India is on the cusp of the second connectivity revolution. This time, it s being driven by data. Numerous studies show that online video consumption is growing in India. While a lot of consumption is happening on the mobile platform, traditional TVs are arguably becoming quite redundant. The transition is certainly a great news for services like Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, which have grown immensely popular. But this also creates a vacuum for DTH players who can no longer rely on the conventional media for an all-around growth. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy M42 5G India launch on April 28: Specs, Amazon availability, expected priceAlso Read - Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) with improved ANC launched at a fairly cheap price
DTH players like Airtel perhaps have foreseen the imminent redundancy of the traditional TVs in your living room. Hence, a product such as the Airtel Internet TV is born. A new breed of set-top-boxes that not only provide you SD and HD channels but becomes a universal platform for your internet-based consumption as well. In much simpler words, the set-top-box lets you watch TV channels as well as Netflix and Hotstar along with access to a bunch of Android apps. Moreover, it comes with built-in Chromecast support, so you can mirror contents from your mobile phone as well. Also Read - OnePlus 9R sale begins for everyone in India today: Where to buy, top features, and launch offers
Of course, concept-wise the Airtel Internet TV sounds very cool. But do you really need it? Is it better than buying a standalone Chromecast? Or should you go for Amazon s Fire TV stick? Well, I have been using Airtel s Internet TV for quite a few weeks. Here are my key takeaways.
The Airtel Internet TV is available at a starting price of Rs 4,999, which is inclusive of three months of access to all SD and HD channels, a month of free Netflix, three months of Eros Now subscription and Airtel broadband benefits. Under the Rs 7,999 plan, you get the same benefits except for a year’s worth of access to all SD and HD channels.
The process is similar to setting up any new DTH connection. While the Airtel engineers do that for you, you’ll need to connect your set-top box to your Wi-Fi connection to access OTT content. Since it runs on Android TV, you can also sign in with your Google ID to access the Android apps.
The box and remote
The Airtel Internet TV appears to be larger than usual set-top-boxes. It s larger than my current Tata Sky HD set-top-box for sure. I had to move the now pretty much useless Sony DVD player to make space for the Internet TV. There s a SIM-card-like tray sticking out from the box, and that s the way it will be.
On the front, you have an SD card slot, USB 2.0 port and a bunch of LED lights for network indication and power indication among others along with a power button. On the rear are ports for power, antenna in, video out, audio out (L/R), HDMI out, USB port 3.0 and ethernet. There s a microSD slot on the side as well. ALSO READ: India loves binge watching the most, and Netflix is taking note
The remote looks very much similar to traditional TV remotes, but with a few handy upgrades. One of the most remarkable additions is the trackpad, which as you might have guess lets you navigate by just scrolling your fingers on the pad. The remote also comes with voice support for accessing content. You can also make it your universal remote and access your TV functionality such as switching on and off or just switching the HDMI inputs.
User interface and features
Once set up done, you re treated with Android boot when starting. The home page is quite cluttered if you ask me. It covers up the screen with a tad wider side panel that has features while the right-hand sub menu shows you recent channels and other content like live TV and related content. TV Guide shows you categories like sports, news, music, and kids, which is quite self-explanatory.
You can also directly access Airtel Movies and Netflix. You can also look up apps from the side panel. Android Home is more of a home screen for your apps downloaded. As far as Settings go, you can customize or rework the setup among other functionalities. Android s familiarity does come into play here. In terms of just sheer navigation, it works quite fluidly. Of course, it takes a bit of time to familiarize, but after a while, you are a Pro.
Voice search is pretty decent as it shows content like TV channels. However, it comes in handy while surfing YouTube. I personally dislike using the TV remote as a keyboard. YouTube s native voice recognition does save a lot of time. You can also download a bunch of apps, though the app store furnishes apps that are compatible with Android TV.
Do note that the device comes with 8GB of internal storage, and additional 128GB via microSD. For recording, users will require an additional USB drive with minimum capacity of 4GB and maximum capacity of 2TB.
Besides conventional TV viewing experience, the streaming experience is pretty fluid on the Airtel Internet TV. I have a 16Mbps Airtel broadband connection. So in my case, the experience was pretty much fluid. Do note that having an Airtel broadband connection also becomes an advantage as the company is offering 10GB of additional data for users having broadband plans under Rs 999. For higher priced plans, Airtel is offering 25GB additional broadband data every month. If you aren t an Airtel broadband user, you’re going to miss out on these benefits.
The Airtel Internet TV is pretty good at what it is supposed to do, complete with Android and apps. But then it comes down to your use case. I already own a Tata Sky HD connection (for TV channels), a Chromecast (for streaming content from the phone) as well as an Amazon Fire TV stick (which is an all-rounder). This is where the limitation of the Airtel Internet TV cannot be ignored – it doesn t make sense for a user like me to also sign up for an Airtel DTH subscription. Chances are, if you also have a Chromecast or a Fire TV stick, it’ll be the same for you too. However, if you are looking for a brand new DTH connection or upgrading to a new one, the Internet TV package is what you must buy.
Since it’s Chromecast enabled, you really don t need an additional device to mirror content from your phone. Only apprehension I have about the Airtel Internet TV is the dependence on Airtel recharges. If you miss recharging your Airtel account, you d lose access to the internet content as well. In my opinion, Airtel should have a fix for this. Other than this, I think the Airtel Internet TV is a pretty cool device, and perhaps will usher in new era of smarter TV set-top-boxes.