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Watch free-to-air TV on this media streamer

The ViewQwest TV5, a new integrated TV set-top box and Android media player from local Internet service provider ViewQwest, comes with a built-in DVB-T2 tuner that can receive free-to-air HD digital channels.
The ViewQwest TV5, a new integrated TV set-top box and Android media player from local Internet service provider ViewQwest, comes with a built-in DVB-T2 tuner that can receive free-to-air HD digital channels.PHOTO: VIEWQWEST

The ViewQwest TV 5 (or VQTV5 for short) is a new Android-powered media streamer from local Internet service provider ViewQwest.

It is not just a standard media streamer. The VQTV5 comes with a built-in DVB-T2 digital tuner that can receive free-to-air HD digital channels from Mediacorp.

As Mediacorp will be ending analogue broadcasts by the end of the year, this feature will be handy for those still using an older television set (without a digital tuner), and are not subscribing to a pay-TV service from StarHub or Singtel. To sweeten the deal, ViewQwest is bundling an indoor antenna with the media streamer for an extra $10.

Compared with its predecessor, the new VQTV5 has better hardware, including twice the internal storage, and runs on a newer version of Android. It also has a new remote control that can be waved around like a wand to control the onscreen cursor. It is a slight upgrade on the previous trackpad- equipped remote. However, I found the new remote control frustrating to use - it requires some dexterity to move the cursor with the control to click on icons and buttons.

The fault, though, lies with the fact that the VQTV5 is essentially running the smartphone or tablet version of Android and, hence, is optimised for touchscreens. It is not running Android TV, which has an interface designed for TV sets and set-top boxes.

This also means that streaming video apps such as Netflix will not give one 4K quality. Netflix videos do not even appear to be of HD quality because manufacturers need to get their products certified by Netflix to support HD streaming.

You can, of course, play your own 4K content using the VQTV5. In my test, the VQTV5 ran a 4K video smoothly enough.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $188, $198 (with indoor antenna)

    INTERFACES: Ethernet, 4 x USB 2.0, HDMI 2.0

    STORAGE: 16GB

    WIRELESS: Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

To be fair, not all streaming services are as restrictive as Netflix. ViewQwest has helpfully preloaded more than 20 streaming apps on the VQTV5, though many of them are United States-based services that require the use of a VPN to bypass their geographic restrictions.

For ViewQwest subscribers, the VQTV5 plays an additional role. The media streamer comes with network monitoring tools to help with troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues in your home.

A possible usage scenario suggested by ViewQwest is that it can "advise users to switch Wi-Fi channels for improved connectivity after seeing that their current channel is congested".

ViewQwest says you can call the company to opt out of the network monitoring. However, I feel it could reassure users by letting them view the type of data being collected via an app or log.

•The VQTV5 has a useful digital tuner but, as a media streamer, more improvements are needed before it can even compete with true 4K media streamers such as the Nvidia Shield TV or the Roku Premiere+.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'Watch free-to-air TV on this media streamer'. Print Edition | Subscribe