Sungale Kula TV (IPTV)

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Product(s): Sungale Kula TV
Provided By:
Sungale
Price: ~$183.08 USD at Buy.com at time of publishing


Introduction: 

Today we've got a very interesting (and somewhat unique) product on the old BCCHardware test bench, the new Sungale Kula TV media player. This handy little device is designed to stream live TV over Wi-Fi into the palm of your hand with 400+ TV Channels from all over the world for free (no subscription required).

The idea behind the Kula TV is great, everyone would love to tell the old cable company to take a hike and replace them with a free alternative such as the Kula TV. In our review we will test the Kula TV and see if it can live up to what it claims to be able to do.

In addition to the ability to stream live TV, the Kula TV can also play some of your favorite video files or music files from its 2GB internal memory or through the empty microSD card slot. The Kula TV also has a touchscreen on its 4.3" TFT LCD screen.

Let's take a closer look to see what the Kula TV is all about.

 

Closer Look :

Box Front
Sungale Kula TV - Packaging (Front)
Box Specs
Sungale Kula TV - Packaging (Side)

Packaging is pretty straight-forward, everything is packed neatly into the box that you will need to get the Kula TV up and running.

Box Features
Sungale Kula TV - Packaging (Side)
Kula Front
Sungale Kula TV - Front View


The Kula TV features a 4.3 TFT LCD screen (pictured above, right). The Kula TV features a touchscreen for easy file and feature navigation.

Kula Back
Sungale Kula TV - Back View
Top Buttons
Sungale Kula TV - Top Buttons

The size of the Kula TV is small enough to easily slide into a pocket or into a briefcase or bag and the antennae on the top folds down for easily storage. As you can see in the pictures above, the Kula TV comes with 3 physical buttons on the top of the unit, you've got your power button and volume buttons, the rest of the controls are all done using the touchscreen.

Side View
Sungale Kula TV - Side View
Bundle
Sungale Kula TV - Accessories

As you can see in the picture above (right), the Kula TV comes with everything you need to get started. Nothing too out of the ordinary in regards to accessories.

So there you have it, that's what the Kula TV from Sungale looks like, let's move onto the next sections to see how it works.

 

 

Sungale Kula TV Specifications

Kula Front

All specifications taken from sungale.com

Kula TV, unveiled at the 2010 CES, the highly anticipated first Internet TV or called IP TV, is released at Buy.com for the North America market. The Kula TV allows customers to access more than 500 channels online TV programs from all over the world, and the channels are organized by country, language and topics like News, Sports, Shopping etc. Linking to internet is very easy, customers do not need to bother about IP setting, the only thing to do is inputting the password of your wireless router according the prompt appeared on the screen, then, you can tap on the screen to enjoy the programs. Do you want to watch the TVs from UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Mexico, China, Japan, Vietnam, Philippine, Korea? Yes, Kula TV is the only device you can find in the market.
 
 
 
Kula TV is a revolutionary product, it can be expected the IP TV will become vigorous in a short period with the introduction of Google TV by end of 2010.

In addition to the hundreds world TVs, Kula TV is equipped a 2GB internal memory for your to store and enjoy your favorite photos, music and video. A Micro SD card slot also is equipped for more storage.


Features:

  • Receive more than 500 channels around world
  • Browse channels by languages, countries and subjects such as sports, news, music……
  • Smooth display
  • Perfect image quality
  • Favorite function to bookmark channels
  • Different channel packages to best meet your needs
  • Connects to any WI-FI network
  • Hi-resolution 4.3” TFT LCD screen
  • Pocket size for you to enjoy programs everywhere
  • Play photos, music and movies in your local memory
  • Built-in memory to store your favorite photos, music and movies
  • Built-in battery supports up to 4 hours display
  • Built-in speakers
  • Earphone jack to enjoy the hi-fi sound
  • USB connection to your PC for easy file transfers
  • SD/MMC card slot to extend memory
  • Battery volume indicator
  • Clock / Calendar / Alarm


Specifications:

  • Screen dimension: 4.3inch
  • Resolution: 480x272pixels
  • Audio file format: WMA, WAV, AAC, OGG
  • Video file format: AVI, MPEG4, DIVX, XVID, RM/RMVB, DAT, WMV, 3GP, FLV
  • Photo file format: JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG
  • Memory card supports: SD/MMC
  • USB connection: USB device
  • Power supply: AC 100--240V DC 5V, 1A

 

Accessories:

  • User manual
  • Quick start guide
  • AC adapter
  • USB cable
  • Earphone

 

 

Sungale Kula TV Testing:

In this section of our review we will test out the Kula TV media player and see if it performs like advertised.

options .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Main Screen
clock .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Clock

As you can see in the picture above (left), this is the main screen that comes up on the Kula TV when you turn it on and you've got the option to watch TV, access media files on internal storage, view the built-in clock (pictured right) or change system settings. Everything is laid out nicely and you can easily figure it out without any troubles.

categories .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Kula TV Screen
choices .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Channel Selection


The picture quality of the channels varies, some are very good quality, some not so good quality, and some just won't load at all (pictured below). We found on a high-speed internet connection the buffering to be pretty minimal on most stations, however when we tested this unit of a "lower-speed" shared internet connection the buffering on most stations was pretty bad and it seemed like you would watch 30 seconds of TV only to have it buffer for 30 seconds before resuming play.

 

failed .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Failed to load channel.....

 

On average I would say about 3 in 10 channels that I tried failed to connect, unfortunately due to the free nature of the programming you can't really expect every channel to load every time, if the free feed is down you are just out of luck I guess.

Overall the Kula TV feature worked decently, most stations loaded up and worked with minimal buffering. The overall quality of the video was decent, some channels definitely are better than others though. The quality of the stations is a bit varied, you get most of the major networks (NBC, CBS, Fox, etc.) in the United States (you get a local affiliate, commercials included) and you also get a bunch of "interesting" channels such as the City of San Diego Council live video feed and others such as Scuba TV.

music .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Music Playback
pics .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Picture Playback


The Sungale Kula TV features the ability to play music and pictures that are stored on the internal memory or the microSD card slot. Both the music and picture feature of the Kula TV worked well and as you can see in both pictures above you've got a set of controls on the right hand side of the screen which makes it easy to skip songs or pictures or pause playback.

video .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Media Playback
natgeo .jpg
Sungale Kula TV - Media Playback

A big beef I had with the Kula TV was in regards to playing video files that you've put into internal memory or onto a microSD card. The lack of controls for playing video makes this feature pretty useless in my opinion. The lack of a fast forward, rewind, or even a resume function makes watching a longer video clip pretty painful. While playing a movie if the touchscreen is touched the movie playback stops immediately and takes you back to the media selection screen, and if you want to watch your movie you then have to start from the beginning again (no resume, no fast forward). I'm sure this could be resolved with a firmware/software update, but until its resolved the video function of the Kula TV is pretty much pointless unless you have the time to watch the clip from beginning to end with no interruptions.

If I had to assign a score to the video playback ability of the Sungale Kula TV, I would score it a 1/10 due to the complete lack of any type of media control.

 

 

Sungale Kula TV Final Thoughts:

Now the idea behind the Kula TV is great, everyone would love to tell the old cable company to take a hike and replace them with a free alternative such as the Kula TV. Unfortunately in our testing the Kula TV fell a bit short in our opinion and we were left feeling a little disappointed with this product. I thought that the features that the Kula TV includes were great in theory, however the implementation of some of the features (local media player for example) need a little more work.

One of the greatest features of the Kula TV is the fact that it's free and you don't have to pay any monthly subscription fees, however with that being said, one of the worst features of the Kula TV is that the programming is free and in the end you get what you pay for in regards to programming. For English programming you get stations such as CNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and other "public" channels (all of the networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX all feature feeds from local affiliates, complete with commercials of course). For the English programming there are about 150+ channels listed, out of the 150 or so I'd say around 25% are public access or city council feeds which chances are good are of no interest to the majority of users. The Kula TV features channels from all around the world, so if you wanted to watch TV in other languages that were not available in your country, the Kula TV might just be the device you have been looking for.


The content selection of the Kula TV is really a no-win scenario for the folks at Sungale. They decided to go with "free" programming which means that you aren't going to get any premium channels and have to settle with "free" channels which some can be a bit on the lame side. If they would have gone with a subscription-based model and charged a monthly fee in order to provide higher quality channels people would have probably complained loudly and it probably would have been expensive if you wanted "premium" stations. In the end I think going with the free channels was probably the better of the two decisions, however you also have to remember that it's all free content when looking through the channel list (or when a channel fails to load).

Another thing to take into consideration with the Kula TV is that you are going to need a decent internet connection, we tried the Kula TV on a lower end wireless connection and had trouble streaming most of the stations smoothly. On a high speed wireless connection we had better success acquiring stations and the quality of most was reasonable. On a high speed connection we didn't find any buffering issues, but on the slower connection buffering was a pretty regular occurrence and made it tough to watch most channels (which would make this pretty tough to use on most shared public Wi-Fi connections unless you are getting some decent bandwidth).

One of the biggest beefs I have with the Kula TV is in regards to playing video files that you've put into internal memory or onto a microSD card. The lack of controls for playing video makes this feature pretty useless in my opinion. The lack of a fast forward, rewind, or even a resume function makes watching a longer video clip pretty painful. While playing a movie if the touchscreen is touched the movie playback stops immediately and takes you back to the media selection screen and if you want to watch your movie you then have to start from the beginning again (no resume, no fast forward). I'm sure this could be resolved with a firmware/software update, but until it's resolved the video function of the Kula TV is pretty much pointless unless you have the time to watch the clip from beginning to end with no interruptions.


The concept behind the Kula TV is a great one, however the implementation of some of these features is a bit lacking and that greatly impacted the final score that we have awarded to the Kula TV from Sungale. The Kula TV unit that we tested wasn't all bad, the screen resolution was decent and nice and bright, the menu layout was easy to figure out, and the built-in speaker was loud enough to hear for a fair distance away. Some of the other features such as the video playback from local storage need to be improved before I could confidently recommend this product. The Kula TV is a very new product and I think with a few fixes and feature additions (like maybe the ability to stream media to this unit for a computer on the same network?) the Kula TV could be a great gadget and I look forward to seeing what the next revisions of this product will look like.

 

Pros:

  • Free Programming (No Monthly Subscription Fees)
  • Easy to Use
  • Screen is nice and bright
  • Decent built-in speaker

Cons:

  • Free Programming (You get what you pay for in regards to quality stations)
  • Playing Video Files is painful and lacks features such as fast forward or resume
  • Touchscreen is a bit unresponsive (you'll sometimes find yourself having to hit a button a couple times)
  • Scrolling with the touchscreen is a bit buggy, addition of an "up" and "down" button would be great when scanning stations or media files

 

 BCCRating

 

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