Product Type: Humax set top boxes
Newest Review: ... The older boxes are simply not able to deal with 100 plus channels on their chipsets. Humax have spent a lot of money firing out on air... more
Member Name: popalong
Advantages: freeview, 160gb hard drive, good remote, strong signal, Picture In Picture
Disadvantages: "ON TIME" recording misses some of the programmes
* Freeview+ Box with Simultaneous viewing of one channel and recording another channel
* Simultaneous playback of previous recording and recording of 2 channels
* Up to 100 hours of recording on an integrated 160GB HDD
* Picture In Picture (PIP) for viewing 2 programs on 1 screen
* Pause & Play live TV (Time Shift Recording)
# Main unit
# Remote Control Quick Guide
# SCART Cable
# User's Manual
# Quick guide
When the digital switch over comes people will have to make a decision about what format they decide to plump for. I have satellite, and so there is no worry for me. My mother, on the other hand, was still stuck using her old analogue television with 4 channels (she couldn't even get channel five in our area). She told me about leaflets she had gotten in through the door informing her of the switch over next summer, and she was worried about losing her television channels, in particular her soaps on ITV. After reassuring her that there was nothing to worry about, I told her that for her needs she would be better off with freeview as opposed to satellite or any of the other options. My mother only watches one channel mainly, and she only switches to another when there is football on. After agreeing that we should buy one with a built in recorder because she sometimes isn't in to see her programmes, we decided to take the plunge before the New Year and the VAT hike. In our area the freeview signal is very weak, and my mums analogue signal can't even pick up channel five. At least, we agreed, if we buy the box now and it doesn't receive a signal she will be set up for the summer switch over. It turns out there was absolutely nothing to worry about.
Setting up the Humax couldn't be easier. You simply remove it from the box, plug it in, connect up your aerial and scart lead and then enter the main menu where you are given the option to scan for channels automatically or manually. I opted for automatic search and sat back, expecting to receive no signal at all. How wrong I was; it picked up many channels. The search took several minutes, but it produced a number of channels and radio stations that we aren't even meant to pick up in our area yet. After the channels had finished being scanned you are given the option to save the channels and then go to the first one. It couldn't be easier. If you require, you also have the option to delete channels that you don't want, such as the shopping channels or the encrypted channels.
After setting up the box we found that the freeview signal was very strong with the Humax. My dad, who has a freeview television in the kitchen, was annoyed because his television only picks up some of the channels and the signal during bad weather, but my mums Humax picked up all the channels in all weather conditions. After a lot of laughing about the situation I sat down to go through the main features of the box. The freeview signal is excellent and the picture is brilliant. It's better than watching some satellite channels. Immediately I got around to playing with the recording features. I set it to record the channel I was currently watching and then switched over to another channel. It worked straight away with no problems. I flicked thorugh several channels to see if they were working, too, and they were. I started recording a second channel and then went to play the beginning of the first recording while it was still recording. This all worked out perfectly, too. So far so good. I stopped both recordings and then watched them back to see that they recorded fine, and they did. My mum is still to this day confused about how you can record and watch something you've previously recorded at the same time; she's never been much of a gadget head and has only experienced VHS tapes.
The sound from the Humax is very good, and you shouldn't notice any problems with this at all. As it's connected to the television through the scart socket, there is no hassle with cables running all over the place. The volume can be adjusted via your TV remote or the in-built volume of the Humax.
Picture quality is excellent and everything you would expect from a digital signal. There is no interference, or snowy lines, and the only times we have any drop out of signal are when we run the Shredder (located near the television) or if the weather is a little jumpy. This is probably due to the fact that our area hasn't had the switch over yet, and so just the fact we get a signal at all is a miracle.
The built in hard drive holds approximately 100 hours of recorded footage. For my mum this is far more than she is ever likely to use, even if she never deletes anything. I have found that I use the recording capabilities myself to record channels available on freeview, mainly to free myself from having to record them on my satellite box which can occasionally have problems with clashed programmes. Recordings are very clear and smooth and look almost as if they are live pictures, although you can sometimes tell that it's a recording because of a slight lag in some scenes, but this is very rare and shouldn't ruin your enjoyment of the programme.
Recording is easy to do and requires only the push of a couple of buttons. Pressing the record button while watching a programme results in the current channel being recorded from that point. Pressing stop halts the recording. I'm not absolutely sure if the recording keeps going until you press stop or if it stops at the end of the current programme, because most of my recordings are done from the guide. To record from the guide you simply select "GUIDE", use the arrow buttons to find the channel you want to record and the programme you want to record and then press "ENTER". In the recording settings you have the option to record the programmes "ON TIME", meaning that they will start on time and finish on time, this also means you can record a whole series with the click of a button. However, I have found this to be quite useless because the recordings generally miss the first minute or two of a programme and sometimes the end. Therefore, I have set the recording options to start 3 minutes earlier, and end 3 minutes later. The only time this could be an issue is if a programme overruns considerably, but so far there have been no problems. Recordings can be set to start/end up to 10 minutes early/late.
To access recordings you either enter the menu system and select "RECORDINGS", or you can access them via one button on the remote. I find the second option the easiest and quickest. If you have stopped a recording half way through, the playback will return to the point you were last at. It's possible to sort programmes by Name, Time Recorded Ascending, or Time Recorded Descending. The default setting for this is Time Recorded Descending. The playback screen shows the channel, the start and stop time of the recording, and the name of the recording. Once viewed, a recording can be deleted simply by pressing the red button and selecting "YES".
PiP (Picture In Picture)
This is a feature that I wish my satellite box had. You can view two channels at the one time on this Humax box, although only one channel produces sound. This is handy if you reach an advert break and wish to scan through other channels while keeping an eye on your own programme returning, or if you are watching two sports channels and want to keep an eye on both of them. You have the option to watch one channel full screen with a little box for the second channel, or you can watch both channels side by side. With one button press you can swap channels to watch. When watching one channel full screen you can move the little box to different positions on the screen (top, side, bottom etc.)
Time shifting is a very handy feature for those who might get interrupted during their favourite shows or during a live event. Basically, you can pause the "live" TV picture and playback from exactly where you left off. Personally, I have never used this feature much on my satellite box, and so I don't think I would use it much on this Humax box. If, however, you like to sit down and watch live TV at night and get regular phone calls or knocks at the door, you will find this feature very useful. When you get to advert breaks you can fast forward them and eventually you will catch up with the actual live recording. If you wish to go straight back to the live TV at any point, you simply press the stop button.
The supplied remote control is necessary to use the full features of the Humax. It's a very nice size and doesn't feel too large in your hand. There is a sliding section at the bottom that reveals several more buttons, including the PiP and Instant Replay buttons. I usually find these kinds of remote to be very annoying; why can't they just put all the buttons there without a cover? However, the Humax slider can easily be removed and replaced without fear of breaking it, and so this is obviously something they have thought about.
This box features many things that I wish were a part of my satellite box, and considering this box does not require a monthly fee, it's certainly worth the money if you just want freeview and the ability to record. However, freeview lacks the channel selection that I require and therefore it wouldn't suit someone like myself. For my mum, though, it's perfect. If you are only interested in the main five channels, and perhaps ITV2 and BBC News, for example, then this box would be perfect for you. I honestly struggle to find any way to fault this box. The only thing I can think of to mark it down on is the fact that setting recordings to start and end "ON TIME" results in missing parts of the programmes, and that is not acceptable. Many other recorders start and end when a signal is sent to the box. Perhaps this box is the same and it's the fault of the channel providers who aren't sending the signals on time, but that is enough to put me off it just a little bit. For that reason, and for that reason alone, I am giving it 4 out of 5.
Summary: This is an excellent freeview PVR, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for one.