Acanac/Zazeen's internet/iptv/voip venture by IFK
Now I know most of you already know my history with Acanac several years ago and at some point many of you have seen the reviews on them over the years. I actually only got to test drive their new product offerings because my girlfriend is an actual customer with them. If she was not I would have never had been exposed to their product and service and to be honest, I probably would never signed up for 3 reasons…
1. My previous experience with them being number 1…Let’s be honest I hated Acanac so much that I was not afraid to make that clear on RFD or any place I visited online.
2. The amount of negative reviews online being number 2… As a new potential customer a simple search on them on Google could be enough to deter anyone.
3. Not enough information or video or media coverage on them being number 3… I mean I have seen ads on TTC and in my local paper… but other than that has anyone actually seen or experienced their product?
There is no demos in any retail stores and barely anything on them on the internet aside from a few still pictures and short clips from users who tested IPTV in beta. It’s like the only way you would ever know about them is if you knew someone who had service with them or if you read a negative review online about them and there are plenty of those.
So has anything changed in the last 7 years? Acanac has evolved into something much bigger since I was a paying customer. There was a few Mergers and Acquisitions with some other companies over the years and I think it was good for them because when I was around… they had a lot of growing pains and I mean a lot. So 7 years later after merging and acquiring CIA, 3web and to the new ownership with Distributel … they had a lot to learn and fast and I think putting all the egos aside on DSLR and partnering with the right companies made them smarter. I cannot remember who it was in their company who said it but it was something “like together we are stronger” and it certainly does shine now.
Today they have several re-sellers and ISP partners and also have official CLEC status and what started as a simple hosting company grew into DSL ISP to CLEC to CABLE ISP and now IPTV broadcast provider as well as HOME PHONE and VOIP provider. Pretty impressive right? So let’s see how the experience and conversation with them is now 7 years later… on with the review!
Costs and Pricing …
The product and hardware I am covering in this review and their costs are the following…
Entone Kamai 400 Series STB and Universal remote @ 140.00 one time
SmartRG 505n VDSL2 Gateway Modem @ 99.00 one time + shipping @ 9.95 one time
Acanac/Zazeen “Not so Basic” IPTV channel package @ 29.95 first 3 months and 49.95/month thereafter
Acanac/Zazeen VDSL2 25/10 @ 39.95/month + dry loop fee @ 8.00/month + activation @ 49.95 one time
Now I know what you’re thinking… damn those are some high startup costs. But they are well worth it and I will explain why in the main thread. If you cannot buy the hardware right away Acanac/Zazeen does also offer the option to rent the STB and modem for 7.95 per month each. Also due to the recent rulings IPTV broadcast products must be bundled with their provider… on other words if you want Acanac/Zazeen IPTV you have to bundle their Internet with it. The good news is it’s cheaper than other guys and UNLIMITED!
Hardware and Technical details…
Now before we start my GF has VDSL2 at her place so she had to get the SmartRG gateway modem. You are absolutely able to purchase and BYOD with this provider but for ease of use and setup she opted to purchase directly from the ISP for pre-configured out of the box plug and play. Also Acanac/Zazeen also provide Cable internet and their IPTV product can work on Cable as well. VDSL2 was only chosen because where my GF resides it is a Bell exclusive building only. So no matter where you live if you can get either or you are good to go. In operation while IPTV is running the SmartRG VDSL2 Gateway/Modem handles well. At present I am unsure what encoding specifics are being utilized on their end to deliver IPTV but I can say that the IPTV product uses about 3.5 to 4.5 Mpbs per second so there is still plenty bandwidth to go around. I did not notice any lag or stutter even with 5 machines on the network while IPTV was in use as well and there was not network throttling detected at the time I was testing.
IPTV in Operation w/3 users on network
IPTV in SLEEP mode
Upon looking around inside the SmartRG that came with the service I did notice the firmware is ISP customized. There is Acanac branding inside but nothing was locked down. The only thing turned on was WMM and the default pre-configured WAN PPPOE credentials needed to connect the net. QoS was turned off by default and everything else was setup normally as the included piece of paper in the box specified.
The STB that my GF choose was the Entone Kamai 400 series. It pretty small… about the size of a DVD case and as thick as to DVD cases stack on top of each other. In the box it included everything needed to get set up. HDMI 1.4 cable, IR blaster extender cable, PSU, 15 foot RJ45 cable, RCA and Component AV breaker cable, Universal learning remote and 2 AAA batteries.
On the back of the unit it has 1x Rj45 Ethernet port and I am not sure what the speed of the port is set to. 1x Optical Toslink port, 1x AV port for RCA and Component breaker cable. 1x HDMI port and I am not sure what version this port is. 2 coax ports for in and out… These also can be used as MOCA adapter and extender if you have MOCA devices or more Entone STB’s and there is an option to set this to ANT in as well although I was not able to test this. There is plenty of holes and vents all over the unit which is needs because this thing gets pretty hot… so when you do set this up you will want to place this in a well-ventilated area.
The Experience …
Upon booting up you are greeted with a bland bluish Zazeen logo with some text near the bottom. The initial startup took some time almost 4 minutes… After it does its thing the screen goes black then comes back and you are then greeted by a load up indication meter that starts from 0/20 and counts up to 20/20. It then asks you to activate you STB and you have input the settings included on the piece of paper included in the box… once this is put in it automatically downloads an update from the server… this took about 1 minutes then PRESTO... IPTV is up and running. EPG filled almost instantly and all channels are listed. What I did find out is if you press the GUIDE button on your remote you can toggle the on screen EPG to display only SD or only HD or only Subscribed or ALL channels. This comes in handy but at the same time confused me…why? Because I would have opted for a Favorite’s list instead but upon more digging it seems Acanac opted for a multi-user setup in the options instead with parental controls and channel blocking…while this also achieves the same thing it’s also kind of a hassle to constantly switch between users.
Now the important stuff… How good is the picture quality? Does it Stutter or lag or pixelate? Does the picture suffer when users are on the network at the same time? How fast is channel changing? Is HD really in HD? Picture quality is spot on. In fact I would go as far to say it is better then what I have seen with Rogers. There was no Stutter or LAG or Pixilation ever when I was testing at all and with 5 ppl on the network playing games, downloading and on Netflix there was NO effect to the quality of the picture or experience at all. Channel changing is about half a second to a second. Much fast then Rogers and about the same as when compared to Bell. HD channels are displayed in broadcast HD which is 720P. The same as any other provider. Now just like the other guys when you press the power off and on button on the remote the STB goes into sleep mode rather than a full power down. In sleep there was not network activity and upon waking the STB the picture came back instantly… no boot up again. The box does have an auto sleep feature where after long extended periods of watching it will display a notification box in the middle of the screen warning that you are idle and if there is no response from the remote to click ok on the notification box on screen then the STB goes into sleep mode. This is a feature I actually like. There are options in STB to go to YouTube, Picasa and some multicultural channel lineup called Xinflix. Some of the YouTube links were not working either which is a shame or I hope they fix this. The STB has the ability to play content shared on your network from a NAS or shared folder from your computer or any DLNA compliant host. I was able to access my entire PLEX library and playback without a hitch another plus. So far so good!
Conclusion and Verdict …
Hmmmm....The best way to describe the Acanac/Zazeen internet and IPTV experience.. A Solid Product with room for improvement.
Well I hate to say this because even with my history with Acanac I must say they have solid product here and this is from someone who was completely biased towards them when starting this review. The response and speed was smooth. Nothing jerky no audio cut out or picture tearing at all. The experience and quality of the stream on screen was surprising and shockingly very good. So good I really didn't have anything bad to say while I was testing it. The channel line up for what you pay for offers tremendous value compared to what I am used to as well and the name of the package is just that…Not so Basic.
For 25/10 VDSL2 unlimited and Not-So-Basic package it came out to only 94.95 before taxes per month. This is on average almost half of what I normally would have paid to Bell or Rogers if I was still with them.
Even with me being biased based on my history with Acanac it is a product that must be given credit where credit is due. Now this does not mean everyone should go out buying up their products since this is only based on my experience with Acanac in the past and with the product in front of me now. At the end of the day it still comes down to what you the user deems as value and one must consider my experience may differ from yours.
It’s not a perfect product but for the price it’s pretty darn close to it… If you’re a student or someone who has been burned from the other guys and you refuse to go back… it fits the bill right. So let’s hope they continue to build on it and improve what is missing and still needs improvement.