ABS-CBN TVplus! review

ABS-CBN TVplus unboxing contents
ABS-CBN TVplus unboxing contents

Anyone who listens to Ted Failon’s morning program on DZMM “Failon Ngayon” should know about the ABS-CBN TVplus digibox, more commonly known as the mahiwagang black box. Since 2011 Ted has been giving away one of these gadgets to one lucky contestant at the end of the show.

Once attached to a TV set, the mahiwagang black box magically transforms your television, resulting in crystal-clear display for ABS-CBN … plus a few other stations.

For a one-time fee of only P2,500, the ABS-CBN TVplus might be a cheap alternative to cable television, and a replacement to the aerial antenna. If you are still trying to decide, read our full review and watch our videos before buying.

Demystifying the ABS-CBN TVplus

TV Patrol on ABS-CBN TVplus connected to a Samsung HD television
TV Patrol on ABS-CBN TVplus connected to a Samsung HD television

To explain the technology behind the mahiwagang black box, one must go back to June 2010, when the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) announced that the Philippines will be adopting the Japanese ISDB-T standard for digital television. A circular was then issued stating that the country’s broadcasters must discontinue their analog services by the transition deadline of 11:59PM on December 31, 2015.

In short, the country should have fully switched over from analog to digital terrestrial television (DTT) by January 1, 2016, rendering all analog and digital TV sets useless without an ISDB-T receiver.

This is where the ABS-CBN TVplus comes in. It is primarily a DTT receiver that supports the ISDB-T standard. ISDB-T is a standard pioneered by Japan. It is also being used in Brazil.

Digital terrestrial television broadcast standards around the world (source Wikipedia)
Digital terrestrial television broadcast standards around the world (source Wikipedia)

Other DTT standards include DVB-T, used primarily in Europe, ATSC (Advanced Television Standards Committee), used in North America and South Korea, and DTMB, used by China.

Analog vs digital television

Currently, the Philippines uses the NTSC analog standard to broadcast free TV in the country.

With DTT using the ISDB-T standard, broadcast companies get additional bandwidth to show multiple channels in their frequency, in addition to data transmission.

ISDB-T also TV stations to transmit full HD content for free, as well as send alert messages to mobile devices, including laptops and cellphones.

Finally, an Emergency Broadcast System allows the government to send send information to your ISDB-T device. Based on our research, it seems that in an emergency situation, the NTC will be able to interrupt regular programming and send out warning information, like an incoming earthquake.

Here is an actual footage showing the emergency broadcast system in action. Notice that the computer showed an alert right before the area got hit by an earthquake:

In summary, ISDB-T digital terrestrial television (DTT) provides the following 3 major features:

  • HDTV (high definition television) broadcast capability
  • Data broadcast capability
  • Emergency broadcast system

ABS-CBN TVplus unboxing

Older generations of the ABS-CBN TVplus come packaged a yellow box that looks like this:

ABS-CBN TVplus mahiwagang black box (first generation)
ABS-CBN TVplus mahiwagang black box (first generation)

Our unit came enclosed in a white box with red stripes that now carried the re-branded ABS-CBN TVplus logo plus the familiar slogan, “ang mahiwagang black box”.

ABS-CBN TVplus generation 2 (front)
ABS-CBN TVplus generation 2 (front)

The left side contains a list of contact numbers that you need to contact for support, while the back portion contains a comparison between analog television and ABS-CBN TVplus:

ABS-CBN TVplus generation 2 (side)
ABS-CBN TVplus generation 2 (side)
ABS-CBN TVplus generation 2 (back)
ABS-CBN TVplus generation 2 (back)

Inside the box of the ABS-CBN TVplus you will find the following items:

  • ABS-CBN TVplus digibox
  • Antenna
  • Antenna cable
  • Remote control
  • Batteries
  • AV Cable
  • Power adapter
  • User manual
  • ABS-CBN mobile prepaid sim card (free)
ABS-CBN TVplus unboxing contents
ABS-CBN TVplus unboxing contents

Check out our YouTube video for the actual unboxing of the ABS-CBN TVplus:

How to assemble the ABS-CBN TVplus

It is so easy to assemble the ABS-CBN TVplus. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Remove the rubber covers from the antenna cable
  2. Connect the antenna to the antenna cable
  3. Connect the antenna cable, AV cable, and power adapter to the digibox
  4. Connect the AV cable to your television set
  5. Connect the power adapter to an electrical outlet
  6. Switch on the digibox
ABS-CBN TVplus assembly guide
ABS-CBN TVplus assembly guide

Alternatively, you can watch our video below to see how it’s done.

Note that when you first connect your ABS-CBN TVplus you may be prompted to download some OTA (over-the-air) updates. This normally only takes a few minutes.

When first plugging in the ABS-CBN TVplus digibox you might be prompted to download some over-the-air (OTA) updates
When first plugging in the ABS-CBN TVplus digibox you might be prompted to download some over-the-air (OTA) updates

Just like your cellphone, digital television transmissions still need a way to reach your antenna, so make sure to place it somewhere near a window.

ABS-CBN TVplus channel list

The ABS-CBN TVplus should be capable of receiving digital broadcast transmission being aired in the Philippines. Currently this includes major television stations ABS-CBN and GMA. We discovered a few additional broadcast statiosn being run by BEAM (Broadcast Enterprises and Affiliated Media, Inc) and UNTV.

We were also able to receive TV5 broadcasts on the ABS-CBN TVplus, although it is inconsistent and disappears from time to time. We suspect that TV5 is only testing its DTT capabilities and it is not yet fully implemented.

Below is the complete list of channels that we were able to receive.

  1. ABS-CBN
  2. SPORTS+ACTION (premium channel)
  3. CINEMO! (premium channel)
  4. YEY! (premium channel)
  5. Knowledge Channel (premium channel)
  6. DZMM Teleradyo (premium channel)
  7. GMA SD1
  8. GMA News SD
  9. Service HD
  10. BEAM SD 1
  11. BEAM SD 2
  12. BEAM SD 3
  13. UNTV-1
  14. UNTV-2
  15. ADDTV
  16. RADYO5
  18. TV5 SD2
  19. TV5 SD
  20. TV5 SD3

The ABS-CBN TVplus is capable of decoding five additional ABS-CBN channels. These premium channels are exclusive to ABS-CBN TVplus, so other ISDB-T receivers will not be able to display them. These are: ABS-CBN Sports+Action, Cinemo, Yey!, Knowledge Channel, and DZMM Teleradyo.

ABS-CBN TVplus program guide
ABS-CBN TVplus program guide

One of the features that we really like about the ABS-CBN TVplus is the program guide. However, this is currently only available on ABS-CBN channels.

ABS-CBN TVplus display quality and compatibility

The ‘mahiwagang black box’ is compatible with any television set that is capable of receiving audio and video input via the standard 3-port RCA connector (2 audio, 1 video).

For our testing, we used the ABS-CBN TVplus with a Samsung digital HD TV and a Panasonic analog television set and it worked flawlessly.

TV5 digital broadcast on ABS-CBN TVplus connected to a Panasonic SD (non-HD) analog television via RCA A/V connection
TV5 digital broadcast on ABS-CBN TVplus connected to a Panasonic SD (non-HD) analog television via RCA A/V connection

We also tried connecting the ABS-CBN TVplus digibox to a full HD television like this 40-inch Samsung and the quality is just as good as cable TV. All broadcast signals are currently in SD though. There are no broadcasts in HD yet, although the ISDB-T compatible TVplus should be capable of displaying them.

ABS-CBN TVplus digibox looks crisp and sharp on a 40-inch samsung HD TV
ABS-CBN TVplus digibox looks crisp and sharp on a 40-inch samsung HD TV

The quality is consistently crystal clear with zero noise, similar to what you would get from a cable TV provider. As we previously stated, your digibox works like a mobile phone. The transmitters need a way to transmit signals to your DTT receiver in order to get a reception.

Also, you need to make sure that there are digital television transmissions in the area where you are located, just like cell sites. The broadcast stations are still in the process of rolling our digital transmission capabilities and there are still some areas that are not yet covered.

If you plug in your digibox and it does not find any channels, don’t worry. Try moving the antenna area somewhere close to a window and work from there. DTT signals are quite strong – we discovered that you do not need to move the antenna too far away from your digibox to get a clear signal.

3-port RCA A/V connector: yellow-video, red/white-audio
3-port RCA A/V connector: yellow-video, red/white-audio

We tested the TVplus in a room that normally cannot find any VHF / UHF channels, and managed to get all 15 channels, excluding TV5. We also tested the ABS-CBN TVplus in a building and managed to get all of the channels.

ABS-CBN TVplus price, and availability

Before purchasing an ABS-CBN TVplus digibox, make sure DTT coverage is already provided in your area. Digital television transmission is currently available in the following areas:

  • Metro Manila
  • Rizal
  • Cavite
  • Laguna
  • Bulacan
  • Pampanga
  • Nueva Ecija
  • Tarlac
  • Pangasinan
  • Benguet
  • Metro Cebu

The ABS-CBN TVplus costs a one-time fee of P2,500. There is no monthly recurring fee – you just have to pay 2,500 pesos for the unit and that’s it.

Currently, you can buy an ABS-CBN TVplus at electronic, appliance, and hardware stores, including:

  • ABS-CBN Store
  • ABS-CBNmobile Store
  • SM Appliance Centers
  • 2Go Express
  • Solid Service Center (Sony Authorized Service Channel)
  • Villman
  • Silicon Valley

The ABS-CBN TVplus is also available online at Lazada.

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  1. ask ko lang bat po nag gliglitch, nag lalag, at mahina ung signal pag sa abcn channel ako. mas malakas pa sagap ng gma kisa abs cbn mas smooth. kaya nga kami bumili ng tv plus eh para manood ng abs hindi gma. nueva ecija gapan city kami skl

  2. yung una kong bili ng tv plus kunti lang nasasagap kong stations. ginawa ko nilabas ko sa bintana ung antenna..dumami ang nasagap including GMA7 at GMA news TV..kaso walang tv5..kaya ang ginawa ko dinugtungan ko yung antenna ng TV plus bumili ako ng connector..nilagay ko ung may magnet na antenna sa bubong sa mataas na bahagi.hayun ang daming nasagap including TV5 at AksyonTV.. Salamat abs cbn TV plus ang linaw ng mga palabas . hehe

  3. bumili po ako ng abs cbn tv plus last week pero wala palang signal sa amin.. (Iligan City) area po . d namin na gamit . sana meron na dito ,. ask ko lang kong kailan kami ma bigyan ng signal dito. ty,

  4. Wala pa bang signal dito sa Compostela Valley, particularly in Montevista? Nakabili na ako ng ABS-CBN TV plus peru scan lang ako ng scan, walang channels ang lumalabas. Sana magkasignal na…

  5. Kakabili lang today sa Puregold, P1499. Di ko agad napansin, wala pala itong HDMI. At first, ABS-CBN at GMA lang ang local channels. Then I attached the magnetic antenna sa hagdan (steel) sa labas ng bahay, nakuha TV5, Aksyon TV, UNTV, etc. Still, no channel 9, IBC and NET25. Total 26 channels.

  6. I bought tvplus box last June this year and for the succeeding months I don’t see any problem with the signal. But as of last month until now, we cannot use the black box anymore because of this signal error (E44) which always appeared and even a single channel we cannot access. Thus, we decide to shift to an ordinary antenna. I tried to contact the number provided outside the box but I can’t reach the number. Please Abscbn TVplus support team, help me fix this issue. P2,500.00 is already a big amount of money and it was just wasted since we can’t make use of the item.

  7. we purchase of blackbox of abscbn this week pass sa bulacan kami. the only thing that i impress to the blackbox is really made clear the channel 2 in our location ganun din sa ibang channels. thanks for that the promises, but one thing i have noticed the volume of every channel is uneven.yung lang namn beside that nothing more. about the word "mahiwagang blackbox" i dont know what is it mean, i've nothing seens difference to the movies.