DStv HD broadcast service: detailed info about DStv HD PVR decoder

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Backstory: I had procured the DStv HD Decoder a few months ago but have been way too busy to share a detailed review. Considering the time lapse, I decided to package the  information into a comparative analysis. Hopefully, this would reveal enough information to help you decide.

The world cup fever is upon us and now couldn’t have been a better time to enjoy the ultimate in TV entertainment. With electronics stores offering discount on flat panel (LCD & plasma) TVs, with DStv ready to beam the World Cup to Africa in HD, there couldn’t be a better time to get on the HD bandwagon. The future of TV is already here.

DStv HD PVR
DStv HD PVR

To enjoy the high quality broadcast, you need the following:

  • HD PVR (connected to the TV via a HDMI cable)
  • A Full HD or HD ready TV
  • Satellite installation (minimum twin LNB)
  • Home Theatre System (optional)

The good side

Picture quality: the quality is about 5 times better than standard definition TV. In plain terms, HD is a digital television broadcasting system with higher resolution than traditional Standard Definition (SD) television systems. Instead of using the conventional 625 lines to plot a TV picture, HD uses 720 or 1080 lines. In addition, the pixels in each of those lines are smaller and closer together, resulting in hugely improved picture quality, clarity and colour definition. The pictures are so clear you would not mind re-watching movies you already watched before.

Audio quality: most of the HD channels currently available on DStv offer audio in Dolby® Digital format. Dolby® Digital is a surround sound technology that beams at least 5 discrete channels of excellent audio quality. To experience the full magic of HD content with high quality sound you will need a compatible 6 speaker Home Theatre System.

Content variety: DStv currently offers the following HD channels, 24 hours every day:

  1. MNET Africa HD: this is a channel that currently broadcasts a mix of reality shows, series, blockbuster movies and some musicals. Most of the programming is available in surround sound as well as stereo. Channel 170.
  2. SuperSports HD: broadcasts a wide variety of sport events all in HD. Audio is in Surround Sound and stereo. Channel 171. This channel is NOT available to subscribers in Nigeria.
  3. Discovery HD Showcase: provides documentary programming focused primarily on popular science, technology, and history. All the broadcasts are available in Surround Sound only; no stereo.
  4. iConcerts HD: a music channel from Europe broadcasting music from a wide range of genres including blues, hip-hop, jazz, pop, soul, reggae, rock, classic and more. Audio is in stereo only.
  5. TVCine HD: a Portuguese premium movie channel that showcases recent movies and premieres from all the major studios, as well as comedy, action, classic and old movies. This channel is available to Portugese bouquet subscribers only. Audio is in Surround Sound only.
  6. SuperSports Extra HD: this is a new channel that is not yet broadcasting at the time of writing. It appears to have been setup to augment Channel 171 during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Channel 174 will be the HD Extra channel. This will include World Cup matches that occur simultaneously, plus other HD sports programming. The channel will run until the conclusion of the World Cup and will be re-activated in August.

The decoder: The DStv HD PVR is a sophisticated piece of hardware that offers the following features:

  • the HD PVR allows you to view one channel, while recording two other channels simultaneously, as well as:
  1. record 150 hours of standard definition TV or 50 hours of HD TV
  2. pause live TV programming
  3. rewind programming
  4. play recorded programming in fast forward or slow motion modes
  5. XtraView capability: allows dual viewing on another XtraView-compatible decoder
  6. “Favourite channels” – once a set of channels as selected as favourites, one can enjoy:
    • a personalised TV guide, listing the schedules of just those channels.
    • a personalised viewing environment which includes only your selected channels. No more hopping over unwanted or unavailable channels.
  7. 24 hour i-Plate: the i-Plate on the single view and dual view decoders have information for 2 programmes (that is, now & next). The i-Plate on the HD PVR improves on this and shares information on programming for the next 24 hours allowing you to easily browse the programming schedule and set recordings without leaving your existing channel.

The not-so good side

Not cheap: the whole setup doesn’t come cheap.  I paid over 500 Ghana cedis for the HD PVR decoder alone. Add the cost of a HD ready TV & home theatre system, and you would get the full picture. Installation alone costs $50 flat. I later found out the $50 was worth it because it took the installer about 2 hours of meticulous work to setup.

More complicated setup: the HD PVR decoder comes bundled with a new LNB. The LNB passes signal to the decoder via 4 separate coaxial cables. For an existing DStv installation, the LNB on the satellite dish has to be replaced and the additional cables connected. Considering the more complicated setup, the HD PVR comes with a guide offering suggestions on how to connect to the TV and/or home theatre system.

No subtitles: the HD PVR currently does not support subtitles on any channels.

Bye bye to FTA channels: unlike older decoders, the HD PVR displays only one matrix of channels and does not offer access to “public bouquet”. As such, one is unable to view the few free-to-air channels currently available on W4 and W7 satellites. Note however that CCTV4, CCTV News & CCTV French are currently available free-to-air.

No genre or searches on TV Guide: Due to current technical limitations, the HD PVRs have a much simpler TV Guide. Currently, there are no search facilities (ie. A-Z, theme search or 24 hours) and no genres. The TV Guide will get additional features in future releases of the software.

No DMX DJ service: The HD PVRs do not yet support the DMX DJ service and so doesn’t display the song title and musician information on DMX channels.

Too few HD channels: there are only 5 active HD channels at the time of writing. There is no news channel in HD.

Summary

Though DStv’s HD broadcast is still work-in-progress, the advantages far outweigh the shortcomings and thus makes it a must-have for movie lovers and sports enthusiasts in Africa. The up-coming FIFA World Cup makes it even a more compelling experience.

Your comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome. Share them in the comments area.

28 Comments

  1. Hello. You failed to give me an answer to my strong decoder and Mnet action channel problem. Anyway I resolved the problem through a simple search on the internet.

    Anyone who has a DSTV card and a strong decoder and have lost Mnet Action channel after the migration should contact me at shuttle35gh[at]yahoo.com for a solution.

    DSTV must be responsible. They collect the subscription money but will employ all tactics to deprive you of a few channels.No law says you have to use DSTV decoders only with Dstv cards.

  2. Thanks brother, for you dont know how many life you have empower, cos you know that knowledge is power. I just want 2 know about free frequencies for watching HITV, DSTV, MYTV, MUTITV and ones that are featuring sports. am waiting for your reply Dav, thank so much

  3. Just a note on the HD PVR functionality. Apart from your own personal recording functionality, (150 hours standard definition time or 50 hours of HD programming) you also get DStv On Demand. If you press your MENU button, scroll down to DStv On Demand. DStv ALSO record popular weekly series and selected SuperSport Highlights (about 6mins per highlight)- these are recorded weekly and expire as the next series is recorded. It’s an additional recording space on the hardware over and above your personal recording limit. You don’t necessarily have to have an HD television in combo with the HD PVR to have the benefit of the PVR functionality on the Premium bouquet. The HD television obviously just gives you a better clarity picture on the HD channels – EPL is BRILLIANT on SS HD! Happy day!

      • Hi
        DStv On Demand is available on IS7 and W7 footprints via HD PVR. You also get On Demand on the Standard PVR (just goes through a different “route” on the remote…
        Happy day
        Cath
        PS: If you are not picking it up in Ghana – please let me know and I will get onto DStv and query it!!

          • Hi Olu
            On the HD PVR, if you go to the menu button on your remote (above the Info button), it will give you three menu items. Scroll down to DStv On Demand and click through. It should list all the weekly “series” and SS highlights on your MNet. They record this over and above your normal 50 HD hours / 150 SD hours personal recordings. On the SD PVR – you will go through your menu button at the base of your remote (under your numeric keys). Give it a try and let me know….
            Kindest
            Cath

          • Hi Olu
            The visual you sent me is of DStv TOUCH. It’s very different to DStv ON DEMAND. TOUCH is the interactive feature when you press OK on your remote and you get the menu listing for sport etc and you can check up on fixtures / logs etc. DStv ON DEMAND is found through your menu button on your remote. HD PVR Menu button is just above the INFO button on your remote. You will see three listings. Scroll down to the third listing DStv ON DEMAND. You should get a listing similar to your personal recording listing…
            Let me know
            Happy day
            Cath

  4. thx 4 the service delivered. Many peoply would want 2 subscribe from dstv when they have not buy your dstv decorder but they don’t know the specific decorders 2 buy. Why don’t you put specifications of decorders if you are to buy from other outlets. Please look into it.

  5. I like this package very much so i also need this but how much can i purchase this here in Nigeria.? Pls i need a reply as soon as possible tank, keep up the good work u guys are doing well..

  6. need a multichoice decoder and smart card to receive MultiChoice Africa on Eutelsat W7 at 36.0°E. could any body help. please reply to my mail.

  7. You did not talk about the access fee for the pvr service. How much is that
    As there are only 6 hd channels are all the other channels sd channels on screen like the non pvr decoders or better? Since they are not hd.

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