If you thought that buying a new direct to home (DTH) connection would be simply about getting a basic set top box (STB) and watching TV, you would probably be right. But that would be purely on the convenience and simplicity aspects. An STB is that essential yet neglected piece of hardware that sits somewhere near your TV, gathering dust and not getting much attention either. However, times have changed. However, no DTH operator is offering just basic STBs anymore—unlike cable TV operators, which still do not have many options that potential subscribers can choose from. Tata Sky, India’s leading DTH operator at present offers four STB options to choose from. There is one for standard definition television, two options for HD TVs including with the personal video recorder feature and a future ready 4K box. Just recently, Tata Sky also reduced the prices of the HD and SD set top boxes, and expanded availability to offline retailers as well to make buying a new connection easier.
What is missing from Tata Sky’s arsenal of STBs right now is a truly smart box, one that can also bundle video streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Hotstar etc.—incidentally, Airtel has one. Though there is the Tata Sky Binge accessory, also called the Fire TV Stick – Tata Sky Edition, but that is still an additional device to connect with the TV. Nevertheless, here is how each of the STBs differ from each other, and that could have a huge bearing on which one you pick for your TV.
Tata Sky SD
Rs 1,499 onwards
This is the entry-spec STB that works for old televisions, including the CRT TVs from the yesteryears. This will only support standard definition (SD) channels. Tata Sky is bundling multiple channel packages with the purchase of this STB—such as buying this with an Hindi Basic pack for a combined price of Rs 1,834 or with the SD Family Sports pack for Rs 1,956. There are not many tricks up the sleeve of this Tata Sky SD STB. Essentially, you will only buy this box if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port, a standard the TVs have by default for quite a few years now.
Tata Sky HD
Rs 1,699 onwards
If you have an LCD or LED TV purchased in the past decade, chances are it will have an HDMI port for sure. In which case, you should be buying the Tata Sky HD STB. This supports a maximum resolution of 1080i with the 16:9 aspect ratio for high definition channels. In terms of the audio output, the Tata Sky HD box supports Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound formats—which is great if you have a home theater setup of a nice soundbar hooked up to your TV. Most HD channels support either sound format, which just makes for an enhanced viewing experience. Tata Sky is bundling subscription packages with this STB as well, starting at Rs 2,091 for the HD Hindi Lite pack going all the way up to Rs 2,452 for the HD Premium Sports English HD option.
Tata Sky+ HD
In terms of the price, the Tata Sky HD+ sits at the top of the pack. This is essentially the personal video recorder (PVR) that lets you rewind, pause and record Live TV. With advancements to the low-noise block downconverter (LNB) mounted on the dish antenna installed in your balcony or rooftop, this STB requires just one wire to run between the dish and your HD+ box—in the previous generation, two wires were required if you wished to record one channel and watch another simultaneously. However, the new HD+ box lets you record programs on three channels at the same time, or record programs on two channels and watch a third channel at the same time. There is a 500GB hard drive, and you can set the series recording too—here, the box when left powered on or in stand-by mode will automatically record a new episode of your favourite TV show.
Tata Sky 4K
Tata Sky is still selling the 4K set top box, even though there are no 4K channels in India at the moment. It was launched a few years ago for some limited time broadcasts of sports events in 4K, but broadcasters have maintained silence on the matter since. Nevertheless, this is the STB which has HDMI 2.0 and the True Colour feature, which no other STB has. Apart from that, there are no extra features which set this apart from the other Tata Sky STBs—perhaps video streaming apps letting you stream content in 4K could have added genuine value to the proposition—at the moment, it doesn’t.