The DStv Explora has been getting a lot of attention lately, with many people asking us what we thought about Multichoice’s new digital satellite receiver. We’ve already posted a full video review – but if you’d prefer some light reading, then this review has you covered.
The Explora boasts much-improved hardware compared to its predecessors. Most notable is the addition of a 2TB hard drive in place of the 500GB unit that was found in the old HD PVR, and the new found space allows for more live TV to be recorded. It also has space for many more hours of content on both the DStv Catch Up and Box Office services. As for the rest of the internals, there’s an increase in RAM from 256MB to 1GB, and an increase in the processor speed from 1.1GHz to 3GHz which all contribute to the drastically improved speed in the interface.
All of the ports on the back of the Explora are colour-coded, so if someone gets in there and unplugs everything they can easily reattach everything and be up and running without needing to break out the installation manual. Thankfully, for those who are looking to enjoy the content on an HDTV, an HDMI cable is included in the box – a nice touch from the folks at Multichoice.
There are also USB ports on the back of the Explora to allow for future expansion of the hardware’s capabilities, including the possibility of a 3G or WiFi connection being added. At the moment, though, they don’t do anything – so there go any hopes of using the Explora to play movies off an external drive. Multichoice says that this is a big no-no, since it cannot guarantee the source or legitimacy of such content, which could annoy its partners at film and TV studios abroad.
The Explora runs on a Linux kernel that has been customised by Multichoice from the ground up. Navigating menus is simple and, most importantly, responsive. This is thanks to the major increase in processing power. Flipping between the different menus for Box Office, Catch Up and the hub is near instantaneous – transitions happen almost imperceptibly quickly from when you hit the button to seeing the menu.
Content is separated into various sections, including user-recorded content, DStv Catch Up, and Box Office. We found it very intuitive and simple to find the content that we were looking for. Movies and TV series are represented by a DVD cover-style image, mirroring the type of interface that you would see from video-on-demand services overseas like Netflix.
DStv has clearly spent some time investigating what kind of interface works best, and its interface engineers have done a good job of putting together something that’ll work on modern TVs. Its old grey-and-blue interface was still set in the stone age, back when people used CRT displays that had less room information. Now, it’s both pretty and functional. And, as mentioned, very fast.
The Explora is a significant improvement over the current equipment from Multichoice. It also makes the buying decision a simple one.
If you’re an existing DStv subscriber all you have to do is ask yourself two questions.
1) Do you often run out of recording space on your current PVR decoder?
2) Do you often get frustrated with your decoder being slow?
If you answered yes to either of these two questions then the Explora will make your life better. However, if interface performance doesn’t bother you, and you’re happy with watching content as it shows up, rather than relying on recording or on-demand features, it might be difficult to justify that R2 499 pricetag.