Tata Sky+ HD DVR Review

It’s been a month since I upgraded from my old Tata Sky Set Top Box (STB) to a new Tata Sky+ HD DVR STB. I thought I should write a review of this new STB, the extra features it provides, and whether it makes sense to upgrade.

The upgrade cost me Rs. 3,999/- for the new HD DVR STB (prices have increased since then) and I got Rs. 300/- back for my old Tata Sky STB. Under the prevailing offer, I also got two months of free subscription to all HD channels.

Tata Sky Plus HD STB

Benefits

  • Pause, rewind and forward live TV
  • Record upto 625 hours of TV content (both Standard and High Definition)
  • Watch High Definition (HD) TV content
  • Video on Demand (VoD) and Showcase (pay-per-view) features

Technical specifications

1. Picture quality

Tata Sky+ uses MPEG-4 encoding for better picture quality. All HD channels are broadcast in 1080i format (the highest resolution currently supported). A HDMI cable is provided with the kit thereby providing full digital input to the TV.

2. Audio quality

Tata Sky+ supports Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 Surround Sound format for crystal clear audio. To enjoy the full audio experience, you will need a Home Theatre that supports 7.1 channel sound.

3. Storage capacity

The Tata Sky+ STB has a built-in 500 GB hard disk which allows storing upto 625 hours of live TV (SD format). It is also used to store content downloaded using the newly launched Video on Demand (VoD) feature.

4. User Interface

The Tata Sky+ STB software is designed by NDS and is currently the best in the Indian DTH market. The Tata Sky+ HD STB has a new black-and-silver user interface and visual effects like fading menus with translucent skins, which is very contemporary and looks sleeker than the regular Tata Sky user interface. Do note however that the menus’ fonts are much smaller than in the regular Tata Sky STB, and will be difficult to read if your TV is smaller than 32″.

Tata Sky+ HD DVR menu

On the flip side, since this is a newly developed user interface, there are a couple of bugs and performance issues, such as:

  • Can’t set reminders for two programmes if they are scheduled to start simultaneously. But if there is some time difference in the start time, there are no issues. Such a restriction is not there in the old Tata Sky user interface and is surely a bug. The strange thing is that this restriction does not apply to recording programmes, but only to reminders. So you canΒ  record two programmes even if their start times are the same, although you can’t set reminders for both!
  • Sometimes the banners don’t fade out properly, reappearing after you press “Back” to clear the banner.
  • Reminders for a scheduled programme appear even if you are already on the appropriate channel.
  • Pressing “i” or “Record” on the remote when the channel banner is active still fades out the banner after the preset time. The banner shouldn’t fade out when the information bar or record menu is active.
  • If you try to switch to a third channel while recording two programmes, a dialog box pops up to ask you to either stay on the same channel or stop recording one of the two programmes. Sometimes, the STB gets stuck on this dialog box, and the only way out is to reset the STB.
  • The new STB software treats channel numbers as 4 digits, even though currently the channel numbers are still 3 digits. So to switch to a new channel, you need to press “Ok” after typing the 3 digits, unlike in the old STB where typing 3 digits takes you to the new channel directly.
  • The channel guide menu need a bit more colour, as it is difficult to differentiate between the boxes containing program name, time and channel name. Also, because of the translucent menu background, it is difficult to read some menus if the channel picture is near white.

5. Inputs and outputs

The STB has two RF LNB inputs where the signal cables from the dish antenna must be connected. This is unlike the regular Tata Sky STB in which there is only one input cable from the dish.

The STB provides both analog and digital video outputs to connect to both SD and HD TVs. There are RF, RCA and Component (Y/Pb/Pr) outputs for SD TVs and a HDMI output for HD TVs. There are also S/PDIF electrical and optical digital audio outputs, in case you have audio equipment that supports it.

There is also an Ethernet and USB port on the STB. While the Ethernet port is used to connect to an Internet modem for the VoD feature, the USB port is currently unused and is reserved for future applications.

See the below image which lists the various inputs and outputs on the STB and their use.

Tata Sky+ HD DVR back side

Features

1. Record, Rewind, Play and Pause live TV



Recording programmes on Tata Sky+ is extremely easy. Pressing the “Record” button on the remote starts recording the current programme. You can record upto two programmes simultaneously; however you need to be watching one of them and can’t switch to a third channel until one of them stops recording. HD channels are recorded in full HD format.



For serials or other episodic programmes, you can choose whether to record only the current episode or all future episodes using the Series Linking feature. This option allows recording the entire series of a programme with a single record instruction, while intelligently skipping repeat telecasts.

The other useful feature is Live Pause, which allows you to pause live TV, and rewind and fast-forward channels (upto 30x speed). This can be done via the “Play/Pause/Rewind/Forward” keys on the remote which are very easy and intuitive to use.

Apart from TV programmes, you can also record Showcase movies that you may have purchased, although these will be stored only for a day and deleted afterwards.

For convenience, Tata Sky allows you to set a programme for recording over the Internet via their website or from a mobile phone via Tata Sky’s Mobile Access App (currently supports only Android and iOS).

2. Video on Demand (VoD)

The VoD feature allows you to watch old episodes of TV shows on some select channels (called Catch Up TV). It also has a library of certain old and new movies (called Movie Library). Currently the service is totally free; however in future the Movie Library service will become a Pay Per View (PPV) feature, while the Catch Up TV service will continue to remain free.

Note that there’s a catch here. To use the VoD feature, you will need a broadband Internet connection. You need to connect an Ethernet cable from your Internet modem to the Ethernet port on the backside of the Tata Sky+ HD STB, so ensure that your modem is near your STB. You will not need to do any additional configuration on the STB or modem, as long as you have DHCP enabled on the modem.

To access VoD on the STB, you need to click on the “Showcase” button on the remote and choose “Video on Demand” from the menu. You will then be shown a selection of movies and old episodes of TV shows. You can choose which ones you want to watch, and the STB will download them for you over the Internet.

Tata Sky+ Video on Demand feature

Do note that since VoD downloads content over your Internet connection, the speed will be dependent on the speed of your Internet connection. Also, you will need to keep the Internet bandwidth usage in mind, particularly if you are not on an unlimited usage plan.

Installation

The installation of Tata Sky+ is the same as Tata Sky with one exception. The Tata Sky+ STB has two RF inputs, as mentioned earlier, so there are now two cables drawn from the dish to the STB.

If the customer premises does not allow drawing an additional cable to the TV (such as in an apartment), then a splitter is installed behind the STB to duplicate the signal. The downside of this is a slight attenuation of the signal due to losses in the splitter. However, this has not caused any problems for me so far.

Tata Sky has also launched a new dish antenna which is larger than the older one, presumably to compete with Airtel Digital TV’s bigger dish. I don’t know how much better the signal will be with this new dish, but it does negate the advantage Airtel had here.

Channel packages

The channel packages and their costs are the same as that for the non-HD Tata Sky STB. The HD channels themselves are part of the regular packages so you don’t need to subscribe to them separately, but you do need to pay an additional HD Access Fee to view them.

Summary

The ability to pause, rewind and forward live TV is just so incredibly useful! Imagine getting a phone call while you’re watching your favorite serial, or having to go to the toilet while watching a match. Now you can just pause the picture and resume when you’re back. Or if you couldn’t hear a dialogue properly, just rewind and watch it again. This is a feature you’ll be using day in and day out.

The recorder is extremely useful as well, because we can record programmes that play during office hours and watch them in the evening. I also record late-night programmes which my wife likes, so she can watch them the next day.

Viewing HD channels is a real pleasure. There are times when I watch Discovery HD World and Nat Geo HD just to enjoy the beauty and clarity of the HD pictures. Do note that some of the channels like Star Plus HD and Star World HD do not always show show genuine HD content, but rather upscaled SD content.

All in all, this is a great product which really turns your TV into a TiVo. At a price of Rs. 3,999/- this is a fair deal, although I expect prices to drop to half in the next few months. But that’s no reason to wait, considering what you’re getting in return.


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31 Comments

  1. Swagat JagirdarSwagat Jagirdar09-11-2014

    how to format HDD in Model TDS865NT
    problem is in Plan>recorded there 3 programs on recording but i cant able to remove them i can remove others but this 3 not removed so how can i remove them or give me option to format HDD i did Reset setup box still that 3 programs there

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar09-12-2014

      Yes many others have faced this problem on Tata Sky+. I have talked to Tata Sky and they have informed me that the problem is known to them and the software team is working on a solution.

      As for formatting the hard disk, you need to press Organiser button on remote, go to System Settings, then press 0 followed by 1 and finally press Select button. A hidden menu will come up which will have the “Format Disk” option. You will need to enter the security PIN (default is 0000).

  2. ArvinderArvinder05-31-2014

    Sir,
    I want to know whether dish tv lnb is replaced with tata sky lnb. Also, how to improve signal and strength of dish tv.

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar05-31-2014

      I believe Tata Sky LNB should work with Dish TV, and vice versa. To ensure you are getting maximum signal strength, connect a signal meter to the dish LNB output and adjust the dish alignment till you get maximum signal power. Note that this requires knowledge of satellite latitude and longitude and so should be done carefully. The other thing is to ensure the cable from the dish to the STB is in good condition and all the connections are proper. Other than these steps, nothing more can be done.

  3. R RanaR Rana03-06-2013

    Hello everyone: I just bought a tataskyplus HD recorder. I would appreciate it if someone would tell me how to set recording (buffering) time. Thanks.

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar03-06-2013

      Click on Organiser button, got to User Settings > Tata Sky+ Settings and modify the “Review buffer depth” as per your requirement.

  4. syedsyed10-08-2012

    Hi Anand!
    Recently i bought tata Sky + HD and I had old Osar TV, so It was working fine with all the channels, but I again bought SAMSUNG LCD HDMI, no when I am connecting it using HDMI cable and watching HD channels it shows ‘no signal’ after few minutes, though it is working fine in AV mode. Even my Tata sky box has been replaced with the Technical team of Tata sky.
    so, can you please help me what exactly the problem is whether it is with TV or with my Tata sky box.

    any help will be appreciated!

    thanks

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar10-08-2012

      It is not a problem with the box. You must ask Tata Sky technicians to check the dish alignment. If signal quality is poor, HD channels will be the first to suffer as they use more bandwidth. During bad weather, HD channels will go off first followed by SD channels. Also, it has nothing to with HDMI or AV cable. On HDMI itself, you can see that SD channels are fine though HD channels show “no signal”.

  5. AnandAnand10-03-2012

    For anyone looking for a PAL to NTSC converter: I just moved to India from the US and brought back 3 TVs. I also purchased 3 identical PAL to NTSC converters for ~$80 from Amazon. I’m not using two of them anymore. Anyone who wants it can have it for Rs 2500 each. I’m in Hyderabad area.

    Specs: 110-220V 50/60Hz; HDMI & Composite input; HDMI output PAL to/from NTSC

    • ArunArun10-08-2012

      Hi Anand – I’m looking for a good PAL to NTSC converter for my SAMSUNG LCD purchased in US. Can you pls email me your contact details, and the converter brand which you have. I’m in desperate need of one in Hyderabad.

      Thanks

  6. AnirudhAnirudh10-02-2012

    Hi Nitin,
    Thanks for the thorough review of Tata Sky Plus HD. I am planning on getting one. I have standard definition Dish TV connection but their interface is kind of laggy and slow. So instead of switching to Dish TV HD, I’ll switch to Tata.

    Regards,
    Anirudh Bahadur

  7. Hi Vijay

    I purchased this product yesterday thru Tatasky helpline. I paid 6080/- over the phone via my card. They credited 2081/- rupees to my Tatasky account and later debited it as Activation fee. Surprise to see that the price of the box is 3999/- only and they charged me 2081/- as activation fee.

    When I initially inquired I thought 6080/- is the price for the box alone.

    Is activation fee common for all?

  8. Sunil Ban delSunil Ban del08-24-2012

    Just wanted to confirm whether the Hauppage colossus 01414 can record the Tata sky HD+ Tv programme?

  9. rahulrahul06-29-2012

    Thanks for the excellent article.

    just wanted to make you aware that people are copying data from your site and posting it as their own.

    http://www.nitinbhatia.in/reviews/tata-sky-hd-dvr-review/

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar06-29-2012

      Thanks Rahul for bringing it to my attention! It is disappointing and shameful to see people copying stuff and passing it off as their own. So unethical!

  10. AthulAthul06-19-2012

    hey Vijay. is it possible to transfer the recorded data to my pen drive or can i directly record any channel to my pendrive or an other via USB????

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar06-19-2012

      AFAIK, no. Also, the recordings are in encrypted format. You cannot play them on any other device.

      • aryanaryan10-17-2012

        what is the need of two LNB inputs to connect ? plz describe

        • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar10-17-2012

          Tata Sky allows recording two channels in parallel. There are two decoders for this purpose. Each decoder has its own LNB input. The reason for giving two LNB inputs is to provide better signal quality to the box. The other option was to take a single LNB input and use an internal splitter, but with this approach there will be higher signal degradation.

  11. JoseJose05-01-2012

    Hi Vijay,

    The question that I have is that, I am returning from the US and I have a LED TV which only supports NTSC colour system. Will using the HDMI port to connect the Tata Sky to the TV eliminate the PAL/NTSC issue in India.

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar05-01-2012

      Hi Jose

      Looks like the Tata Sky+ HD box does not support NTSC HDMI output, only PAL HDMI output. You can try with some other DTH service providers. Looks like Videocon D2H supports NTSC HDMI output, but please confirm this independently with them. Your other option is to buy TS+ HD box and use a PAL HDMI to NTSC HDMI converter, but these may be a bit expensive.

      Thanks

      Vijay

      • JoseJose05-04-2012

        Thanks for the Input Vijay, will check with the service providers.

  12. ShaliniShalini04-11-2012

    Update from Tata Sky Tweets: HD box can now also record using USB port pen drive..so useful for those who missed HD+.

  13. AshishAshish02-07-2012

    Is the TATA sky had setup box hdmi Cecil enabled?

  14. HRUSHIKESH KESALEHRUSHIKESH KESALE01-04-2012

    hi vijay ,

    i have tatasky hd + , now i am deciding to purchase home theatre for cinema sound effect.

    i have one query abt it

    which homethetre having digital inputs, and optical input working on tataksy hd +

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar01-05-2012

      One example is Onkyo HT-S5400, which is a 7.1 channel home theatre system. It has S/PDIF optical & electrical inputs which you can connect to Tata Sky+ HD to receive digital audio from the STB.

  15. MeHuLMeHuL01-03-2012

    hi…..
    Ur review is truely informative…..
    But i struct with comparative analysis of tata sky+HD and videocon HD DVR.
    which is better??

  16. akshayakshay12-22-2011

    Hey i have to ask sum questions….

    1.In the usb port can we insert pen drives and play songs or watch movies?
    2.are tata sky + boxes are still available?
    3.how much it costs to upragde from tata sky to tata sky+?
    4.we dont have lcd tv so if i buy tata sky+ hd then there are resolution probems or not???
    5.video on demand neede a interenet connection???

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar12-23-2011

      Hi Akshay

      1. I have already answered this in the blog post. The USB port is reserved for future applications and currently does not serve any purpose.
      2. It looks like Tata Sky+ (non-HD) has been discontinued. There is no mention of it on the Tata Sky website.
      3. Not sure about costs of Tata Sky+ (non-HD). The cost of Tata Sky+ HD has been mentioned in this blog post.
      4. You can use Tata Sky+ HD with a regular (non-HD) TV also and it will work. I cannot comment on the resolution as I have not tried it.
      5. Yes, VoD feature needs a broadband Internet connection. You will need to connect an Ethernet cable between your Internet modem and the Ethernet port on the backside of the Tata Sky+ HD STB.

      Regards

      Vijay

  17. SridharSridhar12-20-2011

    Hello Vijay. I found the article highly informative and comprehensive. Thanks for the sharing all the info. This will be useful to many, but I dont have any interest in HDs and Tata Sky + and its equivalents. I prefer the old regular Tata Sky dish, which works good, has good picture quality and provides enough choice at reasonable price.
    Apart from the initial cost of Rs.4000 (3999), what is the rough monthly charge. The regular Tata Sky in my knowledge is around 350-400 (depending on channels you choose).

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar12-20-2011

      Hi Sridhar, as mentioned in the article, the package cost is exactly the same for Tata Sky+ as for regular Tata Sky. The extra charges are only for HD channels, for which you need to pay Rs. 75/- per month (unless you have taken Annual Mega Pack or Annual Mega Lite Pack, in which case HD channels are included in the pack). Also, the HD channels are optional and there is no compulsion to buy the HD pack.

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