Internet is really the next big source of entertainment and as we see it, DTH and cable network providers are in jeopardy. Consumers have partially, or in some cases completely moved to online streaming services to watch content at their convenience. Video-on-demand services (VOD) like Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video and even YouTube, have not only taken over mobiles, tablets and PCs, but TVs as well. In fact, a number of indigenous players have also started offering their own streaming platform offering a wide range of regional content as well.
Now the best way to enjoy them is on a large screen at the convenience of your home, preferably on a smart TV. But what if you already have a serious high-quality TV but no access to apps? Well, until now, the best option that anyone would recommend was getting an Amazon Fire TV Stick. You get access to most of the popular streaming apps and services and the interface makes it easy to use. Plus it isn’t very expensive. However, there is just one problem. There is no app store available on the device so you can’t go beyond the pre-installed apps. The next best option is to get the Apple TV, which works really great and with the upcoming Apple TV+ service, it should be a solid option in our opinion. Then there Android TV boxes which are offered by a number of brands, with the most popular ones being the Nvidia Shield TV and Xiaomi’s Mi Box.
One of the newest offerings is by ACT Fibernet. The third-largest wired broadband service provider in India announced the ACT Stream TV 4K back in April stepping into the content delivery segment with its own Android TV box. Now, this is one of the most unique offerings in the country as it comes with the latest Android TV software based on 9.0 Pie so you get access to all the apps offered on the platform. With that, the box also offers live television channels and will continue to add more in due time. This essentially means that the company is aiming to completely take over your television needs.
Now the device itself is pretty simple. It's a small box offering two USB ports, an HDMI port, an AV output, and even an SD card slot to expand the storage. The device runs on a HiSilicon 3798M V200 chipset with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. There is built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth while the USB ports allow connectivity to a hard disk, USB drives, joysticks, and cameras. Along with that, you get HDR as well as Dolby Audio support.
The box is easy to hook up to your TV and once you go through the setup process, you will be presented with a slightly tweaked version of Android TV. The company has added some additions to the user interface like adding sections on the top for your home screen, apps and games, live tv and special offers. There is a carousel underneath scrolling through different movies and shows that you might be interested in. Then you have all your apps and the company has partnered with all the big names including Netflix, Hotstar, Sony Liv, Hooq, Zee5, YouTube, Sun NxT and more. The box also offers over 100 Free to air TV channels which are soon to expand to paid channels in the future. The bundled remote comes with dedicated Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Store and Live TV ‘hot buttons’ for quick access. And since it is an Android TV, you get access to the Google Assistant as well as thousands of apps from the Play Store. The interface works seamlessly and for a limited period, the company is offering one month Zee5 and two months HOOQ subscription and access to premium Live TV channels on a complimentary basis until 31st of December 2019.
The box is quite versatile as you can easily connect to a controller to play games as well. I hooked up a Logitech F310 gamepad using the USB port on the box and was able to play Asphalt 8 and Real Racing 3 with ease. The box supports most of the popular controllers including the Xbox and PlayStation controllers. You can also plug in a hard drive or a thumb drive to play media on your TV through the box.
ACT is also offering a unique proposition called the single click subscription. Customers can subscribe to the various streaming partners and channels that have tied up with the company and pay for their subscription directly as part of their monthly broadband bill. The ACT Stream TV 4K box can be purchased for Rs 4,499, and as a special launch offer the device will be available at a refundable deposit of Rs 1,500 on select plans. The ACT Stream TV 4K box is available for existing customers and new customers on select plans. You can check them out on ACT's official website.
After using the device for a good month, I felt that it is pretty much flawless. You get all of your popular video streaming apps including regional ones as well as some live TV channels, which are expected to expand in the future. Then you have the ability to extend the usability by either playing local media off external storage and even do gaming to some extent. The UI is stable and responsive and considering it is running on the latest version, you get peace of mind as well. The biggest and probably the only reason why one might not go for this box is the broadband bundling. If you don’t have an ACT broadband connection, then you can’t use get your hands on this streaming box. The company has configured the box in a way that you can only operate it once and only if it is connected to an ACT connection. While the company has extensive coverage, the service is yet to be made available in my area.