Review of Talfazat Box

September 3, 2009 by  


By Adil James, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Farmington–September 2–I recently had the opportunity to review the Talfazat (http://www.talfazat.com) television box supplied by Neulion–one of the advertisers we are proud to have in this newspaper.

Bottom line:  For $30 per month, this is a reliable way to get 24 channels of Arabic television into your home, even if for example you live in the middle of an apartment complex and have no ability to put out a satellite dish.

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I received the Talfazat box late last week and tested it extensively, testing the bandwidth usage of the box, testing the picture quality and resolution, refresh rate, testing the robustness of the system by intentionally bringing it to the breaking point–and the short answer after this testing is that the Talfazat box will not halt or buffer, despite mistreatment–despite some rumors to the contrary about other IPTV sources.

Talfazat in Arabic means “televisions,” more and more of which are displaying signals through means unimagined twenty years ago.  The newest means is IPTV.  Just as VOIP revolutionized and is revolutionizing home telephones, so too is IPTV in the beginning stages of revolutionizing home television.  One key difference is price.  Where VOIP providers charge a flat fee that is perhaps one fifth of a standard telephone monthly bill, IPTV providers are much closer in price to their satellite and cable competitors.

When you get the box, it is about the size of a thick hardback book, but lighter—see above.  It has a power switch on the front, and another power switch on the back.  The box has an HDMI out, Component out, S-Video out, it has at least two USB ports; it also comes with all the cables you need to connect to your TV and internet (except HDMI) and a remote. It comes with a component cable, a special adapter cable to plug component cables into your box, audio right-left channel cables, and more, plus a LAN/ethernet cable.

Setup

Setup is super easy, and the directions are also simple, colorful, and easy to follow.  Without cracking the directions book I was able to install the Talfazat box and begin watching television.

Channels—Live TV

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Note—Mr. Alyas Ali of Talfazat explained to me that in Canada more channels are available than in the US—Canadians have about 10 additional channels available.

The box supplies 24 continuous live stream channels, including Al Jazeera in English.  Most of the other live channels are state broadcasts from the Arab world, except for Al Jazeera Arabic.

Here are the channels I found.

Future TV Al Rai TV
Mehwar Al Aan TV
Sama Dubai Alsumaria TV
Infinity TV Bahrain TV
Arab Woman Channel Program Baghdadia
ZMTV Hannibal TV
Sudan TV Emirates
Tele Liban Palestine TV
Abu Dhabi Bahrain
Al Jazeera (Arabic) Al Jazeera (English)
Arabic News Al Alam
MICFM Panorama
   

The channels are numbered 2 thru 74, with of course many blank channels between 2 and 74.

I can’t comment on the actual programs because I neither speak Arabic nor am familiar with Arabic television.  But AlJazeera in English is interesting, with very high quality stories and not biased as some would have you believe.

There is a program guide that shows programming data about 28 hours in advance—you push a button on the remote and can see what’s currently on (showing six channels on the screen at a time).  You can see up to 28 hours in advance what will be on.

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Channel Quality

Unfortunately I am not in a position to review the quality of the live TV streams made available by Talfazat—I might understand a few words of Arabic but if I try to force myself to watch these Arabic channels I will probably fall asleep.  I did watch Al Jazeera in English—which for some of TMO’s readers might be by itself worth the price of admission to the Talfazat world.

Video On Demand

There is also video on demand, which gives you access to back episodes of perhaps 100 total different TV shows–some individual shows have as many as perhaps 50 different episodes available.

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There are 7 categories under “Video on Demand.”  They are:  Comedy, Drama, Lifestyle, Music, Religious, Talk Show, and Ramadan 2009.  Under each category a varying number of shows are listed (under Comedy there are perhaps 30 shows, under Religion or Ramadan there are only a few).  Once you select a show, you will see the available number of episodes for that show, which again varies.  For some shows perhaps 50 episodes are available.  For other shows, only a few episodes are available.  You select the episode you want with your remote, and after a few minutes it should begin to play.

A few episodes refuse to play, but if you have your heart set on any specific serial you should easily be able to find an episode that will work from that serial (pictured below see the show “La Youmal” with 9 available episodes to watch; Also pictured is a cartoon episode playing via video on demand).

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There are on the remote buttons for fast forward and rewind of video on demand shows, but they did not work well for me—being perhaps the only way I could (despite my tries) to make the Talfazat box seize up and start heavily buffering.  Therefore you will likely have to watch your shows start to finish unless Neulion fixes this feature—it is possible this was just my connection.

 

Settings

In addition to the live TV and video on demand features, there is also a “Settings” screen you can access from the home directory.  When you go there after a few moments you will see a readout of your network, showing ip addresses.

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Note—as far as I can see there is no benefit in tampering with the settings.

Spotlight

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Another screen at the Talfazat home page.  As yet this is unsupported by Talfazat, likely preserved for future use.

Performance Testing

Capture

Here is a screenshot of Tomato running on the wrt-54g after testing.  The test began with Youtube videos towards the left of the screen (where the three sharp peaks are at about 300 kbits per second about a quarter of the way from the left side of the screen), and ends on the right side of the screen. 

I have a DSL network connection that I tested before doing a quick bench test of the Talfazat box at an average speed of 2.22 Mbits per second downstream.  I came to this number by using Firefox’s Broadband Speed Test and Diagnostics add-on, running the download speed check five times and averaging the results.

From this starting point I then went to my Linksys wrt-54g router running Tomato and watched the bandwidth usage as I did tests of the Talfazat box and other computers on the network accessing Youtube, Boxee, and Veoh.

I turned on Youtube and began watching the District 9 original movie, and my bandwidth usage went to 322.27 kbits/sec, then up to about 410 kbits/sec, and hovered in that area.

I turned on Pandora via Boxee and listened to my music stations, where my bandwidth was again in the same region—about 327.15 kbits/sec.

Then I used Boxee to watch Youtube instead of watching Youtube directly via a browser, and my bandwidth was at about 375 kbits/sec.

Then the real testing began—I turned on CSI Miami via Boxee.  After some initial choppiness during the CBS advertisement, the CSI show began, clear as a bell but perhaps with a little bit of choppiness, bringing my bandwidth usage up to 556 kbits/sec.  It varied as high as 1054.69 kbits/sec.

Then I turned on the Talfazat box and tuned to Al Jazeera in English—bandwidth went up to 1510 kbits/sec (Boxee was still on); when I turned off Boxee my bandwidth went down to about 850 kbits/sec and stayed pretty steady at about that level.

I stress tested the Talfazat box by running online video at two other places on my network, using Boxee and Veoh to stream video from three sources at the same time–although the network traffic went up to over 2 Mbits per second, I never saw Talfazat buffer or hesitate.

Therefore Talfazat’s promises of not buffering, and of not requiring more than 1 Mbit / sec, appear completely justified.  It may be that the box needs a little bit of overhead on top of the 700 kbits/sec, so I wouldn’t recommend going below their recommended 1 Mbit / sec, yet in my test Talfazat seemed to want only 700 kbits/sec in order to work just fine, as usual.

Picture quality

Picture quality is slightly worse than a standard definition satellite signal’s image.

Things that could improve

While testing the box I disconnected it from the internet completely while watching a show—to see what would happen.  What happened was the screen went dark.  It would have been better if there had been a simple message—“are you sure you are connected to the internet?” or “lost internet connection.”

More about the box

So if you want affordable Arabic television or if you live in an  apartment and can’t access a spot from which you can put up a satellite dish, or if you just don’t want to pay the relatively exorbitant fees charged by Dish Network and DirectTV, support one of our favorite sponsors, Talfazat and try out their box.

Also consider Talfazat’s Subcontinent cousin, DesiTV—for Indian and Pakistani channels and movies.

 

I will be mailing my box back to Talfazat with heartfelt thanks for their having allowed me to review Neulion’s cutting edge product.  You should definitely consider Talfazat if you are looking for a new way to get Arabic TV.

 

Note:  Since writing the above review I was told by Alyas Ali of Talfazat that the box is also capable of replaying any show from the last 24 hours (as long as it is green in the EPG guide pictured above).  This is like an automated Tivo function, very nice.  I have not yet tested this function and intend to add to this review once I have had a chance to try it.

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Comments

27 Responses to “Review of Talfazat Box”

  1. Khaled on November 20th, 2009 12:21 am

    Could you please advise on whether the box is available in Europe? Also, what channels are available in the aforementioned continent? Unfortunately, the Talfazat website is somewhat confusing.

  2. TMO on November 20th, 2009 8:47 am

    Believe it’s only available in canada and usa right now.

  3. samer on March 15th, 2010 1:26 am

    the box is available in canada and us

    but worldwide you could watch tv online for 25 us dollars 36 chrannels

    yesterday i was unhappy because they had to remove mbc 1 and alarbeya channels – it says not under their control.

    but its great – going back in time is ok – somtimes when i go back in time to watch a show it cuts or when i fast forward it cuts – else wise its great

  4. fouad on April 5th, 2010 1:07 pm

    can you confirm NO MBC for USA ?

  5. Osama on May 1st, 2010 5:20 pm

    Talfazat people are not professional at all . Be aware of that.

    I subscribed with them for one month ONLY and after a year I received a letter from their collection agency for an amount due of $84. When I called them they told me ooh we had an error in our system and now the amount is 24.99. I asked them to provide any evidence but they did not provide. Their answer was simply because they are running online and that’s why they don’t send bills. Which is a weird answer. How can you trust a company which does not have a good billing system!

  6. Osa on May 3rd, 2010 2:04 am

    But we need MBC back..

  7. Adnan on May 17th, 2010 1:33 am

    I hesitated so much for writing this review until I had the service for about two months now. First of all to anyone who reads my comments, this is an honest straight forward review without any bias. Since I got the box I never had a straight 2 hours viewing without interruptions such us no response what so ever, sudden cut of broadcasting, jumping to guide page and getting a message telling me that I do not have access to this service, which I should because I paid for Gold package and I should get service to everything that is offered.

    Some times, I have to give up on getting connected and leave the box on for some period of time that ranges for few minutes up to 4 hours. In another wards, I have to alter my watching habits based on the box desire to work and connect me but not when I desire. No this points out to one of two problems: first, the service itself; giving my experience, I do not think this company has a large customer base that deplete or saturate their IP or bandwidth but again it could be an issue with slow response I have been experiencing. Second, it is the cheep setbox they provide; with company like this with little over a year of service you expect at least some advanced functionality and connectivity such as WIFI and wireless N connection, which this box lacks. They made the setup very easy and like the review above showed no special talent needed to setup the box but this ease makes the box temperamental and very difficult to figure out what is wrong.

    My frustration with this service when I tried to contact customer service to see what else can be done beside resetting the box and hope that it will connects whenever it desire. I called 4 times, each time I get a recored message telling me how to setup the great box repeating the same thing in English and Arabic several times then disconnect me. Then I resulted to emailing them via their website interface which also erroneous as it keeps asking me to provide a text message in the provided box; I did but apparently it does not see it or it was intentional made that way! So I sent the email directly from my email to their support email. It took over one week to reply to it and sensed some dissatisfaction from the person who wrote the email instructing me to look at their FAQ and settup on website. However, I admit some of my questions where there but the others were not. What really provoked my anger is when the email mentioned calling the customer support hotline -I am not sure if they are aware of what the hotline’s auto respond does after playing the setup message on and on before disconnecting.

    One of my question was: why you do not have MBC and Alarabia programs as you promised on your website? they claimed that they lost contract with these channels and that it requires some rights to stream them. Ok, I can understand that but the problem is that I did not even see one of these programs not once after I have signed up for the service. This means that service had been disconnected for a while even before I sign up so why advertise for it and brag about it if you are not going to provided it? To me this is lying to customer and deceiving; dishonesty and improper business practice to intrigue customers with certain features and then bring about unacceptable excuses. The reason they provided that it is mentioned of the contract that this can change without notice. In another words, they hook you up with binding contract then change the service and you are bonded to what ever they provide you.

    So it has been two hours now since I tried to watch some news tonight but the box is not responding the internet is 100% connected as my TV and this laptop are both connected to the same router as the setbox and both are working perfictly but I can not see any TV. They instruct you on the website to reset the box and make sure internet is connected. So I went through this excersise about 4 times now but the box does not want to connect even though the orange led flicker signalling connection to their website but still have a black screen and my TV does not sense a signal from the box. I tried several times to go the maim page or even the setup page but no benefit of doing so it just does not want to respond. Based on previous experience with this situation, if I leave the box and come back maybe tomorrow it may connect just fine but for now I am not watching no Aljazeera.

    Speaking of channels, they claim providing the best Arabic programming. Except for the 2 Aljazeera channels and newly added Aldunia the rest of the channels are more of local channels and focused on the region where it comes from. For example, and with all due respect to my Iraqi brothers, there are about 5 Iraqi channels that I do not care to watch as I have trouble understand them or the Moroccan or the Tunisian and Sudan channel, all of which are not premier channels.

    I am truly disappointed with this service and programming. The funny think that my wife for the past 2.5 years watch the Chinese KyLin TV from the same provider, Neulione but never had to call customer service or had a complain about the service. So 2.5 years ago this company provided a wireless n setbox with great features and smooth watching experience to very large number of premium channels at price of $16 not to mention the tremendously huge selection of programs similar like the on demand programs offered here with large selection of children programs that you may never see from Talfazat.

    It is lengthy comment and perhaps one may say this is one person experience. I could not disagree but you can try for your own, it will cost you 6 months of service including fees to ship the cheep box that is not worth it. I had to tel it all so anyone judges after reading this review. I was so excited to get the service when I read the above review and feel I have an obligation to counter that with my own experience so that other won’t get excited like me.

    By the way as I end this review, my setbox still has not responded although the green lite is one and every now and then when the home button on the remote is pressed the orange light flickers for a while and stop without a signal on the TV. Good lock with your service if you sign up … oh, I just tested my Internet speed using Talfazat test and surpassed their requirements but … again … no service.

  8. Samer on August 9th, 2010 4:34 pm

    I had Talfazat for about 8 months by now and I must say it is very good service for what you pay. I have excellent-quality picture with no interruption or disconnection where you can’t say this is internet-based broadcast. However, for some channels, occasionally, the audio might precede the video or vice versa (not a big deal to me). You can go back in time and watch programming at certain times, which sounds to be good. However, don’t be surprised if it suddenly cuts off or if it is not available at that time (A big con to me). I have really high speed internet at home (10Mbps) so I am not sure if that affects what I am getting in terms of picture quality. Overall, for $20/month, I would give Talfazat 9/10.

  9. Politico on August 10th, 2010 11:11 am

    The service keeps getting worse. Now several channels have stopped broadcasting through Talfazat (mbc, Rotana, Alresalah) whereas others battle constant interruptions.

    Frankly, the quality and quantity of channels available does not justify the price.

  10. TMO on August 11th, 2010 10:57 am

    We learned from a Talfazat competitor that many stations broadcast through Talfazat are actually being broadcast without permission–the competitor said that the stations are asking for help in preventing Talfazat from broadcasting their channels.

  11. Politico on August 16th, 2010 12:05 pm

    Can somebody please recommend an alternative to Talfazat? Slowly, but surely, one by one of the channels offered on their service is being shut off.

    What other companies offer a comparable service through the internet?

  12. TMO on August 16th, 2010 4:27 pm

    There is an alternative that I believe is going to be much better than Talfazat, with much better picture quality, and possibly even cheaper–I am going to write a review before I link to them though. I called them today and intend to call again tomorrow to get my review box. (adil)

  13. Politico on August 16th, 2010 6:10 pm

    Please look into their policy if the channels can be received without the setbox and if they can be viewed outside the US.

    Thanks.

  14. Politico on August 26th, 2010 10:37 pm

    Has Talfazat gone bust? None of their channels is available? What kind of a rip of is this???

  15. Ted on October 13th, 2010 8:08 am

    Hello,
    Is there any review on the alternative?
    Thanks

  16. TMO on October 13th, 2010 12:41 pm

    We have been begging the alternative people for a review box and they haven’t sent me one. We are not posting a review or alternative til they send us a review box. They could advertise with us. They could send us a review box.

  17. TMO on October 13th, 2010 5:02 pm

    They just now promised us a review box. One or two weeks? I intend to review it immediately on getting it.

  18. Ted on October 13th, 2010 10:01 pm

    It’s really appreciated!

  19. Ted on November 5th, 2010 10:38 am

    Any news on the alternative?

  20. TMO on November 7th, 2010 1:50 pm

    lots of promises but no review box. i’m going to try once more then i will just let you know whatever i know with the caveat that i am pretty disappointed with my contact with them so far.

  21. TMO on November 18th, 2010 4:03 pm

    okay, box in hand, review on the way. :)

  22. TMO on November 22nd, 2010 10:53 am

    okay review is online. View it here: http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?p=7401

  23. Ted on November 24th, 2010 11:12 am

    Thanks a lot .. .

  24. samer on March 1st, 2011 10:05 pm

    No channel working. Anybody else having the same problem?

  25. al on August 7th, 2013 9:01 pm

    worst customer service, dont give them your visa card never, i have been calling them for more then a week, forget about it, they charged me in year over $700,
    and try to reach them one the phone good luck if they answer you .

  26. adam on February 5th, 2014 10:29 am

    Good luck if you want to cancel, they keep charging your credit card, and won’t answer your emails. I have to contact my bank to stop future charges. DON’T go with these guys.

  27. rasha on June 18th, 2014 7:41 pm

    I think it is fake company.there are not have costumer services only answer machine. I try to send email for all e mails in Web site it is faild and not work.i try to call the rebeller but all the number wrong or not availabl. They should charge me one time 126 and every month 31$.but when i check my account they will charge my account every month 126 $.and know i can’t cancel or refund.because i dont find any one to speaking with them

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