Monday, June 14, 2010

A Review of the Top 10 Features and Drawbacks of Telus Optik TV

2011 Update: A lot of changes have come to Optik TV over the last year including the use of an Xbox 360 as a receiver, Remote Recording and better service for Fiber to the Home customers. See below.

With the recent re-branding of Telus' fiber optic internet and TV services to "Optik", many people are considering making the switch away from cable or satellite to Telus TV. Their service has been around the last few years, but it has only recently been widely available. Using a Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) delivery service, Telus is able to directly stream television over your existing internet connection. While an emerging technology, this system works well and is surprisingly sophisticated. For the right household, it can be a great way to watch TV.

This article aims to explore both the advantages and disadvantages of switching to Telus TV. Overall, the system is great in certain circumstances, but may not be the best solution for everyone. Couples and gadget lovers will love the sleek user interface and the flexibility of the system when combined with one or two TVs. Larger families will most likely end up fighting over the limited number of simultaneous live TV streams and recording space available. In any case, the IPTV market is rapidly changing, and it's recommended to try the system for a month before signing up for any of Telus' heavily pushed 3-year contracts.

Top 5 Awesome Features of Telus TV

5. Picture Quality

The picture quality of HD channels on Telus certainly stands up to the quality of anything that Shaw/Express Vu could offer. Channels are clear, vivid and life-like. What is truly awesome is the standard definition (SD) channel quality. These channels seem to greatly benefit from their all digital delivery and they look so much better than your standard cable fare. You wont mistake SD channels for their HD counterparts, but you will notice a huge jump in quality when coming from other TV providers.

Update: Like other carriers, Telus has also begun broadcasting 3D content both on their included free channel and as Video on Demand rentals (currently costing $9). The (rather limited) 3D content available so far is also of excellent quality.

4. The Internet Speed Boost

Subscribers to Telus TV are given a minimum 19 Mbps profile in order to accommodate the bandwidth needed for TV delivery. Most people are reporting real-life speeds of around 15 Mbps (meaning download speeds of almost 2 Megabytes a second). For many subscribers, this will vastly increase their connection speed (although see the caveat in the drawbacks section below). In addition, it seems Telus no longer monitors/enforces bandwidth caps for TV subscribers. Best of all is that this comes for free with no additional charges!

3. The Savings

This is probably the biggest reason people would even consider Telus TV - the price. Switching to Telus can save a great deal of money over the long run. Basic TV starts at just over $20 a month and includes approx. 10 HD channels. More advanced packages are generally less expensive than Shaw's comparable offerings. If you're willing to sign up for a 3 year contract, you get the additional savings of a free PVR rental. As a nice feature, Telus' plans are straightforward and clearly laid out on their website.

Update: Telus has raised prices on many of it's services. Add on packs which used to be $5 are now $7. There are also many reports of Shaw throwing out aggressive promotions to "winback" their customers who have migrated to Optik TV. Telus still may be the cheapest option, but as always, check prices carefully before signing any contracts.

Update: Telus has also been aggressively expanding asian channel offerings over the last year and now boasts one of the largest selections of these kinds of foreign stations.

2. The Set-Top Box Software

Telus is now currently using Microsoft Mediaroom for delivery of their TV services. If you've ever used Media Center on your windows computer, you'll be instantly familiar with the user interface. The system is sleek, intuitive and easily customizable. You can easily hide channels you're not subscribed to and choose exactly what you want on your guide. You get little touches like picture-in-picture previews of selected channels, transparent underlays of your current channel in any menu screen and even on-screen caller ID. In addition, this is one of the fastest user interfaces out there with zero lag in any menu screen. Simply put, this is probably the best set-top software currently available.

Update: Telus has upgraded the software over the last year, and now allows one to schedule and manage their recordings from any web connected computer or iOS/Android device. It doesn't allow streaming, but again is a great add-on to the already fantastic Mediaroom platform.

Update: Telus also recently started allowing the use of an Xbox 360 as an HD box. Unfortunately, they do not allow one to have the Xbox as a sole box (it MUST be added to a house with an existing Telus-branded box already present) and they charge a $5/month fee to use the Xbox.

1. Instant Channel Change

At first it might not seem important, but the ability to change channels instantly is actually what most people who see Telus TV notice first. You can truly channel surf again by flicking the up or down button to quickly see what is on each channel. Gone are the days of waiting for digital channels to slowly pixelate in. Even HD channels come into view the instant you select them. This also allows for quick picture-in-picture previews of a channel while surfing the on screen guide. The speed of the channel changes combined with the overall speed of the software make for an extremely enjoyable experience.

The Top 5 Drawbacks of Telus TV

5. Installation Issues

Telus TV is not the cable company, it is not a simple 10 minute service call or a flick of the switch to turn on your TV. Installation takes hours (our recent move required a 6 hour long service call to activate the service). Most people have a cable jack by their TV but few probably have a phone line or ethernet port. Because the Telus box does not have WIFI, the technician will most likely spend a lot of their time running cables around your house to physically connect your set-top boxes and the modem. This also can create headaches because anytime you move or want to add an additional box, it requires a technician to come out. It's not a dealbreaker, but prepare to take a half-day off in order to have the service installed.

Update: With the recent Boxing Day deals, many people have picked up an Xbox 360 hoping to use it as a second receiver. Before doing this, be aware that Telus charges $100 to send a technician out to hook up the box for existing customers (it's free for new customers). They also charge $5/month to use the Xbox as a receiver. Some customers have reported success in negotiating with customer service for a reduced rate.

4. Customer Service

Now to preface, Telus customer service is getting MUCH better than it has been, but it still has a way to go. Telus seems to not be outsourcing TV agents overseas at the moment, which is a bonus. Unfortunately, however, these agents are friendly but they are generally not well-informed about the intricate specifics of Telus TV (a web search of online user forums often yields better results). Unlike Shaw, one cannot change packages or service their account online or through chat. Customers are forced to call in and wait on (sometimes very long) holds for any kind of change. Combine this with limited operating hours (7:30am to 8pm) and you have a formula for frustration.

3. Instability Issues

Again, it has gotten much better, but generally speaking Telus TV can be subject to some unique issues. Anytime a net connection is lost, so is your TV. Between your TV and the wall is a set-top box, router AND a switch - the combination of which can make troubleshooting difficult. Sometimes the TV picture will freeze or pixelate, although changing the channel away and back often fixes the issue. Unfortunately, a reboot of the box takes about 5 minutes before TV returns which means a poorly timed hiccup at the end of a show could really ruin your day. It's not to say other TV platforms don't have issues, but it's important to be aware of the unique flaws inherent to IPTV.

Update: An especially annoying HDMI connection issue seems to be popping up for many users. When using an HDMI connection, many people have reported skipping, freezing, inputs randomly changing or even blackouts. This has forced many users to have to switch to Component connections (which does not allow 3D programming to be viewed).

2. Bandwidth Issues

As mentioned previously, Telus does increase users bandwidth, but it becomes an issue with TV sharing the same line. If one is watching 2 or 3 programs at once, that 15 Mbps connection speed quickly slows down to 3 or 4 Mbps. While this is still a fair speed, it can be annoying to have to shut off your TV in order to allow that one last torrent to quickly finish. The good news is that Telus prioritizes packets, so heavy web-usage doesn't impact any TV's that are on. Unfortunately this issue combined with the issue of limited incoming streams (see below) makes it hard to recommend Telus TV to a large household.

Update: If one is lucky enough to live in newer residence or upgraded area where Telus has a true fibre connection directly to the premises ("Fibre to the Home"), bandwidth becomes a non-issue. Any number of TVs can be on with no impact to the internet connection. This also increases the number of TV streams available (see below)

1. Limited TV Streams And Recording

Due to bandwidth issues, a total maximum of 2 HD channels and 1 SD channel (for a grand total of 3) can be watched at one time. While this is great if you only have 1 TV (the PVR has the ability to record all 3 shows at once), it quickly becomes a challenge within multiple TV households. One recording-hungry user can literally lock out all live TV within the house. If you have more than 3 TV's, it also means you will never have the ability to watch live TV on all of them at the same time. Recorded TV can be streamed from the one PVR to any TV in the house if no live streams are available, however Telus only allows 1 PVR box for the entire house so hard drive space could quickly fill up. Telus is currently using a 320 GB hard-drive in their boxes, and while they have a USB connection, there is no ability to add an external hard-drive to increase storage room.

Update: Again, if you are lucky enough to have a Fibre to the Home connection, Telus now allows up to 4 streams with 3 HD and 1 SD channel going at any given time.


Andrew said...

Very nice review.

The part about turning a TV off to finish a torrent quickly made me laugh!

Good job!

Russ Beinder said...

If only Shaw had any room viewing and a decent set top software speed Telus would be a non-issue.

ColtonCat said...

Telus allows an internet service other than their own with their TV service? For real? Not according to their website?

Anonymous said...

I am dismayed/disappointed at the following:
- inability to record to a USB device, which I could do with Bell ExpressVu;
- inability to record movies I've paid for (i.e., VOD); again, which I could do with Bell ExpressVu;
- as Geek Countdown pointed out, inability to watch HD TV on all three TVs that have a set-top box; and
- the delay when fast-forwarding and rewinding from a TV other than the one connected to the PVR, which you do not experience with Bell ExpressVu.
Sure wishing I had NOT signed that 3-year contract now :(

Anonymous said...

Again, very disappointed by Telus’ very poor customer service and shaky business tactics. When I saw Telus Optik TV promotion, I was quite hesitant at first because of previous unpleasant experience with Telus. But decide to give it a try and went for a 2-year contract bundle (Telus Optik TV, High-Speed Internet and Home phone). The sale rep gave me an offer of one HD box rental for free, a Xbox 360 without $5 monthly fee, and fixed rates for 2 years. I asked him twice about no $5 monthly fee for the Xbox 360 and fixed rate for 2 years, he confirmed both times (only for 2 year contract). A week later, I got a confirmation letter with some details while missing others. On the morning of the day of installation, I decided to give them a phone call just to make sure. The sale rep (a different one of course) says the letter may not have all the details they have in their computer file (what’s the point of the confirmation letter then? So we don’t have a written record of what was offered/promised to us???). This time, he categorically denied the possibility of Xbox 360 without $5 monthly fee (data service fee). I explained to him that I confirmed twice with the sale rep I signed the contract with, then he reluctantly put me on hold to check and eventually agreed to honour it. When it comes to fixed rates for 2 years, he said it’s not a rate protection plan so the rate is subject to change. Again, I explained that it was confirmed twice with the other agent, but he refuses to honour it (I guess that’s why they don’t put down all the details in the confirmation letter). Imagine you have a contract for 2 years, they can jack up the price anytime, but if you want to cancel the contract, there is a penalty of $10 per each remaining month of the contract!!! This doesn’t seem fair to me!
Not too happy already, a technician should come to install the system in about a couple of hours (10 am to 12 pm). Waited till 12:15 pm, no one showed up, gave them a phone call. They said they would contact the technician and should be here shortly. Waited till 1 pm, no sign of the technician. Quite furious now (arguing about xbox fee, no fixed rate, and waiting in vain for 3 hours!), I phoned them again, but this time I told them to cancel everything. They said I don’t need to cancel, I could just tell the technician not to install it when he arrives (so I even have to do the cancellation for them! And who would want to wait any longer!)
I guess they just lure you into signing a contract with them with various offers, but when they send you a confirmation letter, they don’t put down all the details that were confirmed. Imagine arguing about all these details when the bill comes, you don’t have all the details in writing and it will be a you-said and he-said type of arguments! No, thanks!
I think Telus should put more emphasis on customer service, instead of spending big bucks on many big bucks fancy TV commercials!

Anonymous said...

Having used all three services now- I have to say that in terms of quality of picture Bell ranks one across the board,Shaw is second; Telus comes close to Bell only with some HD channels howeveer that with a 5Mb/s hit in internet connectivity speed.
I do not find the Cisco CIS 430/330set top box to be of the same quality as the Shaw or Bell PVR units and the remote does not seem that responsive. Also it appears to me at least that the SD channels have quite a bit of pixelation and artifacting especially with action sequences, sports and so forth.
This may be dissapinting to some.
You will have to balance quality against economics to find which is more important to you.
Interface is more modern for sure- but some of the menu options are annoying.
In an ideal world- I would like Bell's quality, Shaw's internet speed and Telus's low price and modernized menu system.

IaN said...

I really think Telus has a great product and that Shaw is going to drown against Optik. The Telus Optik USB port can be enabled, with some knowledge of electronics. I wrote a detailed Optik review on my blog.

IaN said...

I wanted to add that I spoke with a Telus tech (installer, not phone rep) and he advised me that the HDMI cable was resolved in a patch applied to their current hardware. I have the PVR and digital box, both using HDMI and I have none o the issues you mentioned. I think a lot of people use cheap dollar store HDMI cables too, which will effect picture quality. Still a good review with lots of valid points!

Anonymous said...

I had Optik Bundle 3 installed on 27 June/11 and have found it much different than Bell ExpressVu (I had for 13 years) It will take a while getting used to Optik.
One complaint that I have Told telus about is the HD Sports and the fuzzy picture quality especially in facial close ups. While watching the Golf channel, when a close up of a golfer walking towards the camera, his face went out of focus as he advanced. Not very good. Either it's a problem with the HD Cameras that are being used in Hockey or Golf, or the fibre optik over hard wire cable, is a mystery to me.
When I first hooked up my 60 inch Sony LED/HD TV to Bell, the quality of the picture was so good that I could actually see the nose hairs of the player in the BC Lions game.
Hopefully, Telus will resolve this problem quickly or I for one will not stay with them
June 12 2011

Anonymous said...

The 320 GB limit on the PVR is a complete non-starter for me. My family records LOTS of shows. We currently have the 1.5 TB Shaw PVR expander and have filled it up before!

Anonymous said...

having this now for 10 months I am totally frustrated with the fact you can only have so many tv's running at once. I wonder if telus will credit me for the broken plasma screen after I throw my remote through it. This is a pain in the ass and huge draw back imho.

Ms. Lindsay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am disappointed with TELUS in respect of booking agents and technicians keeping their scheduled service time & date. Booked three appointments for Optik TV, Internet, and Phone / Fax lines (installed concurrently) and TELUS (Kamloops, BC) is appalling - very poor, less than poor.. Would like to cancel TELUS, and would pay double for another to provide on time, as scheduled service.

TELUS does not believe their customers time is as valuable as their own emPloyees. Paying extra for a TELUS housesitter, to Permitt the TELUS tech's access maybe the only way I can save my job (showing for work)

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed with TELUS in respect of booking agents and technicians keeping their scheduled service time & date. Booked three appointments for Optik TV, Internet, and Phone / Fax lines (installed concurrently) and TELUS (Kamloops, BC) is appalling - very poor, less than poor.. Would like to cancel TELUS, and would pay double for another to provide on time, as scheduled service.

TELUS does not believe their customers time is as valuable as their own emPloyees. Paying extra for a TELUS housesitter, to Permitt the TELUS tech's access maybe the only way I can save my job (showing for work)

Ryan Sparks (Kamloops) said...

I am disappointed with TELUS in respect of booking agents and technicians keeping their scheduled service time & date. Booked three appointments for Optik TV, Internet, and Phone / Fax lines (installed concurrently) and TELUS (Kamloops, BC) is appalling - very poor, less than poor.. Would like to cancel TELUS, and would pay double for another to provide on time, as scheduled service.

TELUS does not believe their customers time is as valuable as their own emPloyees. Paying extra for a TELUS housesitter, to Permitt the TELUS tech's access maybe the only way I can save my job (showing for work)

Leo said...

Any unhappy Telus Customers are free to contact me via my Email at

Anonymous said...

All I have to say is shaw gateway kicks optik's butt.


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Anonymous said...

I have 3 streams HD same time on my Optik TV. Telus no longer charges for XBox as a receiver, which I am using for free. The picture quality is outstanding - beats anything I have seen with Shaw or Bell. Realtime pic in pic to see what is playing while surfing the guide. Instant channel changes with stunning picture quality - unlike Shaw and Bell. Customer service was excellent and I am able to chat online with them for any service, including theme pack changes. Techs are always on time. My family loves it and and the kids don't want to go back to Bell or Shaw.

Anonymous said...

Some of the channels like Global or A/E says recording not allowed?????? What's with that??

Anonymous said...

I have had TELUS Optix for just over a year. Just had my 4th PVR box replaced. They think it maybe the HDMI cable that is messing up the PVR. Had it replaced yesterday and they hooked it up with components and the the system froze up again. I have to wait until Tuesday for service, they think they may have to replace all the cable in the house. Getting a little pissed about not having TV when I want it and losing all my recorded shows when the PVR packs it in. I wouldn't recommend TELUS until they work out the bugs.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when I record a movie, when I replay it, the "skip" (fast forward for 30 seconds) button fast forwards right to the end of the movie. This has happened on 2 movies so far. I think that Telus is colluding with the broadcasters to ensure that viewers do not skip the commercials. It has happened on channels 171 on 5 May and 146 on 6 May. Is this something that is going to become standard on Optic TV?

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Anonymous said...

Wishing I never got Telus TV. They are the worst company to deal with, and they are so clear as mud when it comes to their side of the service. Like was said before $100 to install a new box, come on! and don't tell me it's because of the wires, trust me they are all there, just give me the damn code or go in to your magical computer and hook it up. The rest all do it!

wishing I never got this Telus TV B.S.


Anonymous said...

Telus TV shows way too many sub-titled movies, along with other crap. Damn liberal-minded media is ruining TV for the basic couch potato. Well, maybe it's time to shut off the idiot box and go outside...

Anonymous said...

Nothing worse then bad xperience with sales and service. But I've been with Telus then Coast Cable/Eastlink, and then returning to Telus Optix. I can say 65% improvement with Telus after five years. $100 deducted off my first bill for leaving this speific company.. Free 42 inch HD TV, sign up Thursday, install Monday. Brilliant. Rigjt down to a 2 hou setup tx. Can say ... Telus is better and relative package of channels. Is 20% cheaper every month. $100 credit, free 42" TV, cheaper monthly billing, faster setup. Can find better so two thumbs up - better Telus. Fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

CANNOT find better ... should read. Tablets stink if you have big hands.

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