Getting digital TV channels on the move

Toggle, MediaCorp’s app for accessing free-to-air TV and some of its video-on-demand content (above), gives access to four channels – Channel 5, Channel 8, Channel U and Channel NewsAsia.
Toggle, MediaCorp’s app for accessing free-to-air TV and some of its video-on-demand content (above), gives access to four channels – Channel 5, Channel 8, Channel U and Channel NewsAsia.PHOTOS: SCREENSHOT/TOGGLE
Toggle, MediaCorp’s app for accessing free-to-air TV and some of its video-on-demand content, gives access to four channels – Channel 5, Channel 8, Channel U and Channel NewsAsia (above).
Toggle, MediaCorp’s app for accessing free-to-air TV and some of its video-on-demand content, gives access to four channels – Channel 5, Channel 8, Channel U and Channel NewsAsia (above).
The Vodoke Fin2 is a USB dongle with a TV tuner that you can plug into a laptop.
The Vodoke Fin2 is a USB dongle with a TV tuner that you can plug into a laptop.PHOTO: VODOKE
InstantTV records free-to-air content on its servers for users to view later, with a lag of only a few seconds. It has access to all content and all seven free-to-air channels (above).
InstantTV records free-to-air content on its servers for users to view later, with a lag of only a few seconds. It has access to all content and all seven free-to-air channels (above).PHOTO: SCREENSHOT/INSTANTTV

With a USB dongle and an antenna, you can watch TV on a laptop outdoors

While the Media Development Authority (MDA) remains focused mainly on extending digital TV coverage to homes, the signals will spill over eventually into office and commercial buildings, and even to the streets.

Instead of a TV tuner box, you can buy a TV tuner housed in a USB stick which you can plug directly into any free USB port of your PC. The other end of the dongle has a socket to connect to your personal TV antenna. With these USB dongles, you can watch TV on your laptop in your car while waiting to pick up your family, or even on a picnic at the beach.

A USB dongle already in the market is the Vodoke Fin2 USB dongle (US$29 at www.playstaq.com) that I tested on my laptop.

It was easy to set up. I plugged it into a spare USB port on my laptop and connected a tiny antenna to the other end of the dongle. After that, I simply downloaded and installed the software drivers and launched the Playstaq player to start watching TV.


InstantTV records free-to-air content (above) on its servers for users to view later, with a lag of only a few seconds. It has access to all content and all seven free-to-air channels. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT/INSTANTTV

I could access the seven-day electronic programming guide, switch subtitles and also change the aspect ratio of the display to fit nicely on my 16:9 screen.

Toggle is not a full replacement for digital TV because not all the content on these channels is available on it. It is particularly poor on Channel 5, where little of the content aside from that generated locally, can be viewed via the Toggle app.

With Wi-Fi access or a generous mobile data bundle, you can also view free-to-air channels on your smartphone or tablet via two mobile apps - Toggle and InstantTV.

Toggle is MediaCorp's official app for accessing free-to-air TV and some of its video-on-demand content. It gives you access to four such channels - Channel 5, Channel 8, Channel U and Channel NewsAsia - on the fly, but not to the remaining three channels.

It is not a full replacement for digital TV because not all the content on these channels is available on Toggle. It is particularly poor on Channel 5, where little of the content, aside from that generated locally, can be viewed via the Toggle app. The great thing about Toggle, however, is that you can access the Catch-up TV content to view Singapore dramas and documentaries on demand.

With a lag of only a few seconds, InstantTV is as good as watching the channels live. It has access to all content and all seven free-to-air channels.

InstantTV is a much better app for accessing free-to-air channels. Technically, it is not streaming the content live but recording the content on its servers for users to view later, much like a personal video recording service on the cloud.

But with a lag of only a few seconds, it is as good as watching the channels live. InstantTV has access to all content and all seven free- to-air channels.

I have been using it for some time and find the streaming very smooth, even when I am relying on my 3G or 4G mobile connection.

You can also use it to record the entire channel so you don't have to worry about missing anything. Unlike Toggle, InstantTV does not offer video-on-demand content, so it is best used for watching "almost live" TV.

It also offers access to about 20 international channels, including RTM TV1 and TV2, Arirang, NHK World and Kompas TV.

With a lag of only a few seconds, InstantTV is as good as watching the channels live. It has access to all content and all seven free-to-air channels.

Toggle is not a full replacement for digital TV because not all the content on these channels is available on it. It is particularly poor on Channel 5, where little of the content aside from that generated locally, can be viewed via the Toggle app.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'Getting digital TV channels on the move'. Print Edition | Subscribe