Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Swisscom TV 2.0

Swisscom TV 20

Marcus and Agata now have fully functioning and ultra high resolution Television including many HD  British Television, channels, all legally installed, in our hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland.

A shaky Start
In July 2015 we ordered Swisscom TV 20.  It was basically a disaster.

Although heavily advertised, Swisscom failed to mention that since May 2015 a software bug had resulted in all HD channels  (normally broadcast at 1920 x 1080 pixels) being downscaled to 1280 x 720 pixel resolution.

The resulting picture was fuzzy and blurred.

This was noted in the Swisscom German language forum, but not for example in the English language Swisscom forum or on any public Swisscom TV20 website (where I had done my checking prior to selecting the TV20  'upgrade')

So we had to backout our connection and revert to TV 1.0

In August 2015, we received a message that the software bug was fixed, so we have re-upgraded.  Indeed the resolution is now back to excellent  (the same as TV 1.0, i.e. HD quality on many UK channels), but TV 20 has some advantages over its predecessor,  hence this review.

The Hardware


- Staggering Picture Quality
- A decent range of English speaking BBC/ ITV/ other channels
- Android unit under the covers
- OS is software updated via the Internet
- Practically unlimited programme recording (done at host)
- Replay of programmes past, by upto 7 days
- Live Pause
- Can watch via an app on Android, iOS or Windows Mobile

It Includes features we'll never use
- buying films from the store ( +chargeable) 
- specialist live sports event coverage ( +chargeable)

Configuration via the Internet
You may configure your TV and Radio channel lists on the Internet, which is easier than scrolling thru a long list on the remote control. I have 659 TV channels to choose from.  That is a long list!

Access via the Internet
Even without any Swisscom subscription, any person in Switzerland can use  TV online here  (requires Silverlight plugin).

This might explain why all Swiss residents need to pay the yearly Billag TV tax if they only have an Internet connection

If you have a TV20 subscription however the list of channels is much larger, and you will be required to logon using your Swisscom userid to view any of the expanded range of channels.

Also whilst in Switzerland Marcus can watch TV directly on his Andoid phone and Agata on her iPhone. (I think outside of Switzerland the apps do not work since they see that your source IP is non suisse).

Points to Note

- There is no standard IR connection meaning your SmartTV remote can't control the TV 20 unit.  You need to use the white, Swisscom remote.  This talks Bluetooth (I think) to the TV 20 unit.

- Optionally you can buy a special USB receiver but according to the blurb this only works with a Logitech Harmony control.  Previously with a SmartTV, you told the TV to control a Swisscom TV1 box, allowing the SmartTV to be the single remote control.  Now at best it seems a) Buy the Swisscom receiver,  b) buy a Logitech Harmony at 100-300 CHF !!  c) Program the Harmony to speak to both your TV20 box and your SmartTV. Hmm.

- Swisscom has 3 levels of TV package: Light, Basic and Plus.  Unfortunately Basic (sufficient for most people) is only available in conjunction with a basic Internet package.

This means most people have to select the more expensive Plus package and a 100 Mbit/sec of faster package

- The TV and Internet package is going to be 114CHF per month or higher  (900 GBP per year + )

- The new system records content at the host side and streams it to you on demand.  Your set top box merely streams that host stored content to your TV via its output HDMI socket.

- The resolution of the output HDMI socket is 1920 x 1080 and this is also the broadcast resolution of HD channels. The quality is absolutely stunning

The Big summary
It was a hard decision to make, because if it was not for the stunning picture quality we would have dropped Swisscom TV and Swisscom Internet altogether.  Because it's an expensive solution.  And selecting this means we'll have to cut corners in other domains to balance out our costs.

But since we are using an upscaling 4K TV screen it seemed idiotic to feed it with a non HD  (i.e. 1280 x720 pel) poor signal, from the likes of Zatoo or other Internet TV sources like BBC iPlayer.

So we went for Swisscom, and the TV 20 package gives us a vast range of English speaking channels, and in practise unlimited recording/playback and time rewind replay.