Top critical review
51 people found this helpful
Good, but bad EPG design made it no use to us.
on 20 February 2013
I bought this as a replacement for Sky+, and found it generally OK. Sadly though there was one show-stopping problem which made me take it back. I'll deal with that first.
In the programme guide (and recordings list), the text used to display programme descriptions is so small as to be illegible on my 32" TV, viewed from 7-8 feet away (actually I could read it if I squinted hard enough, but it brought on immediate eyestrain - see uploaded customer image for an example). Not only is it the smallest font on the screen (by some margin), but it's horizontally condensed as well, as if the layout designers found they didn't have enough space so just crammed it in. My partner couldn't read it at all from a normal viewing distance. The programme names are fine - it's just the details ("In this episode of Eastenders, Sharon tells Phil..." etc).
This might sound trivial, but for me being able to browse programme details is a key feature of digital TV. I've been using Sky's EPG for 12 years with no problems, and my TV's Freeview EPG is fine too. If you have anything smaller than a 40" TV, and anything less than perfect, 25-year-old's eyesight, I'd strongly recommend seeing this machine in action before buying.
As for the rest of the box, it's swings and roundabouts compared to Sky's kit. Setup is very easy, and although the box takes a few seconds to start up each time it's not too long. The box is very quiet, with no fan noise. Picture quality is good, although HD images seemed just a bit soft and I'd have preferred it not to upscale SD channels (unlike Sky, you can't switch this off). In 'auto' timer record mode it had a tendency to cut off a few seconds at the start (and, in one case, end) of programmes, but you can add extra padding time. If you press 'record' while watching a programme it only records from that point, not the start of the record buffer. There are good features for things like choosing between SD and HD recordings (when available), but the list of planned recordings showed some confusing dates on series record.
Playback is a mixed bag. Unlike Sky there are no bookmarks, no way to start playback from a specified position and no slow-motion playback (although the help pages say there is). There's also a noticeable delay when pausing live TV, as it switches to recorded playback. However the skip-forward button (with selectable time periods) makes jumping over ads very quick, and the skip back button is great for action replays. The remote control feels good quality, and some buttons have a positive, click-action feel. The menu system is logical enough, and there are shortcut buttons to areas such as the recordings list, although you still have to perform a lot of clicks to do things like delete a recording.
Humax don't seem to support wi-fi on this box (although they sell a dongle), insisting on an ethernet connection to your broadband router. To my surprise, my old Sky Ethernet/wi-fi adaptor worked fine - I just plugged it in and got instant connection (changing the network password would be a problem though). iPlayer performance was excellent (amazing picture quality), although unlike Sky's catch up service you can't record, only stream. The much-vaunted Free Time go-backwards EPG wasn't quite what I expected - instead of extending the programme grid into the past, if you're on a channel that supports catch-up (currently BBC or ITV) then scrolling left switches to a list of available programmes from that channel. This makes it fiddly to switch between channels, and I ended up just using the standard iPlayer interface instead.
The packaging also says that this model supports 'apps for services such as YouTube', but when I registered on the Humax website it said 'Your product does not support this feature' every time I tried to obtain one. I was able to connect it to a DNLA server but performance was poor and it wouldn't recognise JPEG images. The product only comes with two thin getting-started guides, and there was no guidance to using USB memory sticks etc, although the device has two USB ports.
The overall impression was of a quality product whose software is still a bit rough round the edges (and might, of course, be updated). I would have kept it, but for the problem with the programme description text. Instead after a few days, with sore eyes, I gave up. I really would check it before buying.