StarHub TV+ Pro mini-review: does just enough and has a nice speaker

StarHub finds a way to add value through its set-top boxes.

by Justin Choo

If you’re a StarHub TV subscriber, chances are you either love Asian content, or you love football, or you need a glut of mother tongue dramas for parents and grandparents. It’s a broad, yet niche, spectrum, given how pervasive streaming services are these days. For Over-the-top (OTT) content providers like StarHub, the challenge is to provide their services along with internationally-recognisable streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, etc) in a meaningful way; i.e. to integrate them in a way that makes sense for their audiences.

Because their demographic is pretty wide, it’s always going to be difficult to have a one-size fits all solution that works for everyone–some prefer channel surfing, some prefer to search, or easily reached via social media. There has to be some sort of a compromise and the question is, did StarHub get the balance right?

The TV+ Pro is interesting as it’s essentially a Bluetooth speaker that incorporates all the apps and services you need that can be found on Google Play, along with StarHub’s OTT services. Other relevant benefits include Wi-Fi 6, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support.

The speaker array, designed by Bang & Olufsen, is pretty impressive. You might find it odd, but I like the rubber feet in particular simply because they aren’t generic feet and they contribute to the acoustics by reducing the rattling of the plastic housing. The sound is pretty well-rounded despite its diminutive size and you get a decent amount of bass. As such, they sound good in most small rooms, even at low volumes.

It certainly is a value add for those who have a modest TV setup or who need a TV for a small room, especially if you’re running basic TV speakers. That said, modern in-built TV speakers have improved tremendously so it may not be a significant upgrade. One advantage this has over the basic box is that you can hook this up to a desktop monitor and not have to mess with your existing computer setup to have decent audio. If you don’t want to use the speakers, you can always change the setting to use the speakers on your TV setup.

The setup is pretty straightforward and you effectively run everything off a single remote after that if you’re using StarHub Broadband. Otherwise, you need to switch back to the TV remote for free-to-air (FTA) channels; or you can use the meWatch app.

Understandably, it’s tough trying to integrate everything into a cohesive and intuitive menu and we’re told that it’s an ongoing process. Currently, there’s no unified search engine to search all programs across all platforms (streaming apps function as per usual) so at the very least, StarHub is thorough with the categories listed.

Despite the limitations, navigating the menus is pretty straightforward. The Home screen shows the aggregated content, while StarHub’s content is divided into VOD, cable, and football. Streaming services exist in their own little space, and StarHub will showcase some highlighted content as a convenient shortcut.

Unfortunately for those used to streaming services, one downside here is that scrolling through the menus isn’t as silky smooth, especially when the interface needs to repopulate the entries. This is something that happens every time the unit reboots, but is usually fine when the unit wakes from standby. In my book, this is should be top of StarHub’s list of things to improve.

The layout is good if you have the elderly in the house as they can casually browse until they see something they want (or add them to a watchlist if they want to). And if they need help with something, the designated youngling tech support staff within the family won’t be scratching his or her head either.

There are some minor quibbles; for example, Continue Watching list doesn’t include your selections from streaming services, but that’s understandable given the current level of integration. And another that StarHub needs to take look at: The Northman, for example, is shown in a few categories and it’s effectively free to view, but is shown as only available for rent under VOD.

As the TV+ Pro runs on Android TV, there’s the usual glut of apps you can install and use under the apps section, and you can set up a gaming controller for games as well.

Trying to put together a cohesive, universal platform for content is a nightmare and I can understand why the TV+ Pro is effectively a starting point for StarHub–the aspirations are clearly plastered there, though the outcome is far more modest. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because those who are used to StarHub services pretty much get the same thing, and for those who are used to streaming platforms exclusively, it doesn’t change the experience significantly once you are navigating within the app. As much as future promise is important, we have to judge by what’s available at present.

So, is it worth upgrading from the regular TV+ Box ($5.90 per month) to the TV+ Pro ($14.90 per month)? It’s a yes if you want a compact, study room setup; or if you must have Dolby Vision-supported hardware.

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