Sunday, 24 February 2008

BBC iPlayer vs 4oD

I can't get digital TV in my flat. The joys of being a Leasholder in my particular block mean that Freeview, Sky and Digital Cable are all off limits. I am therefore enjoying the BBC iPlayer and 4oD that I have started to use recently to catch up on shows that I have missed.

Both my friends Ed and Mike have told me they prefer the iPlayer, I think that I am tending towards 4oD. Below is what I like and dislike about each. Saying I like something in one, can usually be taken as an implicit criticism of a feature I think is missing in the other.

Is there a killer feature I am missing on the iPlayer? I am hoping to be informed!

What I like:
- The early beta had a very rubbish layout. I kept having to change to the simple plain text view to find the download button. Which is a pretty key feature. Thankfully this has been fixed in the official release.
- They seem to vary the size of files depending on the popularity of the programme between 300 & 600MB. More popular programmes are generally smaller. You loose a bit in quality, but I don't mind that as it means quicker download times.
- You get an estimation of the remaining download time. This is missing on 4oD.

What I don't like:
- Download speeds can be really variable. I have had a 1hr show take 30mins and on another couple of occasions predictions of 36hrs!!! I had to give up and log back on a couple of hours later.
- Programmes are not available immediately after the show has been aired. It can often take quite a few hours.
- If you pause watching a show and go back to it later it doesn't remember where you were and you have to fast forward yourself.

What I like:
- You can pre-book shows if you know you will be out. They are also available immediately after being shown if you haven't pre-booked.
- I seem to be achieving solid / consistent download times of about 30 / 40mins for 1hr shows. It is the consistency that I really like compared to the iPlayer.
- There are no adverts. Now I know that people would find a way to chop them out etc.., but it is good to see they took the mature decision. I can imagine for a commercial station there most ave been some pressure to include advertising.

What I don't like:
- It does not work seamlessly whether you are on or off line (the iPlayer does). I watched a show offline and then had to uninstall and re-install it to connect online again.
- They offer a PIN service so that if you download an 18+ show on a family PC computer you can prevent your kids from seeing it. I think this is a good feature, but as I don't have kids I want to set it so that this option never comes up. I haven't been able to do this and every time I download a show I need to choose.

Let the debate begin! (Someone please comment or I am going to look very stupid!)


  1. I don't like the fact that you have to download a tool to watch 4OD and also I couldn't get it to work so I gave up. I bet when it starts to be popular they will find some way of pushing adverts!

  2. Richard, I do prefer the iplayer over 4oD and here are just a few thoughts on why.

    I don't like they way that you can't see what is on 4oD without having 4oD running. In an age where more and more programs are migrating to the web browser this is something which really annoys me.

    Also when you do look for things to download with 4oD you have to click at least three times and sign in (again, why do i have to do this every time?) before it starts with iplayer it is just one click (2 if the content is 'mature'), much better.

    For me iplayer always seems faster than 4oD (maybe it's my choice of viewing?) and I like the fact that you can stream straight to your web browser.

    I do think that searching for programs on each service could be improved. But again the iplayer seems to have the edge over 4oD. I do like the popular list on the iplayer page.

    Richard I must disagree with you about the adverts. Adverts are already part of C4 so having them on 4oD would be no great hardship. And it would be more annoying if they put adverts in at later date. And if adverts kept the service free and sustainable then I'm all for it. Besides the videos on 4oD still have the advertising placeholders in them.

  3. Thanks boys, we are getting an indepth review going here!

    I haven't tried streaming on the iPlayer as I know my connection speed isn't quick enough. The wiring in my building is rubbish...

    Mike - I agree with you on the multiple clicks. The iPlayer Beta was quite bad for this also, but they have sorted it out now.

  4. Your wiring can't be worse than mine - get Be broadband! It's getting cheaper all the time....

  5. IPlayer by far wins for me. It just works.

    No need to install anything.
    Works on Firefox.
    Video quality is great.
    Playback/Streaming starts instantly.

    Ask me when IPlayer was just launched and I might have said something different cause it was buggy as hell. :P


  6. iplayer is the best as it works on macs now...downloading too.

  7. iPlayer is now the winner for me too. It has been upgraded a couple of times since I wrote the orginal article.

    The improvements that I like:
    - The have extended the back catalogue of programmes and they no longer disappear after 7 days.
    - You can watch a high definition version of shows if you want to.
    - Now works on Firefox

    4OD has locked out my account and to be honest I haven't bothered to sort it out. Although I think they have made some recent improvements too.

  8. 4oD is really sluggish and slow to download movies on, I've got a 10mb connection and its taken best part of an hour to download 8mb... The iPlayer is great can't fault it. With my connection I can get a good few hours of TV downloaded in half an hour.

    Still 4oD has some great movies on it.

  9. Personally Im finding 4oD really frustrating in comparison to the iplayer - fair enough you get to see more episodes and back catalogue but navigating round programmes (i.e. fast forwarding or skipping to a section etc) is a total nightmare - I have brand new laptop, fast broadband etc and its still taken me over half an hour to try and watch the last 10 mins of a programme on 4oD - ive given up... iplayer it is...

    I know its not the topic but I really find 5's demand service good too and I like the fact with that, you dont have to wait til the programme finishes on tv to start watching online - I missed first 10 minutes of Mentalist and could just start it online straight away, brill.