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Humax HD FreeSat PVR

November 29, 2011

As part of my move away from being a Sky subscriber (https://vteclimey.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/farewell-sky/), I’ve purchased a Humax FreeSat HD PVR and figured I’d put my first thoughts down.

Picture

First view of TV using the Humax, I wanted to check out the HD quality. The free HD channels from the BBC sufficed for the first test and my first impression is that the quality wasn’t quite as good. Of course it may be the original filming wasn’t HD. My old Sky HD box has a setting to show me what programmes were originally recorded in HD and what was not. This was very useful for seeing the difference between SD and HD broadcast.

Now that its been a couple of weeks, I am not so actively noticing the poorer quality so it could be that my first impression was based on an SD broadcast on an HD channel. Watching genuinely HD content does appear to be good enough quality that I can’t be sure that I can see a difference anymore.

The other thing that was noticed was that the colours seemed brighter, in a good way.

So on balance I’d say I am very happy with the picture quality from the Humax.

Menus

The menu system on the Humax is not as user friendly as I have been used to on the Sky boxes I’ve used over the years. This is one area where Sky are undeniably better, their menu systems are clear. The Humax will take a little getting used to as it is something new, but they do need to put some effort into design if they are going to attract the less tech savvy user.

There is also a small noticeable speed difference between the Humax menu system and the Sky one. Its not enough to cause any issues, its just that moving from a Sky HD box to a Humax you can’t help but notice that tiny extra dely.

Remote

The remote is another area where Humax need to put some design effort. The Sky remote has clear colour coded buttons and the most used buttons are in a prominent place. The buttons are also sized and shaped to make navigation around the remote easy and simple. In most situations the remote can be operated by the hand that is holding it and without a need to look at the remote to confirm the correct button is about to be used.

By contrast, the Humax remote is much more uniform, in a bad way, and the more regularly used buttons are scattered about in no obvious manner. Two handed, eyes-on operation is essential.

On Line

We’ve not tested the on line abilities extensively, but we have tested the BBC iPlayer integration and mostly its very good.

On our first few uses we were suffering from slow broadband speed and the player had trouble keeping up. This resulted in regular pauses in the programme we were watching, which was extremely frustrating.

The iPlayer integration offers normal and higher quality viewing, you really want the higher quality as the normal quality is less than SD broadcast quality and you do notice the reduction. However, the higher quality does require a reliable broadband connection.

One shortfall that seems to be the case with the Humax is that it does not appear to buffer iPlayer content. For example, while we were watching the mentioned programme above and suffering from lag issues, we paused the player for 10 minutes while we made a cup of coffee each. When we returned, the lag issue was back within a minute, we expected the player to continue to download the programme while the player was paused. This did not seem to be the case.

Summary

There have been a few times when there has been confusion in the limey household about what certain things mean. Humax do need to address the usuability of the player, not just the design of the menus and the remote, but also the language used, to make everything unambiguous and much clearer.

Despite my stated short comings, I don’t hesitate to recommend the Humax FreeSat PVR, it has some good positive features and, design issues aside, it isn’t difficult to use. There is no regret at buying it, quite the contrary; we are pleased to have made the purchase, it’s a great product, with a few tweaks its can be an excellent or even perfect product.

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From → Reviews, Technology

2 Comments
  1. I wonder if there is a setting you can change to increase the buffering of your content before it begins to play?

    Wayne

    • limey permalink

      Hi Wayne,

      You’d think there might be an option for that wouldn’t you? Or at the very least, it would automatically buffer according to disk space. Well it seems its no on both counts. Connection to BBC iPlayer and other streaming services is strictly streaming only.

      I suspect the reason lies more in the conditions placed by the TV companies concerned rather than the people who designed the Humax.

      Either way, with my home broadband speed now at a more reasonable 5mbs, I am finding that there is now enough bandwidth for it to no longer be an issue.

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