internet and phone from the main Horizon box and that they would install a supplementary router in the upstairs box bedroom / office.
    We went with their suggestions and the works were completed within days and are still in place to date. This scenario did improve the situation but there are still constant interruptions to the internet and TV service.
    We have contacted UPC several times, had several different technicians call to the house, the general excuses are that the wiring in the house is not up to scratch ( I cant see how this should affect WIFI, My PC is permanently positioned within 1 metre of the router.I also rewired the house approx 8 years ago and installed Cat 5 screened cable. Oh incidently they installed another router wired in series with the original router to try boost the signal.). Secondly there are upgrades to the network taking place , ( these seem to happen randomly and without notification ). The last time we lost all service (both TV and internet), We rang UPC and were told that there was “probably” an upgrade taking place in the area. She provisionally booked a technician for the following day to call to the house. She requested that if the service was to resume that we contact them, inform them that their service had returned and cancel the technician call out otherwise we would be charged for the service technician call out.

    The issues that constantly arise are

    1. No or poor response internet WIFI interface
    2. Loss or freezing of the TV signal
    3. Recording programs, pausing them for a short time and being unable to un pause the program, even though the remote control will still turn off the TV and Horizon box.
    4. No or delayed response from the remote control.
    5. Loss of sound on recordings.
    6. Time consuming to delete recorded programs. i.e must be done 1 by 1

    Also I have been reliably informed that the Horizon service is not compatible with some LG television units and that the matter is before the courts.

    To Sum up

    This service costs in excess of €1000 per year and in my experience is not delivering the service promised. I believe that this service is to some extent a work in progress and should have been rigorously field tested before introducing the service to the general public. I am counting the days when my contract expires and intend to return to the dearer more reliable service..
    This service is soon to be rolled out in Europe ( Scandinavia I believe ) I wonder if the Scandinavians will tolerate this service or is it just that we are the” Glitch guinea pigs”.

    Kind regards

    • Paula

      I have an LG tv and was told this was probably the problem, but eventually, in a last-ditch attempt to solve my problems, UPC techs replaced all the equipment coming into the house to the box. This seems to have solved most of my problems, although wifi beyond the sittingroom is still poor

  19. Jake

    UPC are very unreliable first they advertise all three bundles for 50 euro when the bill comes its more like 70. Then they also say they have 200mb broadband they dont do a speed check you,ll get 80 if your lucky their is no company who can provide 200mb yet. Another problem is the horizon.tv the worst service i have ever experienced we timed it 1 night every 30 mins it freezes an error occured we rang upc they said it was our laptop i dont know so 4gig ram possibly the fastest laptop we own. Compared to streaming other channells and they never freeze upc i would not recommend people bad service and expensive

  20. Donald

    UPC an absolutely disgraceful service. For the past 3 weeks, there has been no internet or telephone service for whole parts of the day, During the last weekend, UPC CUT ALL INTERNET AND TELEPHONE SERVICES FOR A CONTINUOUS 15 HOURS. My son is in LC year and needs a reliable internet service to assist him in his studies. When we called UPC to address the problem, they told us that they would send a technician, but no one ever turned up. This is a quintessential example of UPC’s attitude to customers. When our services are cut, we cannot even contact UPC because OUR TELEPHONE LINES DO NOT WORK. Cannot wait to leave when the contract ended. All these problems started when we upgraded to horizon. GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD RUBBISH!!

  21. jim

    How this service gets past costumer rights law is a testament to greed !

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