Astro B.yond enhanced search tool

Breezy: With Astro’s new Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), the content appears as an overlay on top of the channel you’re currently watching.

Breezy: With Astro’s new Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), the content appears as an overlay on top of the channel you’re currently watching.

Astro’s new multilingual Electronic Programme Guide is a welcome change.

SOME of us channel-surf at random, trusting in the Force to bring us to that elusive beast – a channel that can satisfy everyone in the family, without the patriarch / matriarch / person paying the bill having to stomp on the floor and insist that “This stays on BPL / Hindi soap operas / WWE RAW (/ what-have-you)!”

Others prefer to more systematically search for the programmes they like, or may be interested in.

Whichever approach you prefer, if you’re an Astro B.yond customer then you now have a handy “gadget” in the search toolbox – the new multilingual Electronic Programme Guide (EPG).

Astro began rolling out the service – available in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil – in phases from Feb 24 (leave your decoder on standby overnight to get the upgrade) and hopes to cover all its customers by the end of April.

The four language options pretty much speak for themselves; users can now search for programmes in the language of their choice. Additionally, the new EPG offers an improved personal video recorder (PVR) experience and easier shopping for Video On Demand (VOD) programming (so, keep an eye on that credit card bill).

All sorted out

The new EPG is neatly sorted out for convenient access. The top level menu consists of:

> TV Guide – channel and programme listings.

> MyTV – shows your library of recorded and downloaded (VOD) shows, bookings you’ve made, the Download Manager, your purchase history and a search function

> Video On Demand – basically a catalogue for stuff you can buy either piecemeal or via subscription, catch-up TV, and a search function. Browsing the store is cool, and tempting, but my willpower remains strong (at least until my credit card balance is ... healthy again).

> Preferences – where you choose stuff like language, parental controls, a screensaver, information banner (the window that pops up to tell you about a programme when you press the Info button) duration, edit your favourite channels (my household just has one fave – Zee Variasi, for Mum’s daily dose), etc.

> Settings – lets you do the more advanced tinkering with your network connection, display resolution, sound, and such. Me, I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.

> Help – in case you didn’t let sleeping dogs lie.

> Search – if you’re not sure what this does, Google it. Seriously though, the search function in the new EPG gives you a good range of parameters to define when you’re searching for programmes. For example, just for channel type, you can search: All / HD, Malay, Chinese, Indian/Tamil, Sports, Movies, Entertainment, News, Education, Kids, Documentaries, Lifestyle, Radio, and Favourites.

It’s the little differences

Those familiar with the old Astro TV guide will notice that the new EPG menus scroll horizontally, mostly left to right, although the VOD catalogue scrolls in a “circle” – when you reach the end, it starts again from the first item without you having to go back.

The most noticeable difference is that the current channel you’re watching no longer appears as a small window in the corner of the guide. Instead, the information you’re browsing fills almost the whole screen as a near-opaque layer. You can still hear what’s going on but most of the image will be covered by the guide.

This is probably what I missed most with the new EPG, and I went through the Settings menu – being careful not to tread on napping Rottweilers – but couldn’t find any option to bring back that tiny picture.

Alas, the old programme guide will be totally gone once you’ve upgraded to the new EPG and you can’t ever get it back, according to the FAQ provided by Astro. Still, the improvements do outweigh this one loss. And don’t worry, anything you’ve recorded/downloaded previously will not be affected by upgrading to the new EPG.

It’s so ... neat

Ever since upgrading to Astro IPTV and getting PVR functionality in the process, I’ve been like a kid in a candy store – who am I kidding, I’ve been like myself in a candy store.

As a result, my list of recorded shows looked rather messy. I’d have three episodes of Diners, Drive-ins And Dives, then an episode of Serangoon Road, an episode of Vikings, WWE RAW, more DDD, another Serangoon Road ... in short, I’d have to do a $#%@load of scrolling to find the stuff I was in the mood to watch at a given time.

Not any more. For me, the best part of the new EPG is the improved PVR section, under MyTV / MyLibrary. Series are now conveniently sorted into Series Link “folders” so all my Serangoon Road, DDD, Vikings and WWE RAW recordings are tucked away neatly here, shortening the list and reducing scrolling time.

Series Link also shows the next scheduled recording, and it helps as a reminder to NOT switch off the system then. You can also sort recorded shows in alphabetical order, arrange series by season and episode, thereby eliminating rojak lists like what I had previously.

One odd thing: a standalone movie that I recorded off Celestial Movies, Master Of Kung Fu, showed up in a Series Link tab. Guess this could happen when several different shows have similar titles – something for the EPG folks to look into, I guess.

Programme information is also improved, giving you a quick summary of not just the synopsis but icons to denote aspect ratio, rating, sound, HD/SD, recording locked (to prevent accidental deletion) and so on.

While this is just scratching the surface of the new features, the experience has been a satisfying – and importantly, significantly enhanced – one overall.

For more info on the EPG, check out Ch 100 or visit