Content consumption isn’t what it was a few years ago. Gone are the days of “appointment viewing” where the family sat together to catch the Friday night premiere on Star Movies at 9 PM or the latest episode of their favourite show. Internet connectivity and the ability to watch videos online has made it so that people can watch what they want, when they want and where they want. However, the ability to watch what you want, when you want and where you want is still new. Internet penetration is still an issue in some parts of India and there are still those that like watching good old TV. Not to mention the fact that only a small percentage of the population has a decently capable smart TV.
So, to cater to the TV viewing generation and the cord-cutting generation alike, we have today the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box. The box aims to give you the best of both worlds - the traditional TV viewing experience and the world of OTT apps. Rather than make this a traditional review of the Binge+ Box let's try and answer the most critical questions about the box and delve deep into its features.
The Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box is a hybrid between the traditional set-top-box and a streaming device like the Mi Box (review). It can show you your conventional TV channels, which means you still need the dish on your roof and a cable connecting the box to the dish. However, the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box also runs on Android, giving you access to OTT apps like Prime Video, Zee5, Disney+ Hotstar Premium and more. To access these apps, you need to have an internet connection. You can connect to the internet using Wi-Fi or Ethernet, whatever you prefer. Put simply, the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box includes both satellite content and online content.
Here is where things get interesting. A consumer has to pay Rs 2,999 for the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box if it is a new connection. Existing customers can get it for Rs 2,499. With this, the customer gets Hotstar Premium, Zee5 Premium, Voot Select, Voot Kids, Eros Now, Hungama Play, Sun Nxt, and Shemaroo Me for six months and an Amazon Prime Subscription for three months. After the free trial is over, a user needs to pay Rs 299 per month for access to Hotstar Premium, Zee5 Premium, Voot Select, Voot Kids, Eros Now, Hungama Play, Sun Nxt, and Shemaroo Me. For an additional Rs 129 per month, you get access to Prime Video as well. So, paying Rs 428 per month for all the above apps or 299 for all except Prime videos.
Sadly, no. if you pay the Rs 299 subscription cost for the OTT platforms, you can only consume it on the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box.
Yes, you can. Let’s say you only consume content on Disney+ Hotstar Premium and Zee5 and are not interested in the others and have your own subscription to the two services, you can simply log in and consume content from them. There is no compulsion to subscribe to the Rs 299 plan. However, suppose you are looking to explore and get a decent value for money proposition to consume content from multiple platforms on your TV only. In that case, the Rs 299 recharge seems like a decent proposition.
No. To use the OTT apps on the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box, you need to be an active user with a minimum balance.
No. The Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box does not have the traditional Android TV UI. It has its own UI and gives you access to apps. Let’s talk about the UI for a minute. When you power up the box, you are greeted with a TV channel. To navigate to your channel of choice, you can simply input it if you remember it or you can use the voice controls. Yes, the remote control comes with a Google Assistant button and since the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box runs on Android you have access to the Google Assistant. You can simply say switch to Star World, or switch to Sony Liv, or switch to Colours and the TV will switch to that channel. Gone are the days of remembering channel numbers.
There is also a guide button on the remote control which will bring up a traditional interface of all the channels and the current and forthcoming programs. It is a neat and clean UI and one that Tata Sky users will find quite familiar.
Pressing the home button on the remote control brings up a navigation giving you access to “Home” “Guide” “Binge” and “Apps.”
Home is a mix of content on-air, and content available via the apps partnered with the Binge+ service and Tata Sky Showcase and more.
Guide brings up the Channel Filters, letting you navigate based on categories such as HD entertainment, movies, etc.
Binge is a curation of the content from the streaming services broken up into categories like New Releases, Original Releases, Best of Zee5, Power-packed action and many more. The Binge tab is a wall of content, giving you access to the content before the streaming service as we’ve seen on Xiaomi’s PatchWall. So, you can focus on the content rather than the streaming service provider. You can also filter content in binge, based on Movies, TV shows, Kids, regional, etc.
The Apps tab gives you access to all the apps you can download on the service and the ones you have installed. It is here that you have access to the Google Play Store as well and can download apps.
Overall, the UI is smooth and responsive and did not lag for one bit. The voice controls worked 95% of the time which is at par with all other Google Assistant enabled devices that we’ve tested.
Yes. The Binge+ Box does not support Netflix. You cannot download the app, nor can you sideload it.
Yes. Not only in 4K but the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box also supports HDR. So, if you consume content on apps like Prime Video or Hotstar which have HDR content, you can make the most of it. But remember, you need to have an HDR-capable TV as well.
We downloaded the VLC app on the box and connected a pen drive to it, but it didn’t read the pen drives content. If you use Plex, know that the app works on the Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box. To access content from a pen drive, you need to download the File Explorer app from the Google Play Store.
The remote control has a very nice build, is compact and feels comfortable to hold. It has all the traditional controls of a Tata Sky set-top-box but also brings with it a home button, Google Assistant button and play/pause button. All the buttons have a rubbery feel to them and have a distinct click. The back of the remote is textured, adding to the grip.
The Tata Sky Binge+ set-top-box runs on Android TV Pie and comes with 2GB RAM and 8GB storage. It supports both 2.4 and 5Ghz Wi-Fi along with Bluetooth 4.2. At the back of the box it has an AV out, 2 USB ports, HDMI out and SPDIF. The HDMI port is HDMI 2.0 so it will work with 4K and HDR TVs and will also work with 1080p and HD ready TVs as well. Thanks to the AV out, you can connect it to older TVs as well. Since it runs on Android, it also comes with Chromecast built-in. Know that the Tata Sky Binge+ Set-top-box supports HDR but not Dolby Vision.
As mentioned above, the box costs Rs 2,999 for new customers and existing tata Sky customers can get it for Rs 2,499. It brings with it six months of subscription for Hotstar Premium, Zee5 Premium, Voot Select, Voot Kids, Eros Now, Hungama Play, Sun Nxt, Shemaroo Me and three months of Amazon Prime Subscription.
Now, that’s a bit of a tricky question to answer. It depends on your current setup and your desire to consume content from OTT platforms. The good thing is you get access to a bunch of OTT platforms for a mere Rs 299 per month and if you include Amazon Prime, it is Rs 428 a month. But if you already have subscriptions to these services or some of the partner services don't excite you, then the package seems less exciting. Add to it the fact that you can only consume this partner OTT content on the set-top-box and not on your smartphone or laptop, and its appeal reduces a little more. Remember, you need to have an active Tata Sky connection to take advantage of the OTT platforms as, without an active connection, you cannot use the box as a streaming device.
If you have a smart TV with these apps or already have a device like a Fire TV stick then once again upgrading your set-top-box to the Binge+ depends on your requirement to watch traditional TV in conjunction with OTT apps through one device.
Sameer Mitha lives for gaming and technology is his muse. When he isn’t busy playing with gadgets or video games he delves into the world of fantasy novels.