Channel 4 - 4oD Catch-Up review

Until last week if you wanted to watch Channel 4 television online, officially at least, you needed a PC or virtual PC to do so. That finally changed when the broadcaster added an Adobe Flash - version 9.0.124 or higher - based streaming service to the 4oD option that requires you to download a Windows-only DRM-style installer to protect content.

So at last Mac users can watch online a wide selection of TV shows from dramas to comedies, documentaries to reality shows, with a few hit US shows thrown in for good measure. Like the BBC's phenomenal iPlayer there should be something for everyone from the highbrow to guilty pleasures such as 'Come Dine With Me' and 'Wife Swap.'

A drop-down menu offers an A-Z of what's available. Make a selection and you can see how many episodes are online and how many days are left to watch. Normally this is set at 30 days and below, but 'Shameless' for instance has 10 episodes on offer and over two months to watch them.

The most recent episode is listed first so you'll need to scroll down to watch in chronological order. As the service is on-demand you'll also need to tick a box to allow adult-themed content to be shown and those concerned about younger viewers can PIN-protect the service. Each programme has a brief guide to content. 'Shameless', for instance, includes the following: "Adult humour from the start, very strong language, drug use and scenes of a sexual nature."

Tested with the latest versions of Safari, Firefox and Opera, the service performed well, although Opera seemed to struggle with the PIN-protection confirmation.

Performance is dependent on your Internet connection and also possibly what time of day you choose to watch. Moving images appeared to suffer from less judder in the mornings and late in the evening, when we suspect fewer viewers are watching.

A full-screen option is only for those watching from a distance and while shows only contain a brief advert at the start, adverts around the viewing window can, and do, distract in normal mode.

OUR VERDICT

Channel 4 finally follows in the footsteps of the BBC, ITV and Five in making viewing online a Mac-friendly experience. While picture quality won't match that of Freeview or the 4 on Demand service offered by Virgin Media and others its perfectly adequate for playing catch-up or discovering for the first time shows you may have missed altogether.

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