Foxtel iQ2

The Foxtel iQ2 is one of the best upgrades currently available for people who've invested in a HD panel, and it will only get better.

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Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury

While the pay TV provider piled on the Hugh Jackman charm when it launched its first recorder — iQ was the "smartest thing to ever happen to TV" — Foxtel has been rather quiet since the iQ2 media launch in January.

However this week, was among the first to experience the new set-top box, ahead of its launch "mid-year". While it will be some time before all of the iQ2's planned features are implemented, we found it's still a worthy upgrade.

Just as formica looks 50s and wood panelling looks 70s, in several years people will be saying "piano black is so noughties". Not that it worries Foxtel any. The iQ2 is bathed in it, and the paintwork is only broken by the front-panel buttons and the funky Foxtel-logo grill on the top.

Despite featuring a useful number of controls, the fascia is actually quite austere and uncluttered. The iconic iQ "Play" indicator still dominates, but otherwise when it's sitting in your AV rack the result is quite understated.

The Foxtel iQ2 is understated yet stylish.

If you've seen a Foxtel remote before then nothing will surprise you about the iQ2's — oh, except that maybe it's piano-black. Despite our misgivings about the finish, it doesn't seem to get too grubby and the buttons are just as friendly as ever.

Considering there's a hard drive in there and a bunch of tuners, the box is fairly compact. But this also necessitates a cooling fan, and though it rarely comes on while the unit is powered it gets quite noisy when you switch the Foxtel on — almost to Xbox 360 levels. Moral: leave it on.

Foxtel's new service — which the iQ2 delivers — is called HD+, and its main drawcard for cable users in eastern states is the provision of not only five exclusive HD channels but all of the free-to-air channels as well. This is good news for people who have a high-def TV but bought it when manufacturers were being stingey and didn't include HD tuners on-board.

While only announcing four channels originally, Foxtel has expanded this to five — the sports channels, ESPN HD and Fox Sports HD; the documentary channels, National Geographic HD and Discovery HD; and a new BBC HD channel. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait another year for more to be added, as the company is relying on a new Optus satellite to be launched in 2009.

Connectivity is one of the strongest points about the new iQ2, with an unparalleled number of ports for features present and future. One of the most "exciting", if we can call it that, is the provision of an eSATA port (front-mounted, unfortunately) and two USB. What this means is that not only will you be able to theoretically expand the amount of on-board storage without opening your case, but Foxtel has strongly hinted that you'll be able to move recordings onto other devices. We tested the two ports and unfortunately they're not recognised by the Foxtel unit yet.

The Foxtel iQ2 features a 320GB hard drive for program storage, four tuners (of which only three are currently in use), and plenty of connectivity options including HDMI (version 1.2), component, SCART, and both forms of digital optical.

While unused at present, Foxtel says it plans to utilise the on-board Ethernet port to deliver "low bit rate, low contention video" (library movies and TV series) sometime in the future. What they mean is you will be able to download On Demand content via the internet — at present it fits down the same, slow pipe. For users of Bigpond this would likely not count towards your monthly download quota. We can't vouch for customers on other ISPs, though.

Despite featuring twice the storage capacity of the original iQ, the greater storage needs of HD means it can only store half the amount of HD programming — or about 30 hours total. Some of the hard drive is also given over to storing On Demand movies, so the provision of expandability in the future will be a bonus.

As we revealed last month, Foxtel has announced the iQ2 pricing: it's AU$200 for the install, plus AU$10 for the box per month, and then the five channels are even more again. The average package will add between AU$20 and AU$25 a month to your existing package. On Demand movies will be available at launch for AU$6.95 each. Up-to-date pricing is currently available here.

Initial testing on an LG Scarlet 42-inch was very positive. When fed an HDMI signal from the iQ2, both standard-definition channels and the handful of high-definition channels, looked fantastic. But it's the few dedicated channels that are the stars here, and watching documentaries in full-HD with 5.1 sound is revelatory. A documentary on deep-sea creatures was given an eerie menace thanks to the creepy underwater sounds emanating from the rear channels.

While the experience is similar to what has gone before, the interface has had a brush-up, and is now a friendly Foxtel orange and white. Navigating menus is also a straightforward affair, and there are some powerful options available from the Setup — including the ability to adjust the audio delay to compensate for lip-synch issues on some TVs.

Foxtel's new interface is now a "friendly" orange and white.

It took about 24 hours after the box was installed for the On Demand HD movies to become available, and Rush Hour 3 — while not a videophile's delight — was nevertheless enjoyable. Video and audio quality were top-notch throughout, and there weren't any telltale compression artefacts you'd find in your typical digital download.

The iQ2 carries the original iQ's Planner and EPG's capabilities across, and while these work well, we don't like how the Planner won't show you the start or end times on currently recording programmes, which makes it harder to "plan". Otherwise, we rarely came across a time when the three tuners weren't enough to please everyone in a standard family home.

Being as the iQ2 isn't due to go public for another month there are still some kinks that need ironing out. For example, we did experience some random black screens using HDMI that required several resets (pressing Back and Select together), and once the audio konked out too. But otherwise, we've been very happy with the performance of this box.

We also tried to use the online Foxtel guide to program the box from work, but whether it was a problem with the flash site itself or the iQ2, it took a lot of perseverance to get this to function. Also, as of the time of writing the HD channels aren't listed yet.

If you already own iQ and have a high-def tuner inside your television set, you may find very little to convince you to upgrade to HD. On the other hand, we see that On Demand is a glimpse of the future and feel that video shop owners should start considering selling antique furniture or something instead.

If you have a flat-panel TV, and want the best "quality" broadcast material available then unquestionably this is Foxtel's HD+. To paraphrase Springsteen, there may be only five channels and nothing (much) on, but the potential is enormous. We can't wait.

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SeanW4 posted a comment   

Boring and outdated.
The EPG on large tv's you could read a mile away as text is so large, no setting to make text smaller so you could read the programs that are short, as no text is short show.

The HDMI control doesn't exist, and will not be able to turn on tv and amp automatically like all other products do these days.

Pity they don't have a new one coming IQ3 is needed already.


RobCr posted a comment   

I have the normal IQ HD (which I believe is the one reviewed in this article)
I have been bordering on full capacity for some time now.
Last night (this morning) it did it’s ‘take over of the box for 10 minutes’ to upgrade the software.
After it had finished my free space went from 10% to 26%
I browsed through the settings, and came across one that allowed you to choose between small medium and large reserved space (It was set to small).
I don’t recall seeing that setting (those choices) before ?
I believe previously, 50 % of the drive was reserved for all the quiet downloading of movies (etc) into the reserved space, in case you ever decide to ‘purchase them’.
I always resented that, as I want all the space possible to store my recordings.
My theory is they have NOW relented a bit on how much of the drive is forbidden for us to use for normal recordings.
Anyone agree with my theory ?

Anyone know how to get 100% of the drive for our recordings ?

Hunchback Joe

Hunchback Joe posted a review   

The Good:Great menu layout, and Good Recording features.

The Bad:Remote does not work sometimes, when a program is half way through and foxtel has just been turned on, you cannot re-wind

Foxtel IQ2 is an alright peice of technology. Although the issues above are quite a drawback, it is still great to be able to record.A recent concern is that i recorded 3 hour-long programs, and allready 3 percent of HDD used.

Allthough a little pricey,i dont regret making this purchase.


Jack Torrence posted a comment   

The Good:comprehensive

The Bad:sounds like someone at Foxtel

Not sure what it is, but you always tell the difference between a legitimate review and a camouflaged rebuttal from someone in the company's sales/marketing team.


Peter posted a reply   

......except in this case. No connection with Foxtel at all.


Peter posted a review   

The Good:Stunning HD images

The Bad:Minor issue with "Info" button

After having ordered an upgrade from a SD IQ unit to an IQ2 HD unit, I was more than a little perturbed to see some of the highly negative comments posted here.
However, after a week of use, I'm happy to say that my experience with the unit has been a highly positive one.

"Paul" - you say 70% of the channels reverted to 14:9 format and that when you got your old IQ box back, it had been converted as well. Assuming you got the same box back, are you sure it wasn’t your TV set that was running 14:9? Also, in the Advanced Settings for picture on the IQ2, there are different settings for HD and SD in respect of your aspect ratios. Adjusting these would probably have fixed your problem. All my channels fit the screen correctly (except for the usual wide screen movies which are "letterbox" unless you zoom) without having to zoom or otherwise lose parts of the image.

"Danni" - Unfortunate you received a couple of dud units. When you said it turned itself off at least once a day you did realise it comes with "Energy Saver Mode" turned on "High" by default? This will power down the unit at times but can be switched off or reduced to a lower figure if it’s a nuisance. In regards to the error message when having the HDMI cable plugged in, I presume you are referring to the HDCP error messages. If you go into Advanced Settings, these can be easily turned off. Have not experienced any freezing and apart from a minor issue with the "Info" button, no problem with the remote control.

"The Burn" - No issues noted with audio synchronization ....even after the unit has been running constantly for a couple of days.

Regarding noise from the cooling fan - Heard it for about 5 seconds when the tech first turned the unit on. Haven’t heard anything since.

Images on the HD channels are spectacular ...although sometimes not every image shown is HD. However, that’s not the fault of the unit.

Only problem I have experienced is a minor issue where sometimes the unit mutes when you hit the "Info" button...but then my previous SD IQ unit did exactly the same.


paul posted a comment   

The Good:giving it back

The Bad:watching a small screen again for 70% OF programmes



Danni posted a comment   

The Good:that it will be removed out of my house soon

The Bad:Useless box

I have had it for 3 weeks and I have had the box replaced twice. Was promised a free upgrade to IQ2 with my move and then was charged $100 for it and the foxtel manager just said too bad it is $100. It turns itself off every single day at least once. It comes up with a HDMI error message every time it is turned back on. The shows every now and then freeze and the remote works when it wants to. The HD channels which you pay like an extra $10 for are most of the time the exact same shows you can find on other channels so you are paying the extra money for 5 channels that are the same but in HD. The call centre for foxtel speaks to you like you are an idiot when you call regarding any issues to their service and will quite happily send someone out to you at your expense to look at the problem at a time convenient to them so kiss goodbye to a days pay to sit around waiting for some clueless technician to come out and play with the cables and then leave achieving nothing. I am calling in the morning again to have it ripped out of my house and going back to IQ and I wouldnt recommend the IQ2 to anyone... complete waste of time and money.

Iq2 owner

Iq2 owner posted a review   

The Good:it improves the way you watch TV

The Bad:some software issues and it's expensive

This is device. I have had one now for 2 years and went through some issues with it at first. However, I had a service person visit who was just fantastic. He updated the software adjusted the setting and no I am a converted customer. If you have problems with your don't let the service person take the easy way out and swap it. Make them do some work and get it right for you so that you don't have the issues continue.

What I like about this PVR is that a number of things,
1) time shift
2) that you can record 3 programs at once if you get the latest software and preset two to record as normal then for the third one hit the record button whilst the program is playing and it will record it.
3)great size hard drive
4)series link, when you want to record a series you hit series link and it will record all shows with the same name. This is so handy, if the time changes on your favorite show you don't wind up recording something different. Also if the show takes a break for a few weeks then it won't waste your hard drive with recording of something else.

The only issue with the IQ2 box is that you have to sign up to Foxtel, which isn't worth the cost. The commerical stations pick up all of the best shows first so you are stuck with a heap of reruns or second rate sports.


Bunter posted a comment   

Foxtel guy came to install iq2-gave up after 1 hour saying problem with my modem & I'd have to get manufacturer or telstra to fix it. Didn't have cover plates to fix over holes drilled in wall and floor,didn't clean up mess blah blah blah. Tech. support promised to call me back (twice), didn't happen-crap customer service for $120 a month-bravo Foxtel. Why release things when a) not ready and b)contractors haven't a clue (about pretty much anything)

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User Reviews / Comments  Foxtel iQ2

  • SeanW4


    "Boring and outdated.
    The EPG on large tv's you could read a mile away as text is so large, no setting to make text smaller so you could read the programs that are short, as no text is short s..."

  • RobCr


    "I have the normal IQ HD (which I believe is the one reviewed in this article)
    I have been bordering on full capacity for some time now.
    Last night (this morning) it did it’s ‘take over ..."

  • Hunchback Joe

    Hunchback Joe


    "Foxtel IQ2 is an alright peice of technology. Although the issues above are quite a drawback, it is still great to be able to record.A recent concern is that i recorded 3 hour-long programs, and al..."

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