One of the many available STBs in the market for Digital Migration is the the Smart-Beaver Coship DVB-T2 Decoder. Since this morning I have been watching TV on the decoder and and so here is my review of the decoder. Remember from last week I have been watching TV on SmartTimes’ DVB-T2 decoder so the review draws a number of comparisons between the Smart-Beaver Coship DVB-T2 and StarTimes DVB-T2 decoder.
Smart-Beaver Coship decoder has excellent picture quality. Compared to StarTimes decoder, Smart-Beaver is far better especially if you have a TV set that can display images on 1080i or 1080p resolutions; i.e. Smart-Beaver supports full HD quality pictures. When you receive excellent signal quality, your pictures will be at per with the pictures received via DStv’s satellite broadcast. I have a feeling that if there was a TV station broadcasting in full HD, then Smart-Beaver will be able to give you the HD pictures without compromising on quality whatsoever.
Sound is also excellent. Given that I am in Nakuru, I have been able to receive only 16 Signet channels plus channel ED and Lagos TV. Both ED and Lagos TV do not have good quality sound. Of the Signet Channels, only Youth TV and Fountain TV have boring sounds but still better than what StarTimes decoder gives.
To further test sound, I used the Smart-Beaver decoder’s USB slots to play some MP3 songs I have on my Flash Drive. The sound output to the speakers was no different from the sound I get when I play my songs on the Home Theater System or even on a standard DVD Player. What this means is that the poor quality sounds experienced on some channels and even from the available radio stations are either a matter of transmission distortion or poor production.
Youth TV has the poorest sound quality and given that they are generally a music entertainment channel, they should look into their sound quality.
One thing that drives DStv customers to buy the expensive DStv decoders at prices as high as Kshs 30,000 is the ability to record programmes for later viewing. Although the Smart-Beaver Coship DVB-T2 does not have Internal memory, the decoder allows you to record current programmes on Flash Drive at the rate of 10MB per minute. This means that an empty 1GB Flash Drive can record a complete movie or entire prime time news bulletin. With a 16GB Flash Drive, one can save more than 26 hours worth of content.
The programmes are recorded by the decoder as a video file of .mts file extension which means the files are MPEG Transport Stream files. According to information available on an MTS website:
MTS file type is primarily associated with ‘AVCHD’. AVCHD is a high-definition digital video format that supports 1080i and 720p with a reasonably small file size. AVCHD files are based on the MPEG4 CODEC. AVCHD video files can be burned to Blu-ray discs and played in compatible devices, such as Blu-ray disc players and the Sony PlayStation3. Various video programs can edit or convert this file format…
In simple terms, you can safely play the videos recorded on your Flash Drive by the decoder on your PC or Laptop. Windows Media Player 12 played my 20 minutes worth of recording very smoothly and clearly.
Smart-Beaver Coship DVB-T2 therefore allows you to record your programmes and watch them later at no additional cost.
Support for High Definition Resolution
As mentioned in the picture quality section, Smart-Beaver Coship DVB-T2 decoder has high quality pictures similar to pictures you’d get via DStv. This must be because it is built to support high definition resolution pictures from 1920 by 1080 resolution downwards. When watching any channel, you can choose to change the quality of picture you receive by pressing the V-Format button on your remote control. This button allows your toggle from 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, to 1080p resolutions where both 1080i and 1080p are HD resolutions.
To take advantage of the HD capabilities, Smart-Beaver decoder allows you to connect the decoder to your HD capable screen via the HDMI port located at the back of the decoder. As usual, connecting the decoder via HDMI port to the HD capable TV gives you the leeway to discard the audio and video RCA cables. If you have the very very old TVs like the Great Wall, you can still connect the decoder to the TV via the RF ports.
Two USB Ports
Smart-Beaver Coship Decoder has two USB ports one at the back and the other in the front panel. The USB Ports allow you to plug in USB Flash Memory to watch movies and listen to music. It is also via the Ports that you can be able to record any on-going programme. This means the Decoder can fully replace your DVD player if you’ll choose to listen to your music from Flash Drive instead of using the already out-going DVDs and CDs.
With Smart-Beaver, you don’t need to buy the 50 bob movies on DVD but rather you can ask the movie attendant to save them on your Flash Drive. You can also view your photos saved on the Flash Drive via the decoder.
Considering all the value additions including programme recording, two USB ports and high definition resolution, Smart-Beaver decoders goes for only Shs 5,500. If you are in Nairobi’s CBD the decoder can be delivered to your office. For further details on where to buy the decoders countrywide, visit Smart-Beaver’s website.
Setting up Smart-Beaver Coship DVB-T2 decoder
Once you have your Smart-Beaver decoder, you need to set it up as usual by connecting the sound and video cables to the TV, connecting the antenna to the Antenna input, and connecting the power plug to power source. Turn on the decoder and search for channels by pressing Menu and selecting the search option.
Foremost, to receive quality pictures you need to fine tune your antenna. Before tuning the antenna go to channel search and select manual search but do not search. At the bottom of the screen you’ll see the Signal Quality Indicator which changes as your change the direction of the antenna…use the signal quality indicator to determine the best position of the antenna…then you can search for the channels using the Auto Search option.
The decoder will search for all available terrestrial digital channels available in the area whether from Pay TV providers or from the other two (Signet and Pan-Africa) that air Free to Air channels and list them in the channel list; but you can only watch the Free to Air channels. When you try to watch any of the Pay TV channels you’ll be told the channel is scrambled.
Since the list of Pay TV channels, both from GoTV and StarTimes, is very long, it is important for you to do either one of two things: 1. Add the Free to Air Channels to Favorite List or delete all Pay TV channels from the channel list. To add channels to your favorite list, you will need to Press Menu button on the remote control, choose Programme Edit and enter your password. The default password is 000000 (Smart-Beaver informed me that the password is 123456 so maybe it depends with the decoder you have). You can then add a channel to favorite list by selecting it then pressing the Fav button on the remote control.
Personally I decided to delete all the Pay TV Channels that can’t be viewed (a few like Lagos TV, ED, and CCTV News can be viewed) by going to Programme Edit and deleting from bottom up by pressing the blue or Timer Button on the remote control.
That’s all for Smart-Beaver Coship DVB-T2 and hopefully by next week we’ll have another decoder to review.