Are you considering to buy StarTimes decoder for Free to Air digital television; the StarTimes DVB-T2 decoder? I received mine from StarTimes this morning and since then I have been testing the decoder in the lines of sound, picture and signal quality.These are my findings.
The StarTimes DVB-T2 (short for Digital Video Broadcasting – Second Generation Terrestrial) is a dual decoder for receiving both the Pay TV content and the Free to Air (FTA) content available through Signet or Pan-Africa Network Group (Kenya) Co. Ltd who have been licensed to broadcast digital signal in Kenya.
Both Pay TV and FTA channels are available in the list of channels with Pay TV channels appearing first then the FTA channels and lastly the available 7 KBC radio station channels. The available channels on StarTimes DVB-T2 decoder are a total of 100 as received at Racecourse Nakuru. As mentioned, out of the 100 channels 7 are radio stations, 15 FTA channels via Signet and the rest are on the pay bouquets.
Since this is the first STB decoder I’ve used, I’ll compare picture, sound and signal quality against the analogue transmission and DStv, the Pay TV I’ve been using ever since. The picture quality is good; way better than what you’d receive via standard analogue transmission. I’ve installed one of the best antennas in the market that a friend of mine once remarked, “I’ve never seen such a clear picture on TV, it’s almost like watching a movie on DVD” but still the picture quality I get via the decoder is way better than analogue signal I get via my excellent antenna.
However, if compared against the picture one receives via the Satellite signal (DStv in this case), the picture via the StarTimes DVB-T2 decoder doesn’t come close. The clarity of DStv’s pictures is slightly short of HD even on channels that do not transmit HD content. StarTimes on the other hand has some blurriness akin to what you’d get when watching those MPEG movies on VCD especially the pirated ones.
If you have a superior home theater system or watch movies at iMax, you’ll know what good quality sound is. These systems can reproduce the sound of a pin drop – e.g. when one washes dishes in the movie and depending on how you’ve set your 5.1 or 7.1 speakers, you may think that actually someone is in your own kitchen washing your dishes. Second to this is the sound from MP3 players and normal DVD players, then followed by the sound you’d receive from DStv, then fourth is the sound that you’d get from radio stations and analogue TV transmission.
In some channels especially those of FTA, StarTimes sound is at per with the FM radio sounds or analogue TVs sounds. But sound from most paid channels are hogwash, dull and boring.You don’t want to watch movie on FX, Star Movies or True Movies on StarTime if you mind the quality of your sound nor listen to music on MTV Base for instance as you won’t have an opportunity to enjoy quality mid range (on normal speakers) and high frequency (on tweeters) sounds. The only enjoyable sound on MTV Base is the low range base line on sub-woofer.. I once bought the standard decoder almost immediately StarTimes entered the Kenyan market but I had to give the decoder away given its poor sound. In some cases sound on these paid channels on StarTimes are worse than listening to a vinyl record.
Generally the sound on StarTimes DVB-T2 decoder is OK for local channels (whether on Pay TV option or Signet) but the foreign TV stations on the Pay TV option have very bad sound.
Signal is generally stable but only if you connect the decoder with an external antenna. I’ve tried to watch programmes with the indoor antenna that comes with the decoder but signals get lost way too often. When connected to the indoor antenna, watching StarTimes can be similar to watching a movie on a scratched DVD.
Although StarTimes advised me to use 586Mhz, 570MHz and 610MHz frequencies to manually search for channels in Nakuru, I have realized that channels found via Auto Search have better signals at the same antenna settings. Generally when signal strength is above 90% and signal quality above 45%, you can be sure of receiving high quality scratchless signal most of the time. The signal quality and strength parameters are functions of the direction the antenna is facing and the type of antenna in use.
These are all for the StarTimes DVB-T2 decoder for now. I would advice anyone to opt for this the decoder but only as any other STB for FTA channels as it is cheaper (at only Shs. 5,000) than other STBs in the market. You can also decide to pay for the paid content but the sound quality together with less variety (only 78 channels on Unique/Premium bouquet) don’t seem as a good value for money.
In the next few days I intend to review GoTV and other decoders to compare with StarTimes DVB-T2. By the time Digital Migration goes live, I’m sure we shall have given you up to date info on the mainstream STBs to help you make a better choice.