If you’re a StarHub TV subscriber and aren’t using the company’s HubStation or HubStation HD set-top box, chances are, you’re using the Cisco 4586DVB HD interactive set-top box. But after nearly four years since its release, the 4586DVB’s ageing internals don’t really cut it for next-gen TV and media services. StarHub clearly thinks so too, as the pay TV operator unveiled a new Samsung-made set-top box at a media event earlier today.
The new Samsung GX-SH530CF HD interactive set-top box retains all the features of the current 4586DVB, like the on-screen TV guide and info bar. It’s also compatible with StarHub’s Smart TV service (a separate S$4.28 subscription that allows you to record programs to a ‘Digital Video Storage Device’), though this feature will only be ready for the new set-top box in June. One such device that current subscribers will be familiar with is the 320GB Western Digital My Passport AV external hard drive that can be purchased at any of the StarHub Shops. That said, this isn't the only compatible drive, as StarHub is opening up the list of approved HDD models.
Of course, the GX-SH530CF does have some brand new features, such as global search and channel listings for on-demand channels and StarHub’s Catch-up TV. It also sports an integrated DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem that provides two-way interactivity. But the bigger story here is that it adopts Nagra Kudelski’s OpenTV 5 ‘connectware’ solution. In a nutshell, the modern standards used by this television and media convergence platform (e.g. HTML5, SVG) allows StarHub to realise more sophisticated services not possible on the old set-top box.
StarHub has also taken the opportunity to revamp the user interface. The menu system is obviously less cluttered now, and it’s easier to go from one function to another. For example, Catch-up TV now resides at the first level of the carousel-style main menu (on the older boxes, you’ve to go into the channel first). The TV guide is also available in both grid and list views, and the VOD (video on demand) function is only a couple of clicks away and loads way faster than before.
Connectivity-wise, the GX-SH530CF supports HDMI (a 1.5m HDMI cable is part of the standard issue) and component video interfaces, and S/PDIF for digital audio (composite connections are still around for older TVs, don't worry). The box’s monthly rental fee remains at S$6.42; if you need another box (say, for another room), there’s also a charge of S$8.56 on top of the rental of the two boxes (i.e., S$6.42 x 2 + S$8.56 = S$21.40). The new set-top box will be in stores next Tuesday, April 15. Existing users of the Cisco box, you can drop by StarHub to swap your box.
Interestingly, the GX-SH530CF is just the first of three new boxes that StarHub is going to roll out. The next box will be an all-in-one box that enables features like multi-room recording and multi-screen capability, and the third one is going to be IPTV-enabled. While no exact dates were given, these two other boxes (again, made by Samsung) are expected to arrive in the "near term".