From its inception, the Xbox One has been envisaged by Microsoft as much more than just a games console.
Rather it's been developed and positioned as a full home entertainment centre – a hub through which all your home entertainment content should pass.
This vision hasn't always parsed well with the gaming community; certainly Sony did very nicely with its PS4 marketing policy of focussing on that console's single-minded interest in gaming.
It hardly helped, either, that Microsoft dropped the ball by failing to deliver some key AV-related features when the Xbox One was launched. Europe fared particularly badly in this respect, as we didn't get any support for integrated TV functionality like the American market did.
Thankfully things have slowly but surely been heading in the right direction since then. Various firmware updates have introduced such key AV tricks as 50Hz/3D Blu-ray playback, Plex multimedia support, Sky's Now TV service and the Xbox One Guide, which enabled the Xbox One to connect up with Sky and Virgin Media receivers to deliver enhanced listings and control options.
Of course, though, not everyone is a Sky or Virgin subscriber. Nor is having to coordinate with an external receiver an especially user-friendly or integrated TV solution.
So, on paper at least, the arrival of the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner comes as a very welcome addition to the Xbox One's skill set, finally bringing a more integrated TV solution for the UK that the vast majority of British households can make use of. All you need is Freeview reception, and it's game on.
Considering how potentially important it is in the Xbox One's evolution, the Digital TV Tuner is a pretty unassuming looking little thing.
It's essentially just a small black rectangle with a coax input at one end and a USB line at the other. You plug your aerial lead into the coax input and you plug the USB into one of the USB sockets on your Xbox One's rear.
As soon as you do this the Xbox One detects the tuner's presence, and asks you if you want to instigate the device's installation process.
This process is simplicity itself. First you're asked if you're connecting the tuner to an antenna or cable source, then you're asked for your postcode (though handily the console auto fills this if it already knows your postcode from other applications) so the tuner/console can deliver the right digital channels for your area.
Next up you're asked to confirm your service provider is Freeview, and if your postcode puts you in a 'borderline' area you may also be asked to confirm your preferred Freeview area.
The console auto-tunes after that – a process which didn't take long during our tests and yielded a full roster of Freeview channels, including HD ones.
You might expect this to be the end of the installation procedure, but there are a couple more useful tricks it wants to make you aware of. First, you're asked if you want to activate Pause Live TV, whereby the console lets you pause, rewind and fast forward through up to 30 minutes of whatever you're watching. Please note that this feature requires 4GB of free HDD space.
If you've got an Xbox Kinect sensor you're given the option to have the console automatically turn your TV on when you switch your console on, using the 'Xbox On' command.
Last but not least, you get the option to decide whether the Xbox One goes straight to the TV app when you switch it on, or goes to its normal home menu screen.
Having got the Digital TV Tuner installed, though, the next job is to look for features to justify watching TV through your Xbox One, rather than just watching it through your TV's tuner.
The main point is that it lets you watch TV while having easy access to the One Guide system, and the various 'value added' features that provides. We won't go through all of these in detail again since we covered them in depth in the Xbox One review. But it's worth quickly covering the highlights.
For starters, if you press the Xbox's view button you get a quick bit of info and nice high-res graphic of the programme you're watching. This comes with the option to scroll up and down the Freeview channel list to see info on all the other programmes currently being shown.
You can also move left to see a list of recent channels you've watched, or you can access more detailed information on the programme being shown. You can rate programmes as you watch them, and on the 'more information' screen you can also see alternate show times/formats (for instance, if an HD version is available) for what you're watching.
Hit the menu button while watching TV and you can open the full One Guide enhanced programme listings. This is prettily presented and easy to follow and navigate; can be easily 'filtered' to show only favourite channels; and lets you access 'app channels', providing access to on-demand streamed content from the likes of Twitch, Xbox Video, Amazon Instant Video, BlinkBox, Wuaki.tv, EuroSport and YouTube.
One new feature due to be implemented soon is a 'trending' system that lets you see what the Xbox One community is watching or Tweeting about.
Another 'flagship' feature enables Xbox One users with an Xbox Kinect to channel surf simply by speaking to their consoles. For instance, you can just say "Xbox Watch Sky News" and your console will switch to the right channel. Or that's the theory, at least… We'll come back to this in the usability section later on.
One further great feature of the Xbox One's Digital Tuner implementation is that it allows for second-screen viewing via the console's Smart Glass app. In other words, you can watch what's playing on the console's tuner on your smartphone or tablet.
Unless, bizarrely, that phone or tablet runs on Android, as currently only iOS and Windows devices are supported. Presumably Android video streaming support is coming soon given that even a number of Smart TVs support this feature now.
Having made one not entirely favourable comparison between the Xbox One's TV integration and the best Smart TVs, I may as well make a couple of others. For instance, unlike most Smart TVs, which let you record TV to USB HDD, you can't record from the Xbox One tuner beyond the thirty minute pause live TV function.
Also, since the Digital TV Tuner only provides a single tuner, you can't watch one programme on TV while another family member watches a different one on a tablet or phone. A number of smart TVs this year have shipped with two – or more – tuners to support multi-content multi-screen viewing.
Some brands have even offered a degree of voice control for their TV features too. But none of these systems (even the relatively advanced one from Samsung) has really blown us away.
On the other hand, as well as not providing access to the One Guide, smart TVs also don't let you incorporate TV into a true multi-tasking environment where you could, say, be playing a game in the main window while keeping TV running in a 'snap' window to the side.
Performance, usability and value
For the most part the app installs and then operates quickly and slickly. It's a relief not to find TV listing browsing hit by the sort of sluggishness and slow loading times you get with some Xbox One apps.
I did, though, suffer a few occasions where moving between the TV and some other apps caused the Xbox One to crash, requiring a hard reboot.
I've also been experiencing this on my Xbox One when switching between other games and apps to be fair, so it's probably the fault of the general console firmware, rather than a particular flaw in the Digital Tuner functionality. But it matters because I wouldn't expect a TV to crash as often as the console does…
The Digital TV Tuner's picture quality is surprisingly impressive. Particularly how little digital noise there is, even if you're only watching standard definition channels.
There actually seems to be less MPEG blocking or fizzing edge noise than I usually see from the tuners built into many digital TVs.
Pictures look sharp and detailed too, especially with the HD channels, and this sharpness remains intact even when there's a lot of motion in the frame. I had been worried there might have been judder given you're watching TV pictures emerging from a 'computer' environment, but these worries proved unfounded.
Colours look fractionally less rich in colour than those of our reference TV (a Sony 65X9005) using the TV's own built-in tuner. But it's a marginal point and not enough to deter you if you dig the idea of integrating TV viewing into your console's realm.
The Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is superbly easy to install, and integrates seamlessly into the Xbox One interface.
Also really thoughtful is how easy the Tuner makes it to get straight down to TV viewing. I say this because during our tests of the One Guide with Sky/Virgin boxes a few months back, one of our concerns was that watching these external TV sources through the Xbox One just wasn't intuitive enough for family members not accustomed to the Xbox operating system.
With the Digital TV tuner, though, if you chose the right set up options anyone can start watching TV just by saying "Xbox On" with no further steps necessary – you don't even having to 'dismiss' the Xbox One dashboard.
This makes it much more likely that all members of a household will feel comfortable about watching TV through the console.
The One Guide is clean and easy to navigate too, and implements its extensive functionality without making you feel lost or confused.
Less successful, though, is the potentially brilliant voice control facility. Sadly it continues to be my experience that Kinect's voice recognition system mishears or misunderstands instructions far too regularly for comfort.
The system is a bit better than it was when the console first launched, and you can reduce the chance of being misheard by moving the Kinect as far from the TV speakers as you can.
But my experience is that the voice recognition still throws up so many errors (especially if a child is trying to use it) that you and other family members fairly quickly can't be bothered to even try it any more.
This means most folk in your family will want to resort to some sort of 'hard' control. With this in mind I'd suggest you invest in one of the Xbox One's Media Guide Remotes if you're serious about integrating your TV viewing with your console. This will substantially reduce the likelihood of confused family members ordering you to go back to watching TV directly through the TV…
At just £25 the Digital Video Tuner is surprisingly affordable for an Xbox One accessory – especially when you consider how significant an impact it has on the Xbox One's sphere of influence. After all, it finally 'unlocks' a key part of the console you paid so much money for.
It's so cheap, in fact, that you could justify using it just as a way of providing a second-screen viewing option (so long as you have an iOS or Windows tablet/phone) if your TV doesn't offer such functionality already.
You do need to think carefully, though, about whether you really are prepared to make the leap from your TV to your Xbox for your TV viewing needs. If you're not convinced you and your wider family will buy into the idea of watching TV via your games console, you may find that you're soon plugging your aerial back into your TV and feeling as if you just wasted £25.
The Xbox One doesn't just want to be something you play games on. It's also set on becoming the hub for your entire home entertainment experience and within that context the Digital TV Tuner accessory is a significant (and surprisingly affordable) step.
It doesn't do all that much in itself, of course; it just lets your console access the Freeview broadcasts coming through your aerial. But it's when this core functionality is combined with the Xbox One's One Guide, multi-tasking and Smart Glass technology that it becomes much more than just 'TV through your games console'.
The tuner is cheaper than expected, and extremely easy to install. It syncs effortlessly with the features of the One Guide, and being able to second screen to tablets and phones is a welcome bonus.
Watching TV through a console won't suit all households (especially technophobic ones). A second tuner would have been great, and the console is more likely to crash while watching TV than your TV would be.
The Xbox One Digital TV Tuner does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it rather well while costing less than might have been expected. In fact, it almost single-handedly enables the Xbox One to make the shift from games console to genuine home entertainment centre.
Questions remain for me over how many households actually want their Xbox One to become their whole home entertainment hub. But for those that do and don't have Sky or Virgin boxes already, the Digital TV Tuner is pretty much an essential purchase.