What to watch … the 14-day EPG on the Humax Freeview-HD PVR
I am watching Mad Men in glorious HD. If I were out, I would be looking forward to coming home to it, knowing that despite the fact I forgot to check what was on TV this evening, I'd have it recorded anyway.
No, I don't have a pricey Sky+ subscription and box. I just have bogstandard Freeview and the latest addition to the Humax stable, its Freeview+ HD PVR, the HDR-FOX T2. At around £329, it works out a lot cheaper than a Sky subscription, too.
But the name (why Fox?!) is almost the only rubbish thing about this lovely piece of kit, a 500GB Freeview+ dual tuner recorder. Not only does it do what it says on the tin very well, it also has a number of other tricks at its disposal.
At its most straightforward, it's a smart, intuitive video recorder that delivers what looks to my admittedly not very discerning eye and my 32in Panasonic telly very good indeed HD pictures and perfectly acceptable SD pictures.
Round the back are lots of connectors: HDMI, Scart, composite video, analogue audio and optical audio, which means the box can also output Dolby Digital Pulse Audio Output should have you have a full-fat sound system for your telly. Additionally it's got two USB ports and an Ethernet port – no Wi-Fi, mind.
Lookswise, it's biggish – the same size as its predecessor, the PVR 9200T – and black, with a big circular on-off button that glows blue when it's on and orange when it's recording, plus a display panel.
If you've used any of Humax's previous products, you'll hit the ground running with this. The user interface is smart and minimalist, with the usual very good grid-layout 14-day EPG that you can search. Set-up is pretty straightforward – plug it in and it will scan and load Freeview TV and radio channels.
Once it's on, you can do all the clever stuff you'd expect – pause and rewind live TV, watch one show while recording a second or record two shows while watching a third from the hard drive.
The only thing I dislike about it is the management of channel lists. Clearly you're not going to want to flick through all the Freeview channels, many of which are dross, but it's not easy to set up a list of your favourites. That's because there are a couple of menu items in different places in the options, and a button on the remote, that claim to be list management tools, but I could only create and manage my favourites list by going via the Settings option. The otherwise good user manual isn't much help here, either.
Plugged into a router or a wireless bridge, the box's network setup is fast and easy. For now it's just used for streaming content from your network to your telly, but there's a button on the remote marked TV Portal which hints at things to come – this box will be able to deliver on-demand and catch-up content, including Sky's online service.
The remote is smaller and less crowded with buttons than that of its standard-def predecessor, though if you're used to that, you will have to get used to a few changes. There's no mute button on this remote, for example, as there was on the remote for the PVR-9200T, and the buttons to skip through recordings are rather small.
Still, those are niggles about what is otherwise the box I've been waiting for. And if you don't want to fork out for a Sky+ or Virgin subscription but do want the functionality of their boxes, it might well be the box you've been waiting for too.
Pros: Easy set-up; elegant UI; mostly very easy to use; Dolby Digital output.
Cons: Those channel lists; it would be nice if it had Wi-Fi; some of the buttons on the remote are a bit fiddly.
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