Over Christmas I was lucky enough to receive the Humax Foxsat HDR Freesat Digital HDTV Recorder, having had chance to play with it over the last few weeks I thought I was high time it got a review.
For those of you that don’t know (now that you’re surfacing from underneath that rock) Freesat HD is effectively the free version of Sky HD, much like Freeview, except that a satellite dish is used rather than the traditional aerial. However, unlike with Freeview HD set top boxes, you can get a decent signal pretty much anywhere which offers a view of the sky, fantastic for those people who live in the back of beyond. It also offers a larger range of channels and can be used to simultaneously watch and record different programs.
If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting the Humax to be as good as it is. Most of the hard drive based recorders I’ve used in the past have promised the world, some even offered it, but have been scuppered by immensely complicated controls. The same is not true of the Humax, I don’t think I’ve ever used something as intuitive (well maybe a door handle… but you know what I mean).
It’s hard to explain, every function works exactly like you’d expect it to (and some functions become apparent even when you didn’t realise it had them). Press record whilst watching a program and it’ll stop recording once the current program is finished, if you miss something due to your phone ringing simply press rewind, recording a series a whole series is just as easy as changing channels… I could go on forever, needless to say I think your grandparents could quite happily use 90% of the functionality with little to no teaching.
The hardware itself looks and feels great, setup only takes a couple of minutes and is whisper quiet.
- Dual Freesat Tuners — So you can record and watch different programs at the same time.
- 320GB Hard drive — Can record up to 80 hours of HD of 200 hours of SD programming.
- HDMI and optical audio — In order to get the very best signal to your equipment.
- Ethernet — Connect to your home network for firmware updates etc.
- Cost- £245 (Amazon)
You can probably tell from my first impression that there are a lot of pros about this device, those that really stand out are certainly worthy of mention…
- Pause and rewind live TV — An automatic buffer continually runs in the background whilst you watch. This means that at any point of can pause or rewind what you’re watching. It’s a simple but fantastic idea, once you’ve used it you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.
- iPlayer — Assuming you can plug it into your network you can use it to watch iPlayer on your TV. The menu system is slow (I wouldn’t advise browsing for something to watch), but if there’s something specific you know you’ve missed it’s great.
- The remote — Not usually something you’d get excited about, however the remote is nicely built and more importantly can be used as a universal remote for your entire system. It’s very simple to program and now allows me to control my TV, Xbox and surround sound , as well as the Humax HDR all with the same remote.
- Chase play — If you want to watch a program before its finished recording it’s not a problem, just play the file like you normally would. If you’re used to the aggravation of missing the start by ten minutes and having to wait until the end you’ll likely love this feature.
- Access to all localised channels — Currently I’m based up in Edinburgh but originally hail from North Yorkshire, Freesat allows me to watch any version of the BBC I wish.
- Ease of use — As mentioned earlier it’s amazing how intuitive the system is.
So far I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that this article sounds like some sort of advert for Humax, it really is a fantastic bit of kit but not without its flaws…
- No satellite cables — It comes bundled with a SCART, HDMI and RCA cables, even batteries for the controller, but no satellite cables, and to get the full functionality you’re going to need two! Not too much of a problem but I can’t understand why they are omitted.
- Dual tuners require dual satellite sockets — One of the big advantages of this player is the simultaneous record and playback (in fact you can even record two separate programs and play back a third) of different programs. However this does require you to have two satellite sockets in your house, it’s certainly worth checking that you do before buying this relatively expensive piece of equipment.
- Lack of DVD/Blu-ray player — This isn’t really a problem for me as I use my Xbox 360 to play and stream my movie collection but if you don’t game you’re going to need a separate box to play your DVD/Blu-Rays.
- Delay coming out of stand-by – A TV is instant on (pretty much), a minor niggle is that you have to wait a few seconds for the Humax to turn on.
All in all, if you’re in the market for a new DVR I think the Humax Foxsat HDR Freesat Digital HDTV Recorder is well worth a look, especially if you have a dodgy terrestrial signal and already have a satellite dish fitted. If you’ve got any questions feel free to ask me in the comments below.