After some finagling and tinkering around with the PVR box, Huawei fiber-optic modem, and Cisco Wireless N router, lo and behold I got me some 1080i HD goodness as well as a pretty decent 6mbps broadband connection. Benchmarks were done with the SpeedTest app on my iPhone.
|6mbps ASTRO IPTV||6.1mbps||6.6mbps|
|5mbps TM UniFi||5.5mbps||8.9mbps|
|1mbps Streamyx ADSL||0.8mbps||0.3mbps|
Being the curious bastard that I am, I simply could not resist tinkering around with the Huawei modem and the Cisco E1000 router. While I could not access the Huawei mode's administrative console, I could easily do so with the router. The administrative password was deceptively simple, although it has been modified from the Cisco factory defaults. From there, I can see that the broadband connection runs on a PPPOE connection, the exact same authentication technique as Streamyx.
Unlike Telekom Malaysia's fiber-optic UniFi service, which requires some weird-ass custom wireless router in conjunction with their own custom fiber optic modem, I can easily swap out the Cisco E1000 router with one of my own, which was easily accomplished by calling the ASTRO IPTV customer service helpline at 03-95431543 to get the PPPOE password. (remember to add the @astroiptv suffix to the username though)
I had not bothered to test it out yet though, due to lack of time and the fact that I am still waiting for my Asus RT-N66U router to be delivered.
There was precious little to configure in the B.yond PVR box, apart from configuring how 4:3 standard definition channels are to be displayed, default audio and subtitle languges, and if the audio is to be output as PCM 2.0 or Dolby Digital 5.1. Leaving it as Dolby Digital 5.1 has zero effect to standard definition channels, but it would result in lack of sound in the high definition channels unless the box is connected to a receiver via HDMI. Since my Yamaha RX-V567 receiver is still in Penang, I am forced to leave it as PCM 2.0 for now.
Deeper in the box's menus is a PIN-protected Installation Settings menu, where one can configure if the video is to be output as 720p or 1080i. I experimented with both, and could not see any difference, so I left it as 1080i.
One surprise I discovered is that the HD versions of the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels had different content from their standard definition counterparts. AXN, Fox, and Star World shared the same content between both standard definition and high definition versions.
The PVR feature is simple to setup, and it can even be configured to always save a particular series, instead of only a single episode. I set it to save an episode of Man vs Food off TLC, and it was relatively seamless to play it off the hard drive this morning.
The storage indicator says that I still have 290 hours available, although I don't know if that is only for standard definition or HD content. The PVR is currently configured to save Ip Man off the Celestial HD channel later tonight, and I will check on it tomorrow morning to see how many hours it took off the hard drive.
I did not bother to open the PVR box to see what sort of hard drive is included, although their FAQ site indicates that it is only a 500GB drive. I doubt I'll ever see the need to add the external 320GB module.
I did not test the VOD services, as there wasn't anything there worth spending RM8 or RM15 on.
Overall video quality for the HD channels is pretty good, with the fiber-optic delivery method resulting in a slight but noticebale improvement over the default ASTRO B.yond satellite delivery. It would not be fair to compare it to Blu-ray content though, as it's obvious these channels are encoded at a much lower bitrate. I spent a few minutes surveying random episodes of 24, Despearate Housewives, and MasterChef USA that were being aired at the time, and the quality is passable at best.
Overall, whilst the broadband benchmarks are comparable with UniFi, I have to say this is a better deal since RM216/month (after tax) not only gets me a fiber-optic broadband service but also HD channels and PVR service on ASTRO B.yond, which is more economical to getting the traditional ASTRO service (HD or otherwise) along with a 5mbps UniFi subscription.