Tech Tuesday – HUMAX Foxsat-HDR Freesat Digital HD recorder Review
This week on Tech Tuesday Scott reviews the Humax Foxsat-HDR, could it be goodbye to monthly TV subscription bills?
We are on the cusp of quite a change here in the UK. The days of Analog TV are pretty much behind us. We have had to make the switch over to DIGITAL TV and by the middle of this year we will be exclusively a Digital TV service with the analog signal being switched off.
But what does this actually mean?
Well it means a bit of an upgrade for some people who are still running an old type of TV. Either in the form of a new tv and aerial or a new set-top box. We have a choice of FREEVIEW which is a digital signal that is received via a rooftop aerial, or FREESAT which is the same signal but sent via satellite and received by a dish attached to your house.
Now you are probably thinking that the dish would be the lesser of the two, and you may be right. But for many years subscription TV in the form of SKY have been installing dishes to British homes all over the country. Many of these are now unused as the price of SKY rocketed. This is where the HUMAX Foxsat-HDR comes in. It simply attaches to your existing SKY dish and hey presto you have digital TV in your house again with no need to reposition the dish!! But how does it perform in the real world?
Luckily the lovely people at Humax sent us a review sample so we could get a proper hands on with the box and give it a good test, here are our findings…
The Foxsat-HDR is not cheap, I feel I need to get that out there straight away, it retails for around £250, but for the money you get a very well designed and very versatile digital video recorder that has a few special tricks up it’s sleeve, one of which is being able to view and record the FREE HD channels available here in UK. One thing to remember if considering the purchase is that if you have not already got a dish fitted to your property then you have to add the cost of getting one fitted, as the £250 does not include this! But saying that, if you DO have a dish fitted to your house, then within 6 months the box would have paid for itself (taken from the average cost of Sky HD+ service at around £50).
On first impressions of the box, it looks very much like an attractive dvd or blu-ray player. It is slightly smaller than a SKY HD box, but a little fatter. Like the afore-mentioned SKY HD box the Foxsat has two tuners fitted, meaning you can record 2 channels at the same time whilst watching a previously recorded programme. For this you will however need two cables coming from the LMB on the satellite dish.
Around the back of the box you will fins a wealth of connections that will enable you to fit it to most TVs old and new, you have, HDMI, SCART and even a set of composite connection. Also there is an SPDIF (Optical) connection for digital sound, 2 USB connection (one is actually on the front) which enable a limited media function, mostly for MP3s and Photos, and an Ethernet connection that can be used to access BBC iPlayer and ITVPlayer.
Within minutes I had it set up to the TV with 2 cables from the dish a HDMI and the mains lead and started searching for a signal. And as if by magic moments later I was being stunned by the clarity of picture being shown on the BBCHD channel.
One thing I did notice is that it runs a lot quieter than my SkyHD+ box. Whisper quiet in fact. Also the power consumption is relatively low and can be set to go into STAND BY mode when not in use, to save even more money on your electricity bill.
The quality of image being displayed on the HD channels was immediately present. The beauty of the box is being able to switch easily between the simulcast HD and SD channels, and while the SD versions are good, when you put on a HD channel at 1080i the colours and sharpness pop to an almost 3D quality!
The EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) is where many Freeview and Freesat boxes fall down with a clunky and un-intuitive integration. And while the Humax’s isn’t the most attractive in the world, it does work pretty well. You can jump forward in time to see what is coming on tomorrow and also set up groups of FAVOURITE channels to make it easier to access.
A nice little touch in this day and age of multi device set ups is the fact that the controller can be set up (by the user) to control not only the Box, but also the TV, AV Receiver and Dvd/Blu-Ray player, we do like a bit of anti clutter thinking. The ability to fast forward at 64x may not seem a big deal to most but it helps when trying to get through those pesky advert breaks in your recordings.
I have no complaints with the use of the Foxsat box. It works very well indeed, intuitive and simple but well thought out. The only issue I have is that it is at the top end of the price bracket. Sky is expensive, but you do get more choice on the HD channels. Saying that though as I mentioned in this time of recession where we are all trying to save a little monthly cash, the Humax is an investment that pays for itself in a few months.
- Freesat HD and SD Channel Recording
- Record 2 channels at the same time – or watch one while recording another
- Under 1W power consumption while in standby
- Massive 500gb Hard Drive -
- HDMI Interface for perfect transmissions of picture and sound
- Dolby Digital audio output (S/PDIF)
- HDCP Compliant
- Upscaling for Standard Definition channels
- Full colour high resolution electronic programme guide
- Resolution format: 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i
- Automatic software upgrade via satellite
- Audio description / One touch subtitle
- Ethernet support for BBC iPlayer and ITVPlayer
- Simultaneous playing of transmissions over HDMI, Composite or Scart
- HDTV signals received – MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 and MPEG-2
- Power Consumption – ON: Max. 50Watt, STANDBY: Under 1Watt
- Front Interface – Buttons: Standby, TV/Radio, Menu, Guide, OK, Up Down Left Right, Back. USB 2.0 Host, Common Interface.
- Rear Interface – 2 x Scart (1 TV, 1 VCR), 3 x LNB (2 Input, 1 Output), RCA, S/PDIF, HDMI, USB 1.1/2.0 Host, LAN, Power Cord (fixed)
About The Author – Scott Lawlor
Chief Editor of FRC. A self confessed geek with an unhealthy thirst for all things Home Cinema. Whether it is the latest Action film or Subwoofer.
Have you made the switch to digital? Have you considered Freesat? Did the review help? Comment below….