[HANDS-ON] Altech’s NODE: Another Netflix-for-South-Africa rival

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Altech’s NODE was launched earlier today, and it’s what it calls “the complete entertainment and home control experience”. It’s a set-top box which plugs in straight to your television, and give you access to interactive content and video on demand such as films and televisions series.

The best way to think of NODE is as DStv without the broadcast channels, or Times’ VIDI streaming service without the internet. Or a Smart TV without the TV. Requests for shows and movies are sent over the internet, but the actual shows themselves are delivered over a satellite connection. The NODE uses the same satellite as DStv, so you can have one dish and two decoders if you wish.

The concept of NODE is to provide a home entertainment setup so that you can rent 50 of the latest blockbuster movies for a small fee each, while the television shows are paid for through the cost of the subscription service. The entire video library has over 300 movies and shows.

Node box

The menu system is fairly easy to navigate and the instructions on the television screen is pretty clear. At the Home screen, you will be presented with options to view movies, television shows, sport, business update or YouTube.

How much does it cost?

Clicking on one of them with the remote, will take you to that section to view the content. Once a film has been navigated to, you have the option of watching the trailer for more information, adding it to your favourites to watch later, or rent it straight away. Latest releases are R25, but older titles are about R15. Subscriptions cost R299/month and there’s a one-off R3 499 fee for the NODE box.

Want to know how that compares to DStv, Netflix and VIDI? Click here.

Node menu

Films can also be browsed and sorted by genre, such as comedy, horror, drama or romance. Doing so will only show films that are relevant to that genre in a box-style layout, making it easy to see the offerings at a glance. Relating to movies, you can set the preferences for video quality, like 1080p, the display format and ratio, and the same for the audio.

The televisions shows section works on a similar interface, but the biggest difference between the two are that the TV shows are free to watch – which is covered by your subscription fee.

While there is no genre search for shows, they can be manually search for, and this is where the NODE remote come in. While the topside of the remote has all the usual buttons associated with a decoder, the underside houses a full alphabet of buttons to make typing in your search a lot easier.

Altech Node remote

Simply type in your request, hit enter and NODE will bring up what you searches for – provided that it is in the library. Speaking of the library, there are films for every taste and age category, and all films will display an FBP rating on their information page.

If you don’t what to use the remote in the traditional means of clicking through all the options to get to a specific point, you can press the ‘Mouse’ button, and it will bring up a mouse pointer which is controlled by moving the remote – like gestured-based controls.

If you are worried that children might watch films that are not appropriate to them, you can set up a form of parental control, so that only those who are authorised to view age-related content can actually do so.

To be able to bring the NODE magic to your lounge, you will need a fairly internet connection as all the content is being streamed to you, but luckily NODE can make use of a 3G connection, LAN cable or connect to your home’s WiFi. Speaking of internet, it does come with a built-in web browser, so you can still surf from your couch, as well as apps to access social media, emails and news.

Home

Total home control

But films and shows isn’t the only thing that you can do with NODE. Coming in the very near future, a payment function on the home page will allow you to access and pay your traffic fines, buy pre-paid electricity or buy and send airtime and data.

There is also an option to access the Smart Home app, which will give you access to all your connected home automation and surveillance devices – if you have them connected, or course.

External storage devices can also be connected to NODE, so you will be able to still access your own films and files – while viewing them through it. With the help of a dedicated telephone, VoIP over WiFi calls can also be made through NODE, and you will get a separate number for that.

Node Remote 2

Altech’s NODE is a good alternative for those who don’t mind renting a small selection of films at a time, and the television shows should keep anyone entertained for a while. The menus are easy to navigate, and there are no real issues in the operation.

But… there are other options available that would make more economical sense right now.

We have compiled a comparison of Altech’s NODE to Dstv’s BoxOffice, the newest digital renting service VIDI and arguably the king of online content Netflix.

Click here to see what each one offers and how it stacks up against the rest.

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.

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