Spb TV Review
Spb TV is a recently released application by Spb Software--a well-done IPTV viewer for tuning in publicly available worldwide channels. This app will work for the global traveler on the go, looking for a quick fix of TV news, sports, and variety shows, but will be a bit of a letdown for anyone thinking to replace a real TV service.
Install and Setup
Install like any cab file in WinMo (tap it in file explorer). The cab file is 4-5M in size. I dl’d the cab file (get it here) to my iPAQ, and used both wifi and Active Sync to watch TV broadcasts over the Internet. The help seemed to indicate that Spb is trying to advertise the app and service to network/cable/TV service providers as well as consumers (maybe to attract more content). The client application options allow you to set TV screen orientation and turn on/off channels (but not add channels).
During play, you can easily lower or raise the stream quality based on your connection speed. I was impressed with how well Spb TV dealt with low bandwidth settings. The stream was a bit jerky at times, but still remarkably well rendered at the lower quality setting. Audio was also of decent quality but lags between audio and video were noted. This should be tested in a variety of network environments (via the trial dl above), and will vary markedly based on your connection performance. Remember, if your network connection is extremely slow, you are likely to have problems.
The main screen presents a static preview image indicating what is playing on each channel, as you select channel icons at the bottom of the screen (the icons slide left and right). The preview image will update every few seconds to indicate what is being broadcasted for the channel selected. Tapping the image will open the player to that channel. If a TV guide is included for a channel it will appear in the info/guide section just under the player. Tapping the info/guide area, will bring up a weekly view of the scheduled upcoming broadcasts (see right above), and there is even a feature to add Outlook calendar reminders for programs. There are currently more than 70 subscription free channels, but I was disappointed not to find BBC (except in Arabic), which is often a favorite channel of mine, especially when travelling. The player will only play in landscape mode (right or left handed). It might be a worthy addition to add an optional preview mode in the main display as well. It’s hard to get a feel for a program by only watching images.
The player is pretty simple (as TV should be), but includes a few nifty features. Once you have a channel playing, you can bring up more player options by single-tapping on the screen. A see-through menu appears over the channel player. The menu options allow you to (left-right) activate PIP mode; change the playback quality (which requires the channel to have to be reloaded); set sound and screen brightness; and exit channel. The PIP brings up the channel list much like in the main navigation screen, but with the preview images moved to the corner.
The current channel will continue playing back while you browse other TV channels from the list. The quality settings include Normal (about 275Kbps) and Low (about 200 kbps), and I did note a little blockier resolution at the lower quality, but still quite viewable.
Another excellent, stable application from Spb, but I was a little disappointed with the channel list. I thought that maybe Spb was actually providing the encoded streams along with a subscription service, allowing you to add channels (like say HBO). The app is simply providing you a list a freely available Internet channels. Spb did crash a few times, but only during connections through Active Sync. This is not a preferable method of connecting, of course, so probably not that important to most mobile users. I did not note any options to restrict connections or use a preferred method (for instance, wi-fi instead of your cell-network), so you might want to ensure your connection method when using Spb TV to keep your cost down. Tapping the player screen while viewing a channel will display a status bar (with battery/time) that indicates the connection icon. I strongly recommend that you get the trial and try this one out thoroughly before buying it, in case you experience connection problems. Spb TV is $14.95, and a trial is also available here.