Set Top Box powered by Android, Bluetooth universal remote, HDMI out, compositeout, 2 x USB ports, Ethernet + WiFi, optical audio out
Intuitive interface, hybrid functionality (STB +TV + streaming + media player)
No built in storage for recording (use your own USB drives), subscriber card sticks out the side (big eyesore), noPrime Video yet
You may have heard of cord-cutters —who choose to discontinue conventional DTH services in favour of streaming services like Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime and so on. Cord cutters have several arguments in their favour but mostly it has to do with regular DTH services and STBs (set top boxes) not keeping up with their needs. That’s set to change with Android TV — and Airtel is the first to actually launch a STB that works as a conventional HD set top box (with recording, pause and rewind) and complete media box (complete with Android apps, web browsing, screen mirroring and USB media playback).
Airtel’s Digital TV, as its called, is a hybrid STB. You still need a dish antenna and a coaxial cable but it can connect to your home network via Ethernet or WiFi for some more interesting uses. But first, a bit about the remote control. It’s a Bluetooth remote, which means you don’t have to point it. But it also has infrared because it can take over functions from your TV’s remote. It has a microphone built in so that you can use your voice for search. Know which channel you want to watch? Just speak it out. And there’s a touchpad + D-pad for easier navigation. If you’re fighting with someone over the remote, you can also download the companion app (Airt e l Gamepad). As long as your phone is on the same network, it gives you a second remote, keyboard to enter text (such as in a web browser) and a gamepad to play games.
The interface is fairly intuitive:plays in the background while a menu with TV guide, games, apps, settings, a dedicated Netflix section and Android Home appear as an overlay. You can see thumbnails of what’s playing and instantly jump to it (or record). You also have all the usual STBof setting reminders, browsing channels by type/name/content and setting favourites. Gaming is the only area where we had complaints — the hardware is too slow to play any of the nicer games smoothly. We tried Nitro Nation, Leo’s, Asphalt 8 and Beach Buggy Racing while using the GamePad app as a controller.
Since it’s Android TV, it gives you access to a limited version of the(the apps that are compatible with a TV interface),Play,& TV, Games and. We also managed to easily install Kodi — which works with any of the usual add-ons and also functions as a media player when you connect a USB drive loaded with your own content. Overall though, it’s a step in the right direction. A nice way to keep STB users engaged while giving them loads of features in one compact box.