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My Experience with Tata Sky+ HD

Few months back when Tata Sky+ HD was launched I thought it is a steal at Rs 3999. I was too fast in making this remark by taking account of my past experience with Tata Sky+ and Tata Sky and Sun HD. The box arrived containing Tata Sky+ HD PVR, remote and one HDMI cable. The moment I opened the box I realized that the build quality is nowhere near the solid SKY+ box and Tata saved money in not providing any key buttons in the box (which is fine) and without remote you cannot do anything with the box. But the real shocker was even though Tata advertised a lot about Dolby 7.1 sound by some strange reasons they decided not to give Dolby through HDMI and to get Dolby digital sound you need another optical / digital coaxial cable which is not provided. Even Sun HD gives dolby through HDMI. And Tata has limited stereo audio through HDMI.

The other issue is related to stretching of 4:3 SD pictures. Tata offers two options stretch and pillar box. Stretch option just stretches 4:3 to 16:9 which is almost useless unless your eyes distort it in the opposite way. Pillar box is converting it to 14:9 and filling either side with black which is not uniform on all the channels and again not acceptable. Your TV will have many more ways to do it and I personally like wide zoom where the center portion is untouched and the edges are stretched to fill 16:9 screen which is more acceptable since the most of the action happens in the center of the screen. They should have provided a third option for 4:3, either normal (where your TV can be set to Wide Zoom) or wide zoom in the box itself. So at the end of the day you are left with a not so happy solution. Many people may not be aware of these kind of issues, sometime ignorance is bliss.

I did the connection as follows:

Equipment list
  1. STB: Tata SKY + HD box
  2. AVR: Denon 2310
  3. TV: Sony KDL-52NX800
  4. Remote: Logitech Harmony 900 (Activity based touch control remote)
Connected the STB to Denon 2310 HDMI and programed two options in my Logitech Harmony 900 one with AVR on and one with AVR in standby mode.

Option 1: AVR ON (primarily of HD viewing)

Configured AVR for SKY+ video through HDMI and route the digital audio through Optical port which decodes the dolby audio for HD channels and put on HDMI control ON so that the volume control is always in sync with AVR irrespective of using Logitech Harmony / TV remote / AVR remote.

Option 2: AVR on standby (primarily for SD viewing with AMP off to save power)

Configured AVR to switch the standby port to HDMI 2 where Tata sky+ HD is connected so that video and audio will be directly reaches TV through HDMI from AVR. Programmed Harmony to Put on TV and STB (AVR off) and set aspect ratio to Zoom / Wide zoom while ON, so SD channels looks ok in the screen. Set aspect ratio back to FULL while switching OFF the AVR so that it does to change for other sources (other HDMI inputs). STB 4:3 video is set to Pillar Box.

Everything is working fine as I wanted even though it is work around solution and needed a little bit of programming with Harmony.

The good thing is that there is no HDMI/ HDCP handshaking issues like SUN HD had at the time of its launch with professional AVRs. SUN sorted it out within a couple of months. Even I had to upgrade my Denon 2310 firmware (old fashioned way through RS232 port)!

I expect when you set PCM in SKY+ HD box, AVR codec is used to decode Dolby and when you set Dolby in STB you STB uses its own codec. In reality STB PCM setting is just stereo and Dolby setting expects AVR to decode!! So you need to set HD+ STB to Dolby to get your AVR to decode Dolby, this is strange.

You may find these issues on video quality while using large screens only. I have Sun HD and Tata Sky+ too from its launch so the comparisons are from my own experience.