Foxtel iQ5

Foxtel iQ5 Personal Video Recorder – pay TV embraces the internet (review)

8.8

Cutting the cord for pay-TV subscribers, the Foxtel iQ5 giveth and taketh away.

Way back, before the rise of Netflix and catch up services, Personal Video Recorders were the best way to watch video “on-demand”. With a built-in hard drive, PVRs let you automatically record your favourite shows and even record multiple live channels at once – so you can watch things when it suits you.

PVRs can also perform time-bending tricks such as pausing and rewinding live broadcasts. Plus, there’s “chasing playback”, letting you watch the start of a movie while you’re still recording the end.

The demise of TiVo and Telstra’s TBox left the Foxtel iQ and Fetch TV Mighty as Australia’s two best PVRs – each capable of recording a mix of pay and free-to-air channels. The big difference was that the Fetch TV Mighty streams pay-TV over the internet. Meanwhile, the Foxtel iQ relied on a satellite or cable connection – putting it out of reach for some homes.

That all changes with the new Foxtel iQ5. It offers the choice of receiving Foxtel channels – even the 4K channels – via a satellite dish on your roof or streamed over the internet. Unfortunately, it asks for a few sacrifices in return, which won’t suit some lounge rooms.

For now, the Foxtel iQ5 is only available to “select Foxtel subscribers” from early September 2021. It will become more widely available later this year. 

Review: Foxtel iQ5

Australian websitehere
Price$199 RRP ($99 without the hard drive next year) plus a Foxtel package monthly subscription from $49 to $139
Warranty2 years
OtherYou can read other GadgetGuy Foxtel news and reviews here

First impressions

If you’re familiar with the Foxtel iQ4 or Foxtel Now streaming box, then you’ll feel right at home with the iQ5. They all share a similar user interface. Of course, the underwhelming $99 Foxtel Now box can only stream but not record. The Foxtel iQ5 is what the Foxtel Now box really should have been.

Setting up the Foxtel iQ5, you’re offered a choice of satellite or internet connection. It doesn’t support cable connections. The pay-TV giant is migrating customers away from the HFC cable network, which once belonged to Telstra but is now owned by the NBN.

Just to clarify, right now Foxtel customers receive Foxtel as a TV signal, over satellite or HFC cable. Foxtel is going to stop sending TV signals over HFC, because the HFC cable now belongs to NBN. With the iQ5, Foxtel will now let you watch Foxtel as an internet streaming signal. That will work over HFC or any other broadband connection.

Connecting via the internet is self-install, with the option to plug an Ethernet cable in the back or connect to your home Wi-Fi network. Download speeds of 25 Mbps should be enough to watch a 4K channel. Still, faster speeds are advisable, considering the box can record two internet channels and one free-to-air channel simultaneously while watching a fourth. Plus, you obviously need some bandwidth left over for all the other gadgets in your home.

If you can’t get a Foxtel satellite dish installed on your roof, the iQ5’s broadband connection is the only way to watch Foxtel’s 4K channels. They’re not available via cable or Foxtel’s streaming services Foxtel Now, Binge and Kayo.

The installation also brings you to one of the Foxtel iQ5’s greatest shortcomings. If you connect via satellite, Foxtel also sends you most of the free-to-air channels. This is handy if you have poor free-to-air reception at home. Unfortunately, Foxtel doesn’t stream any of the free-to-air channels over the internet.

So if you want to watch and record free-to-air, you need to connect the Foxtel iQ5 to your aerial wall socket. That might be a hassle, considering dwellings like apartments that can’t get a satellite dish probably also have little control over the quality of their aerial.

Foxtel iQ5 Specs

Resolution4K
Recording2 pay channels and 1 FTA simultaneously
Storage1 TB (detachable)
AccessSatellite or broadband
ConnectivityEthernet, WiFi
A/V connectorsHDMI, SPDIF optical digital

Features

The detachable 1 TB hard drive on the Foxtel iQ5 should be good for 345 hours of SD recordings, 172 hours of HD or only 45 hours of Ultra HD. So the possibility of upgrading to a larger drive in the future is encouraging. It remains to be seen how much Ultra HD content we’ll get from Foxtel in the future and whether content giants like HBO will jump on the 4K bandwagon. 

There’s also talk that Foxtel might sell the iQ5 streaming box for $99 without the storage drive (Foxtel has confirmed this option is coming “in the new year”). This might make it handy for the bedroom, although you’d obviously lose all the recording and PVR features.

You could argue that PVRs are irrelevant now that practically everything is on-demand. That said, catch up usually isn’t available until long after a program has finished. With the iQ5, if you turn on a movie or TV show halfway through, you can press the red button to jump back to the start.

Building on changes with the iQ4, the iQ5 also improves its personalisation and recommendation features. Plus, you can use the remote to browse and search using voice commands.

This is all particularly handy when – alongside Foxtel and free-to-air channels – the iQ5 also features Netflix, ABC iView, SBS on Demand and YouTube. Others on the roadmap include Vevo, Amazon Prime Video and the other major free-to-air catch-up services. You’re still missing some of the big guns like Disney+, Apple TV+ and Stan.

Quality

One of the big disappointments is that while the Foxtel iQ5 can support High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Vision, it’s not yet enabled. These reveal greater details in the brightest highlights and deepest shadows, assuming your television supports them.

This means that for now, on a Dolby Vision-capable 4K smart TV like my LG OLED, Netflix Originals like Lost in Space look much better using the TV’s built-in Netflix app than coming from the iQ5. It damages the iQ5’s credentials as a one-stop entertainment shop.

When it comes to Foxtel’s own channels, they look just as good via the internet as via satellite. In the long run, streaming should be good news for Foxtel viewers – potentially supporting not just 4K resolution and high dynamic range but also higher bitrates to deliver a clearer picture.

Hopefully, that means we won’t see a repeat of the Game of Thrones debacle, where the epic 80-minute nighttime Battle of Winterfell was so dark and blurry it was almost unwatchable. HBO and Foxtel tried to blame people’s televisions, but the real fault lay with the show’s makers. They shot incredibly dark scenes without allowing for the fact that the networks compress video and don’t deliver a high enough bitrate to ensure a clear picture. There’s no excuse for that when streaming.

GadgetGuy’s take

The Foxtel iQ5 is a welcome addition to the line-up, bringing Foxtel’s 4K content over the internet to those who can’t get access to satellite. The PVR features will seem redundant to some people in the streaming age, so the possibility of just paying $99 and forgoing and the hard drive is handy. Needing to plug in an aerial to watch free-to-air will be a deal-breaker for some.

Of course, whether or not you think it’s worth subscribing to Foxtel these days is a completely different story. The viewing landscape is more fragmented than ever. Exclusive live sport and HBO are Foxtel’s two big draw cards, at least for now. 

Would I buy it?

Yes, if I thought my household would get value from a Foxtel subscription.

Foxtel iQ5 Personal Video Recorder – pay TV embraces the internet (review)
If you can't get a satellite connection, the Foxtel iQ5 is the only way to access Foxtel's 4K sport and movies – but you'll need to hook up your aerial to get free-to-air.
Features
8
Value for money
9
Performance
9
Ease of use
9
Design
9
Positives
Doesn't require satellite or cable connection
Offers Foxtel's 4K sports and movie channels
Can record pay and free-to-air television
Negatives
No free-to-air via internet
Missing some streaming services
HDR not yet enabled
8.8
  1. My IQ2 can currently record 2 FTA channels and watch a 3rd or pre-recorded content. Am I reading correctly that the IQ5 with aerial connection is limited to recording only 1 FTA channel? Only one DTV tuner?

  2. Sorry Ray, another question. The iQ3 has the slowest, clunckiest user interface ever which drives me mad – is it any better on the iQ5 or does it still take 3-5 seconds to select the simplest thing like the library or TV guide? And is it the same interface or a whole new one?

  3. 20 year plus Foxtel customer here and have had iq1, 2 and 3. They won’t give me the iq4 because my unit block is on the HFC. And now, if I am understanding correctly, even though I get a sustained 105mbps connection though HFC and the NBN , I am not going to be able to get the iQ5? If so this seems to me to some sort of unfair trading. I don’t have the option of a satellite (and don’t want one anyway as I rent) but I have blazingly fast 99.9% reliable internet…. but Foxtel is not going to let me connect because I’m using their old HFC network.

    Or have I completely misunderstood your article?

    1. From Adam. Right now they receiving Foxtel over HFC as a TV signal. Foxtel is going to stop sending TV signals over HFC, because the HFC cable now belongs to NBN. With the iQ5, Foxtel will now let you watch Foxtel as an internet streaming signal. That will work over HFC or any other broadband connection.

  4. Question
    If you connect the IQ5 via the internet and connect an antenna to the box can you watch and record the free to air channels through the IQ5 box with the hard drive ?

  5. One bad aspect is that they don’t allow you to mix delivery methods.
    So if you have satellite you cannot get internet you have to disconnect satellite and use 2 IQ5

  6. 0.1
    I Wouldn't Call The iQ5 Box 4K/UHD

    Hi. The iQ5 box has 2 UHD channels. Just 2. One movie channel, showing old movies upscaled in 4K which look terrible and a sports channel which very rarely shows live sports. Even the HD looks terrible. It’s not my internet, I have 5g and speeds of up to 200mbps. The iQ5 box is pretty poor.

    Breakdown
    Leave A Review

    Features
    3.7
    Value for money
    3.7
    Performance
    3.4
    Ease of use
    5.6
    Design
    5
    1. Foxtel charges for each IQ box (I seem to recall there were discount subscriptions for extra boxes) so three IQ5s may not be economic. Fetch does have a system where you can connect one 4K box and slave two more from it – that may suit. Sorry we need more information.

  7. in an apartment block where everyone, bar me, gets tv from a splitter from NBN cable from wall socket.
    i previously connected IQ boxes to a splitter from NBN cable.
    Foxtel says IQ5 can’t get FTA channels through connection to splitter.
    Is that right?
    Would a different splitter work?
    Would connecting IQ5 to an indoor TV antenna work?

    1. I understand that IQ5 needs either a TV aerial to get FTA TV (iView, 7Plus, Nine, etc) or a Satellite connection. It may get some digital TV catch up channels with an internet connection.

      1. I don’t have access to an outside aerial and currently use IQ2 via cable simply to access and record the ABC news and 7.30. I have been offered a free upgrade to IQ5 but without an aerial (unless I use “rabbits ears”) I will lose that ability to record the ABC. Ts the same problem with the Fetch Mighty. I do have NBN. Are there any other options? S there a fantastic new mini aerial on the market that I don’t know about?

        1. We did not mention rabbit ears as the performance is so variable. If you can get decent reception then its an option. Jaycar has various amplified indoor aerials that may work. Satellite dish is also an option.

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Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of use
Design
Final Score