So it’s been about seven months since I started using Multimax to connect to the Internet here in North Cyprus. On the whole, I’ve been very pleased with the service and have used it a fair bit for watching TV. This has mainly come from a mix of streamed content from iPlayer, Netflix and FilmOn, to name a few.
So far, I’ve only read about other people’s experiences with Multimax’s own TV streaming solution, NTV, but I still see questions about the system asked regularly on our forums, so I decided to give it the once over for myself. Multimax were very eager for me to try it out and share my thoughts…but could this little box of tricks live up to all their enthusiasm?
What does it do?
The NTV box and subscriptions offers a number of services that are worth considering:
- • Stream live TV from 67 premium channels (no live bingo here)
- • Watch movies on demand from a library of 174 titles
- • Catch-up TV from 25 channels up to 10 days old
- • Download content to keep or share via USB
What’s in the box?
The rather anonymous looking white box, opens to reveal what I might describe as ‘plain vanilla’ with no additional fanfare. You get a two pin 5volt power supply, a pamphlet with setup instructions, and a very full featured looking remote control plus the small black box housing the brains of the system. You also get a couple of AA batteries from ‘New Ultra’ (now where did I put those spare Duracells?).
The diminutive 5” by 3.5” set top box feels solid and well made (in Ukraine) with a glossy black front and side bezel, something that will fit in tidily with most TV setups at home. The matte black top is adorned with the words ‘MAG 250’, the name of the hardware unit itself. The
manufactures of the hardware aimed the unit at Internet providers as an end user box for streaming TV via the Internet. However, the hardware suggests that the unit will also be capable of much more, such as playing media from external USB devices like hard drives and memory sticks. More on that later.
The main box comes ready to connect with most people’s home equipment and features an HDMI output as well as a 3.5mm analogue audio jack to connect to stereo speakers. There’s also a digital optical SPDIF connector for those home cinema buffs who might need one. The back panel is rounded out with a USB port (in addition to one on the front) plus an Ethernet jack for connecting the device to your home network. This unit doesn’t include wireless connectivity as it makes troubleshooting for Multimax much more difficult.
Getting up and running…
I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m a bit of a gadget fan. On one hand, this means I’ve got plenty to compare the NTV with, but on the other it means that I probably find it simpler than most to get these toys up and running. However, Multimax offers two options for getting the service up and running.
The first is ‘self-install’ which means you connect the device to your TV by yourself and run through a provided pamphlet to get everything going. This basically means registering at the NTV website, typing in a few numbers and clicking a few boxes. Not terribly taxing and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. The other option is to elect for a full installation. For a one off fee of 50 euros, an engineer will come out to your home and get everything setup perfectly. If you’re a real technophobe who could mess up an abacus, this might be the best option for you.
The NTV offering comes with a customised menu system from Multimax. While perhaps not as intuitive as say, an Apple TV, it’s simple and responsive enough for everyday use. Within a few minutes, my techno-phobic wife was happily watching her favorite channels and had no complaints at all. A big box ticked there then.
The scrolling category window is easy to navigate and the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) updates about as quickly as that of a Sky TV box i.e fast enough to not get annoying. It also shows you a preview of what’s on each channel while listing the next three hours’ worth of upcoming shows in a sort of ‘now and next’ fashion.
Critically, changing channels causes only a very brief delay of about 1.5 seconds while the channel gets ready to stream. This is commendable as most Internet based TV services take considerably longer. For example, switching from BBC 1 to BBC 2 is much faster with NTV than if you were using BBC’s own iPlayer website.
Left unattended, the box will display screen saver after about 10 minutes. Useful if you’ve got an older plasma screen but I’d rather it just disabled the display altogether, or went into some kind of sleep mode that uses less power. While we’re on the subject of power, the NTV uses just 7.25 watts in usage and was barely warm to the touch. Sadly, putting the device in standby simply disables the HDMI output rather than putting the box into some sort of low-power mode. To be fair, it’s not a huge amount of leccy and means that the NTV comes out of ‘standby’ in less than 1 second – a favourable alternative to the box’s 1m:45sec start-up time from cold (2:45 if you have an external hard drive attached).
Picture Quality and Performance…
The image kicked out by the NTV box’s single HDMI port is generally very good. Some channels look better than others, but then low bandwidth channels look a bit blocky or pixelated even when watched on Sky or Virgin Media – so we can’t blame Multimax if the original source isn’t great to begin with. Better quality channels like BBC look great, about the same as you’d expect from Sky TV in standard definition. I quickly configured the box to output a full HD 1080p image without any problems and there are plenty of other settings for those of you with older sets.
While we’re on that subject, it’s worth noting that NTV doesn’t currently have any HD content at all, which is due to the massive bandwidth required to stream it. Although the SD picture is good, it is worth bearing in mind if you’re expecting Sky HD quality or have a super duper 65” Samsung 4k super turbo mega plus+ Pro TV.
In terms of performance, my time with the NTV was very enjoyable. Channels were always available and the picture quality didn’t vary at all like they can sometimes with BBC iPlayer or Sky Go. I regularly left the TV on in the background and didn’t notice any breakup or delay in the picture. Fortunately, I live close to my base station and subscribe to Multimax’s standard wireless package – which they claim is more than enough to run NTV. This is a fact I’d agree with this as even when I tried to break the service with a torrent downloading and 2 TV channels streaming at the same time, neither of them showed problems at all. Of course, your mileage may vary.
The main menu is split into nine sections. When starting up from cold, the first option you’re shown is the ‘TV’ menu.
This includes most common tv show categories, or you can simply view all of the 67 channels available. Curiously, there are some categories which have no channels within them at all, such as ‘adult’ (no this wasn’t the first category I checked). Why not just omit them altogether? Another point to note is that the number of channels offered changes fairly regularly…and goes up, rather than down like it does with a Sky TV system in the TRNC.
Other features of the box brought differing experiences. Without going into each one in great detail, here’s what I noticed in general:
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Multimax have done a commendable job of bringing streaming TV to its customers in a simple to use service. Whilst the subscription pricing may seem to be at the premium end of the scale for watching live TV, there is currently no other service that comes close to NTV in terms of selection and ease of use. Once you factor in included channels such as Sky Movies and Sky Sports, the Movieclub service and catch up tv features, you have a very attractive deal. The movies and sport would cost about £50/month alone in the UK with Sky. You’re also able to watch the same channel selection via the NTV website. Which could be great if someone in the house wants to watch a different channel say, on their laptop.
Others have tried and failed to capture the potentially lucrative market of English speaking expats who just want to watch a bit of television without fuss.
Once you remember that the service is still advancing, with channels being added at no extra charge and that it doesn’t require any satellite dish – then we have ourselves a real winner. If you’re looking for a good variety of channels with an experience similar to watching satellite tv at home, Multimax NTV is by far and away the best service available right now.
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Many thanks to Kemal Basat at Multimax for providing the review unit.
For signup and more info, visit: Multimax NTV