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There are many ways of receiving TV channels these days, but your choice is somewhat less comprehensive if you don't pay a subscription to someone or other, e.g. Sky, BT, TalkTalk or Virgin Media.
Sure there's Freeview (via an aerial) and Freesat (via a dish), and these do indeed carry a lot more channels than an old analog-only TV, lest we forget.
Given something to record Freeview programmes, like my Humax Fox HDR T2, there isn't much that I feel I'm missing out on, in fact the box even has internet access to BBC iPlayer, but sadly none of the other 'big four' catch-ups.
What if some organisation could come up with a set of parameters whereby the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) could not only scroll forwards up to 8-days, but BACKWARDS one week on channels that have a 'catch-up' programmes assigned to them, making viewing future and past programmes as seamless and as intuitive as possible?
What if someone was to build a bit of kit that could record up to two programmes from Freeview and give access to all four catch-ups in the seamless manner envisaged above?
Well, take a bow, YouView and Humax.
YOUVIEW? SOUNDS A BIT LIKE FREEVIEW!
Well that's right, YouView includes all of the parameters for Freeview + HD, like the ability to record programmes both in SD and HD picture qualities.
However, where YouView differs is the addition of integrated internet access required to allow the use of TV catch-ups and other services (some of which may need a subscription, Now TV from Sky for example).
There's a whole raft of other terms and conditions, some related to Accessibility and suchlike which I won't go into here. Suffice it to say, that what started out as a joint exercise involving the BBC and others, called 'Project Canvas', became 'YouView' under the directorship of Sir Alan Sugar.
The box I'm writing about is made by Humax, although there are others, one of which is made by Huawei*, and a third, whose manufacturer has yet to launch it.
GETTING A YOUVIEW BOX
There are two ways of getting a 'badged' box for 'free' one being to take on a TV package from BT Internet - this method gets you a Humax box, and secondly, to take on the equivalent from TalkTalk, which gets you the Huawei version - widely thought to be inferior.
Alternatively you can buy the Humax version in two guises and two disc sizes. There's the original HDR T1000 and the newer HDR T1010 which seems to be merely a cosmetic upgrade, there being no difference that can be discerned in the specification. Both offer the choice of a 500gbyte or 1tbyte hard disc. Therefore anything that's written about the T1010 applies to the T1000 except for how it looks.
Expect to pay from £160-£250 for a new retail one depending on version and disc size.
Another good source is e-Bay where all the people who paid a subsidised fee for a BT-supplied T1000 under the BT Vision tariff put them back on the market no doubt hoping to make a tidy profit! However, even if still wrapped and unused I'm not sure what happens to your warranty from Humax if BT supplied it with their badge on. As a bare minimum, make doubly sure the seller accepts returns if it doesn't work. I would caution against paying more than £150 for one of these though, as at time of writing, Dixons/Currys were supplying BT-badged versions of the DTR T1000 for £160.
SETTING ONE UP
This turns out to be pretty easy really. Connect it up to an aerial, a TV via an HDMI lead, a hi-fi/home cinema via the optical digital output if you want to, and last but not least the internet via its RJ45 socket. Oh yes, and feel free to turn it on now! You may initially find that the remote control also turns on any other Humax kit you may have, but fortunately those clever 'Hummy' people have provided 6 different frequencies over which their remote controls operate, and it's a doddle to change it.
My set-up went without a hitch, although some of the 2 minutes waits in between reboots are a bit worrying.
Once you've got the basics running, there are plenty of tweaks that need to be considered from the not inconsiderable list of Settings.
For a start there are four permutations of power-saving to consider, taking into account such features as stand-by wattage (it can be as little a 1 watt - but then the box takes 100 seconds to boot-up) to 19 watts, which is near as damn it the same as leaving it switched on. Yes, there are reasons why you'd want this which I'll touch on later. Both of these major settings are further modified by deciding if you want the aerial output to the TV left live so the TV's tuner works too.
If your broadband is fast enough, you can set it to opt for HD programmes by default in the catch-up services.
OPPORTUNITIES THAT GOT CLEAN AWAY
Unlike its predecessors in the Humax range, e.g. my existing HDR-FOX T2, it has no pretensions to be a file server for your home network, so there'll be no streaming of its contents to PCs dotted around the house - nor can you browse your home network for juicy files elsewhere and watch them on your TV.
Yet again, Humax launch a bit of kit with USB ports promising much but producing little except the bit of text in the manual that marks them 'for future use', a future that seemingly never comes. There have been several firmware updates so far, so if it was going to happen, it should have by now. To be fair, you can now add a cordless keyboard to the USB ports for those moments that require more than button pushes, but still no file transfer.
There's no provision for a wi-fi link to the internet via your home router - this baby is firmly stuck in the hard-wired Ethernet camp, despite the fact that most of these are likely to be working in living rooms away from the router in many cases. In a way, it's a blessing in disguise as it forces you down the infinitely superior hard-wired route, possibly using a 'Homeplug' solution to channel the internet via your house mains, but many people only find out too late that the expenditure didn't stop with buying the box. As mentioned before, thanks to the lack of USB functionality, you can't even add a wi-fi dongle, although if determined to use wi-fi, there are adapters, such as the TP-Link TL-WA890EA N600 Universal Dual-Band 4-Port Wi-Fi Entertainment Adapter, which takes your house wi-fi and turns it back into Ethernet at the distant end, leaving the Humax box none the wiser.
To be fair, it's only the lack of wi-fi that's going to affect most people; the issue of it not being able to act as a media server is, I suspect, only of concern to a geeky few. Oh yes, and you can't transfer files from this box to back-up or turn into DVDs elsewhere.
This does seem a shame, that in a box that's so feature-rich, it has in many ways taken a step backwards. Had Humax had a free hand in designing the YouView box, it would no doubt have embraced everything that had gone before, prior to building on it. However, the sad fact is that, whilst the DTR T1000 is cosmetically identical to other Humax offerings, the design of the guts, and the firmware, are the diktat of the YouView committee. The T1010 has an updated appearance, being slimmer and with what appears to be a brushed aluminium facia which still lets you see through it to the LCD display.
OPPORTUNITIES THAT DIDN'T GET AWAY
The way in which the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and the list of catch-up programmes are integrated into one display, either side of the 'now' line is superb.
What a killer feature! Just missed a programme? Press 'Guide' and scroll back into the past and click on it to play it from its catch-up equivalent. Effectively you've got an EPG that stretches 7 days into the past as well as the customary 8 days hence. You'll even find with some programmes that haven't even come on just yet that you can start watching them now!
There are other means of accessing catch-ups, after all lots of programmes are stored for more than 7 days and you might want to search for one by name. This is where the big friendly blue button labelled 'YouView' comes in. Pressing this followed by selecting 'On Demand' gets you a screen with all four main TV catch-ups plus another for UKTV (channels like Dave, Yesterday and Really) and even S4C, useful for Welsh-speakers living away from a suitable transmitter; there's Sky store for renting movies and the Now TV access also driven by Sky but needing a subscription.
Another knockout feature especially in what is a service that only costs the licence fee and no more, is the ability to set timers via a smart-phone or tablet from anywhere in the world. Gone are the days when friends who have a Sky Plus box can sneer about what their precious box can do compared to yours. Sadly, because this means keeping the box almost fully alive (although the disc will spin down eventually), this is one of the occasions when a higher stand-by wattage is needed, possibly around 19 watts.
Syncing the box to a phone is easy once you have the iPhone or Android 'app' installed. You're allowed up to 5 devices, and all you have to do is transfer the code as shown on TV to the app when first making the connection.
If say, you decide to only do this when on a 2-week holiday (when even the Radio Times couldn't tell you what was on in the second week), be aware that changing it back to a more economical standby mode afterwards involves breaking the remote connections and starting all over again next time inputting codes to the app. I also found that you have to clear the data cache for the Android app, otherwise it doesn't know it was disconnected in the first place, giving you the impression that it was setting up programmes successfully when in fact it wasn't! This can be quite a pain, although if you only link the box to one device it's not too fiddly.
This, like so many other bits of 'PVR' kit that I've had (and still have), seems a little like I'm field-trialling it as some kind of unpaid beta-tester. It does however actually work, and the picture quality is excellent, especially on HD programming.
However, I could do without the 'profligate' standby power usage of nearly 20-odd watts just so I can:-
a) Use the remote programming and
b) Not have to wait the best part of 2 minutes for it to boot up from the 'colder' eco setting. (I've now gotten into the habit of turning it on the instant I sit down!)
There must be greener ways of getting new programmes added to your timers from your sun-lounger in Lanzarote, like maybe getting the box wake up every couple of hours to check if 'anyone's left it a message'. That's basically how my customised Humax T2 works - a single daily check-in in the wee small hours augmented by any other time that it comes alive to record.
All in all a good bit of kit for those that like it as automatic and intuitive as possible - it does what it sets out to do and no more.
Hobbyists that like to dabble with custom versions of the software or want to use it as a media hub for a home network should give it a wide berth.
This is a simple set top box with a difference...
I have never paid for subscription TV, but heard for years of people with companies like virgin and sky being able to pause and record programs. For me, the days of recording seemed to have disapered with the VCR, but now they are back.
Pause, Rewind and Record
So when you are watching a channel, the box itself is recording what you are watching (I am sure there is a more technical way to explain what it is doing, but I am not technical). So that if you want to get up and leave the room you can pause it, or if you miss something, re-wind to see it again. I am sure there must be a limit to how far back you can rewind, but I have rewound more than an hour or two before and it is all recorded. This only works for the channel you are tuned into though. If you were to change channels, you can't instantly rewind to see the beginning of a program. You can only go back as far as where there channel was up to when you tuned in. The box also has a recording function, you can record one episode or whole series. You can record on two channels at a time. If you are trying to record a third program that, the box will advise you, and if the program is available at another time (for example on a plus one channel) it will ask if you want to record it then instead or give you the option to delete one of the other recordings. You are also not able to watch a 3rd channel if you are already recording on another two, however, I have got round that by watching the third channel directly through the TV rather than on the you-view box.
500 GB storage
This is not as much storage as it sounds, if you are not regularly deleting some of your recordings, you can quickly fill this space. This box does come in a 1000GB version for a bit more money. I have tried, but it seems there is no way to transfer any recordings from the box onto any external memory device and this is the one big let down with this product. I guess the answer is, if you want to keep any of the recordings, you should be buying the DVD. There is a USB port that I thought you might be able to use to get the recordings off, but apparently this is for software updates or something.
The youview box also allows you to watch freeview HD, so if you are all about picture quality, this is a nice little feature.
Scroll Back through the last 7 days
You can scroll back through the TV guide up to 7 days and watch many of the programs (particularly Channel 4 and BBC). This is done through BBC iplayer, 4OD etc. This is a great feature if you forget to record something. You can also go directly to iplayer, 4OD, ITV, Demand 5, and have a look at what they have available to watch. As far as I can see, its the same as if you went to the website directly on your PC.
Of course to use the internet functions, you need to be connected to the internet. To avoid running cables around your house, you can by some little plug ins that turn you power socket using a power-line adapter. Although not part of the you-view product, for me it was a great accessory to go with it.
Humax DTR-T1010 YouView PVR integrates on-demand and liveTV into a simple interface so you could watch your favourite shows and programmes when you want / Additionally integrated 500GB Hard Drive allows you to record around 125 hours of HD programming or 300 hours of standard definition content so you will never miss a thing / YouView is designed to mix live TV with on-demand TV in one seamless interface / The idea is that you can step back in time through the EPG and select programmes that were on in the past via the internet as well as watching and recording live TV / YouView supports all of the main terrestrial television channels' on-demand like BBC iPlayer ITV Player 4oD and Demand Five / Humax DTR-T1010 YouView PVR offers you not only convenient features and wide TV content but also appeals with its fine design / Decent built and the LCD screen that shines through the brushed-metal front panel give it an elegant and premium look.