Tip o’ the Week #232 – Xbox, Watch TV. XBOX! WATCH TEE VEE!


When the Xbox One released last year, the Kinect sensor promised a great new experience in watching live TV through the console. Sadly for users outside of North America, the dream was largely unfulfilled at launch, as the console supported only a limited set of TV services and devices in the home.

Just before some competitive rolling-around-in-agony from the world’s best tattoo models that took place in South America, UK users were able to switch on and bark orders to their telly. Practice before you demo to amazed friends and neighbours, learn what you can say and it might be worth running the Kinect audio tuner again just to be sure.

The setup will depend on how your existing TV connection works – if  you currently watch through an aerial straight into the TV, then you’re unable to watch live TV as the Xbox can’t (yet?) tune the Freeview signal. You can still use other apps to watch catchup TV and the like.

If you consume your TV through an external box like a Freeview+, cable or satellite tuner, then you may be more in luck. The gist is to route the HDMI out from your tuner into the Xbox, and then HDMI out from the Xbox goes into the TV set. Downsides are that you need the Xbox to be on all the time to watch TV, but on the plus side, the Xbox can switch on your other devices when you say “Xbox On” – so it can power up your tuner and your TV, even an A/V clip_image003receiver if you have one.

You can even set it up to switch everything else off when you say “Xbox Off” – though be careful with either of these, in case it happens unexpectedly.

If you’re a little more surround-sound oriented, the layout is a little more complex – probably something like tuner->Xbox->Receiver->TV.

This mode works well now (even supporting 50Hz playback, so you shouldn’t see the flicker that plagued earlier attempts to do the pass-through), though if you’re watching a surround-sound source (like an HD channel with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound), then the surround sound isn’t passed through the Xbox to the receiver. Drat.


There is a nice step-by-step guide on how to set up the system, here.

In order to use the TV through Xbox, there are a couple of gadgets you might want to look for.

There’s a lovely Xbox One Media Remote, which is a tad more user-friendly than using an Xbox One controller to navigate the menus etc. The remote lights up automatically when you pick it up, and it provides access to the main navigation and media control functions that you might want to use, whether watching live TV or using any other media-playback app.

It uses Infrared to send commands to the Xbox, though, so if you use an IR blaster to feed devices inside a cabinet or a cupboard, you’ll need to place the IR sender just to the right of the eject button on the console (maybe even slightly overlapping the button).

If losing surround-sound from your A/V receiver bothers you, then a solution might be to split the HDMI output from your tuner box, and have one output going into the Amp directly (the way you probably have it configured already) and one route going via Xbox -> Amp so you can at least amaze your friends with the clip_image005ability to talk to the TV to get it to change channel and do other tricks.

You can say “Xbox Snap” and “Unsnap”, to show other apps to the side of the TV signal, or while watching the World Cup recently, you could have used the cool Brazil Now app to show player stats and the like in the snapped area to the side of the main screen. Statto lives!

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