When I was in school, there used to be a popular song by Bruce Springsteen, “57 channels (And Nothin’ On)”. While the song’s message was meant to be something else, what we picked up as pre-teens was, “Wow, they have 57 television channels.” Remember, this was the early ’90s, when satellite television had just entered India, and most of us had grown up watching Doordarshan’s terrestrial channels till then.
A lot has happened since. The number of channels available in India are in their hundreds; televisions have become ‘smart’ and have access to several streaming apps; and people watch on multiple screens. But what if you prefer the simplicity of watching all your content on your trusted old idiot box, without wanting to invest in a new TV or having to switch inputs?
If you’re of that ilk, you could check out the Tata Sky Binge+. If you’re already a Tata Sky subscriber, all that you need to do is upgrade your set-top box. Setting up the review unit was easy as all that it entailed was swapping out my Tata Sky+ HD box for the Binge+ one. I connected it to my TV and was soon greeted by Tata Sky Binge+ interface based on Android. It’s easy enough to get a hang of the menus, and if you’re a long-time Tata Sky user, navigating them is a cinch. But I wanted to find out what more it offered. And for that, I needed to check out the apps.
I switched to the SonyLIV app and binge-watched the Scam 1992 web series over a weekend. I also managed to catch a few soccer matches, and with a stable Internet connection, I had a good experience. On Disney+ Hotstar, I managed to watch quite a few documentaries, and some Disney shows. The Binge+ box comes with six months’ free access to 10 popular streaming apps (available for ₹299 a month after the first six months). It also comes with three months of free access to Amazon Prime. While I am already subscribed to many of the streaming channels on offer, for someone who’d like to watch OTT content on a CRT TV, this is godsend. The Tata Sky DTH connection works independent of the OTT subscription—but not vice versa; so, you may choose to only continue with only the DTH connection in case you don’t watch OTT content that often.
While the Binge+ box comes with a remote which looks similar to earlier remotes from Tata Sky, you can use Google Assistant voice search look for shows; you can also use your phone as a remote. The box has a microSD slot in case you want to expand its on-board storage. You can also stream videos from your mobile phone to the box. Plus, you can pair Bluetooth headsets with the box in case you’re binge-watching late into the night.
As for DTH channels, the box performed as well as my old Tata Sky box, especially when it came to high-definition content. The one thing I felt the Binge+ box lacks over my old Tata Sky+ HD box is the ability to record a programme. That function has possibly lost its utility in these days of binge-watching content on streaming apps. But some five-six years ago, this function kind of introduced me to binge-watching. How? Well, you could record a series on the internal hard disk and then watch it at one go. I certainly used to do that then.
The Binge+ box is probably not for you if you’re already subscribed to a dozen streaming apps and already watch them on multiple screens. But if you’re looking to give your old, ‘unsmart’ TV a new lease of life, and would much rather have a single connection to take care of to watch all your content on a single screen, this could the device you’re looking for. Just make sure you have a stable Internet connection.