It appears that DTH services are phasing out standard cable TV. Many major brands in India, such as Reliance, Tata and Airtel have all launched their services. These DTH services are not just limited to the metros, but are spread across the length and breadth of the country. A few months ago we saw the Reliance BIG TV, which offered direct to home services, such as HD content and the ability to record content onto its 160GB internal drive. Today, we will take a look at a DTH service from one of its competitors.
Vents do not really take care of cooling
Airtel, primarily known for the cellular service for mobiles is also a big player in the DTH service game. We have recently received the Airtel DTH HD receiver, which boasts of features like the ability to playback full HD 1080i content, 7.1 Dolby surround sound capabilities, MPEG4 playback capabilities and other features. Read on to know if this is the right option for you.
Design and Build Quality
The set top box (STB) looks similar to others available in the market and there is no prominent design change here. It features an all black finish with a hint of silver at the ridge below the plastic front panel. The face of the STB features the Airtel branding as well as the controls. There is a large sensor located to the right of the front panel. The top of it has a metallic finish and cooling is taken care by vents located at the top back area as well as slots on the sides.
Universal remote bundled with the STB
Connectivity options are featured on the side as well as at the back. To the right side of the STB, there is a USB port and the rest of the connections are found at the back, which include ports for component, composite, S/PDIF, HDMI, Ethernet, a common interface slot, antenna in, TV out and a charging port. The remote that comes bundled with the STB is pretty stylish and the buttons are well-spaced. There are buttons for common options for menu, iTV, favorites, etc., which makes navigating through the interface easy. Like the STB, the remote also features the Airtel branding at the bottom. The overall design of this STB is pretty simple and slimmer than other set top boxes found in the market.
The features are by far the most important part of any set top box. In features, the package one chooses is what matters to any consumer. These packages are usually costlier than standard cable TV because of services, such as HD channels, which is more expensive than SD channels.
Fair amount of connections at the back
The interface of the Airtel DTH HD is broken up into various categories, making it easy to sift through the various channels easily. The options include Airtel Live, channels, what’s playing now, my search, my favorites, my settings, my account and help. The first thing one notices when one is in the interface is an advertisement located in the middle of the screen. Airtel could have done better with this image, as it is of a really low resolution and looks pretty bad on an HDTV. The interface is predominantly black and features options that are in tabs. There is a preview pane to the top right of the screen that displays which channel is selected and what is playing on that channel. Apart from the advertisement onscreen, the interface looks neat.
An interesting feature of the set top box is that if a movie is selected, a reminder is shown on the bar at the bottom of the screen. This is the same bar, which shows what is currently going on, on the television. There are a bunch of HD channels available with this DTH service and when one is in a channel, an Airtel branding appears at the right bottom of the screen.
The main interface
Apart from this there are other features, such as the ability to stream movies, interactive services and a universal remote. Rounding up the features bit, this is a good amount of features offered by Airtel for the cost.
Airtel have bundled various packages suited to different segments of the country, such as Rest of India, South, among others. As of now, Airtel’s website mentions just one month packages, so one has to pay on a monthly basis as opposed to quarterly, half yearly or annually. There are a total of 7 packages available at hand, based on which one can choose from packages ranging from Rs. 266 per month to Rs. 486 per month. Here is a quick look at what packages Airtel has on offer.
The Airtel Live interface
The Airtel Ultra Pack offers 210 channels plus 3 interactive services and is available for Rs. 441 per month. This includes all your standard sets of channels, acorss categories such as movies, sports, news, cartoons, infotainment channels etc. There are HD channels as well and for the Rest of India section, and this is the most expensive package from Airtel. The brand has a South Ultra pack as well, which offers 217 channels along with 2 interactive services. This version of the DTH service costs Rs. 486 per month.
This pack from Airtel includes 195 channels plus 2 interactive services. This gives you lesser number of channels as compared to the channels available in the Ultra pack, and hence comes at a lesser price, which is Rs. 371 per month. The south version of the Mega pack features 5 channels lesser, than the rest of India pack and has a single interactive service. When one would expect the service to cost less as well, Airtel charges Rs. 406 per month for their service.
Economy Sports Pack
As the name suggests, this is a sports-based package, in which one gets the top seven sports channels. The entire package includes 175 channels plus two interactive services and costs Rs. 301 per month. The South Economy Sports Pack includes 176 channels plus an interactive service and costs Rs. 296 per month.
The interface for the channels
South Value Sports Pack
Airtel offers a package that caters only to the south, which includes 172 channels plus an interactive service. This costs Rs. 266 per month and has most of the channels packs such as Tamil Pack 1, Tamil Pack 2, Malyalam Pack etc.
The south packs are available only for five regions, such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry. For the rest of the country, the other packages are on offer.
The Airtel DTH HD was connected to a 55-inch full HDTV to gauge the performance. There were many channels that were tried using this STB. These channels ranged from standard definition channels to high definition channels. While navigating through the interface, we noticed that it was by no means sluggish and there was no lag noticed. This was really appealing as this was an issue faced by us regarding set top boxes reviewed in the past.
SD content played back well and there were no issues noticed whatsoever regarding pixelation, blurring etc. While running full HD 1080i videos we noticed that there was a stark contrast between SD content and HD content. The HD content looked a lot better, in terms of video quality. Though the picture onscreen looked good, we noticed that there was a slight lag in the speech. This was apparent, while watching movies. Other than this there were no issues noticed with the video quality.
Compact design and much smaller than other STBs
The remote is responsive and one does not need to point directly at the DTH receiver to activate any option. A notable mention is that this receiver does get quite hot after being on for a couple of hours. Though there are vents located at the top and sides, cooling is not taken care of that well. The overall performance of the Airtel DTH HD is pretty good and we faced no major issues with it.
For a new connection, the Airtel DTH HD is available at a price of Rs. 2,790 for the Rest of India region and one can opt for either 3 months of Eco Sports HD or 4 months of Value Sports HD. For the South, one can get a new connection for Rs. 2,690 with 4 months of South Value Sports HD or 3 months of Economy Sports HD. The prices for the HD channels range from Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 per month, which is relatively cheaper than Airtel’s competitors. If one is in the market looking to purchase a DTH HD, this is a sure shot choice. As far as set top boxes are concerned, the rates are all that matter and Airtel is offering the best rates as of now in the market.
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