MultiChoice recently launched the Explora Ultra – the latest decoder for its DStv satellite broadcasting service.
This new set-top box adds a number of useful features – including built-in wireless connectivity for connecting to the Internet and support for third-party streaming apps.
With these types of features, DStv is bringing the decoder closer to something like an Android TV box, although at a higher price point.
Many current DStv subscribers will wonder whether they should upgrade to this new decoder, particularly those that don’t have a smart TV or set-top box which allows access to third-party streaming services like Netflix.
Complicating this choice even further is the fact that many smart TV boxes that run Android also support the DStv streaming app, previously known as DStv Now.
This means they are capable of delivering all the content available on its channels via the Internet.
The major difference between the Explora Ultra and an Android TV box is the former’s capability to broadcast DStv’s content via satellite rather than Internet, while also providing access to features like PVR, BoxOffice, and CatchUp.
Using the online features of the Ultra will still require an Internet connection, and most likely an uncapped package would be ideal.
This begs the question – do those users who already have uncapped Internet get better value out of an Explora Ultra or an Android TV box?
The best Android TV boxes
While there are numerous cheap smart boxes on the market, an Android TV box truly capable of competing with the Explora Ultra will have to meet two particular requirements.
The first is Google certification, which ensures that Netflix, Showmax, DStv Now, and other Google Play Store apps will run without any issues.
The second is 4K streaming support, as this is what the Explora Ultra is capable of delivering.
Two popular Android TV boxes in South Africa are the Xiaomi Mi Box S and the Ematic 4K.
The table below compares the hardware and features available on the Explora Ultra and these two popular TV boxes.
|Explora Ultra||Mi Box S||Ematic 4K TV box|
|Core capabilities and hardware|
|DStv satellite broadcasting||Yes||No||No|
|DStv streaming (previously DStv Now)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Pause/Rewind/Fast Forward channels||Yes||No||No|
|Sound||Dolby Atmos||Dolby DTS||Dolby Digital|
|Ports||1 x USB, 1 x HDMI||1 x USB, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 3.5mm audio jack||2 x USB, 1 x HDMI, 1 x microSD card reader|
|Connectivity||Ethernet, Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Known supported apps|
|Amazon Prime Video||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Google Play Store||No||Yes||Yes|
|Google Assistant Voice Search||No||Yes||Yes|
It appears from the comparison that an Android TV box offers a wealth of additional features not included in the new Explora Ultra’s functionality.
These include Bluetooth connectivity, more ports, and the Google Play Store, which hosts a bunch of apps that will likely not be available on the Explora Ultra.
There is an alternative option for those who want to enjoy both DStv satellite broadcasting and all its features while also getting the best of a streaming box.
If you do not yet own a decoder which offers DStv’s features, you can buy an Explora 3 for R999 together with one of these smart TV boxes for a total price less than the Explora Ultra.