on 25 February 2014
I was a little apprehensive about moving from Sky+HD to freesat. The general consensus of Sky is that it is very good, but expensive. While I could afford Sky, I still want value for money. And paying Sky to watch a few programs filled with adverts just didn't add up.
So I brought my first Humax box to try it out. The Amazon reviews contained many 1 star reviews, which worried me. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try for a few days, if I didn't like it, the box would be returned and I'd continue with Sky.
I was so happy with my Humax freesat, that after 4 days I brought another one for the bedroom and cancelled Sky.
Most of the 1 star reviews I read were a year or so old, and it looks like Humax have taken that year to get rid of most of the complaints. There is no noisy clicking noises that were often complained about, no freezing, it is quick, I get on-demand from BBC,ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, and the User Interface is nice and quick and intuitive. I can't comment about customer service or long term reliability, but in the past Amazon have been really helpful with problems with other devices.
Installation was really easy. I unplugged the cables from my Sky box and plugged them back into my Humax box, turned it on, answered the one-off questions during installation, and that was that. Almost. A word of advice -- always do a check for new software. Despite the Humax boxes being new, the software was old and I upgrade from version 1.00.59 to 2.00.40 (or something like that), a major release, and this changed the UI considerably for the better. However upgrading is really easy (Press "Settings" button on the remote, then choose System Settings, finally Software Update), and only takes a few minutes - you do need an internet connection though.
Talking of internet -- if you do want on-demand and some of the other non-freesat services, you do need an internet connection and this model only comes with a wired internet. If you want a wireless connection, look at the Humax HDR-1010S Freesat.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the Humax also had a DLNA client so I could watch all my recordings that sit on my NAS drive. This worked really well. While I also have all my music on my NAS drive, I copied everything to the internal Humax drive and can play it from there, it just means that with the files being local the response time is much quicker than going over the network (e.g. skipping to the next track is quicker). Very happy with this unexpected functionality.
A few quibbles, I'll mention these but really nothing to stop me recommending this highly. Although the DLNA client worked really well, you can't fast forward on a mpg video file that you've ripped from a DVD. Fast forward works well on everything else though (catch up, recordings, mp4 video files etc.). When you turn it on, it goes to a menu and small picture, you always have to press Exit to get to full screen, annoying. So a couple of things that Humax could, and should, fix. But considering the improvements they've made since the negative comments of a year ago, I have high hopes these quibbles will be resolved in the next upgrade.
on 30 May 2013
In a nutshell - great looking and functioning product until it unexpectedly conks out (after a couple of months)
I bought one of these units online a few months ago, and it recently failed - stuck in a cycle of powering off and back on again, with no chance of getting onto the menu to try & sort the problem out. Having tried all the usual unplugging / rebooting etc., I contacted Humax directly. I followed their instructions for a firmware update, but that did not resolve the issue, as I had the latest firmware update.
IMO- The unit is one of maybe many that should not have been shipped out in the first place.
Humax initially advised me `...The problem exists where unfortunately we cannot carry out a warranty exchange as this wasn't purchased directly from a retailer, but due to this being a new box, we have not yet drawn up out-of-warranty charges and as such, our repair team need to look into this for you...' The next day, firstname.lastname@example.org informed me that for £110.00, I can exchange my practically brand new unit for another unit. This, to me, is an obscene amount to pay, considering the unit is just a few months old.
A culture of corporate complacency seems to be the way at Humax, as many websites and forums dedicated to the Humax PVRs can attest to (a few examples are listed below, from sites such as myhumax.org and avforums.com).
The design and usability are great when this unit is functioning - but the components may not be of the same integrity of those used by other brands. The same could be said of the person(s) making the decisions at Humax. Why else would there be a great number of similar complaints? I bought this as a present, so it annoys me that I have now got to pay twice for what seemed to be a headache-free product and somehow try to track down and record a tonne of programmes!
Should you decide to purchase this unit, opt for the absolute longest warranty possible (and read the small print). Also, be prepared for losing all your recordings, should the unit suddenly fail.....as this one did!
A 60.00 replacement hard drive has remedied the problem, as was expected. P*** poor customer service from Humax - sub-standard attitude from the management - The type of people who would be up in arms if it happened to them.
What can you do, though? Well, I for one will not buy anything from this brand again. Should you choose to buy from Humax, just make sure you've got a decent warranty!!
We have replaced a sky+ box with this, so this review is written with that comparison in mind.
We were paying over 50 pounds a month for Sky+ HD with movies. It had got to the point where we were watching the occasional series on sky1 or atlantic, one or two films a month, and the rest on free to air channels. So all in all it was becoming a total waste of money, and we decided to ditch it. Without a sky subscription, you can use the box as a freesat receiver, but it is really galling that sky will sell you a piece of kit that is capable of recording, live-pause etc., but in the absence of a live subscription they cripple it, and require you to pay them a tenner a month merely to enable these functions. I was not going to do that on principal.
This box seemed to be the best alternative, although having read all the reviews, there seemed to be a number of potential problems and whilst being the best alternative, it looked like it might be a poor substitute. However, I took the plunge, and bought it. I buy pretty much everything through amazon now, but I found this at richer sounds at a very competitive price, and for an extra 20 pounds, they offer a five year warranty. Having replaced several failed hard disks in our previous sky+ box, even though I never buy extended warranties on anything, this seemed like a good deal, particularly as after five years, if you haven't invoked the warranty you can get your money back. No matter how good the disk is, a PVR is a punishing environment for them as they are being written to ALL THE TIME when the box is on in order to offer the live pause/rewind function, so it is highly unlikely that a disk will last five years - so I went for it.
After a couple of days I cannot comment on reliability, but I have to say I am pleasantly surprised at this box and what it can do. Here is a list of the problems I was expecting based upon other reviews, which I cover below:
Slow to start up
Won't record if in low power standby mode
Confused, slow interface
Poor response to remote control
Annoying clicky buttons on the remote
Sluggish channel changes
Won't record the buffer if you press record part way through watching a programme
The first thing I did after going through the initial setup (very clear and easy) was update the software, as there was a new level just out.
Turning on from being in standby for a long time (EG: overnight) when the disk is stopped (you can hear it start up), from pressing the button to the home screen appearing takes about 35 seconds. Compared to the sky box, it's a real slug. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not a terrible handicap. If the box hasn't been off for a long time, it is much quicker to resume, about 12 seconds.
The home screen you get on switch-on is a menu giving access to all sub-areas, with a 2/3rds picture of the current channel. Some will like this, some won't. If you don't, you can't change this behaviour, which is irritatingly daft.
I set up a test recording and put the machine in standby and it worked fine for me. There is an option in the settings to set standby mode to "normal" or "power save". I can't find any info on what the difference is. The time to resume seems no different, it comes set to "power save" by default, so I have left it on that.
Next the interface: it is inevitably organised differently to sky, and change is always painful, but it's not bad, and I quickly got used to it. When you call up the tv guide, you get a now-and-next display. You have to scroll right to get to the more familiar channel/time grid layout. I don't really see the point of this first display, and you can't change it. You can set up a list of favourite channels, and you can get at this by pressing the "list" button which allows you to choose genres in the guide, but you can't change this default either, it always opens the guide on "all channels".
Navigating around the menus is, for me, fast and responsive, and the unit responds well to the remote, you don't have to aim it with laser-point accuracy like some appliances require. If you change channel by typing the number, you can type as fast as you like, it doesn't miss any key presses, and the channel change is quick. If you channel hop with the up/down key, it will respond quickly to multiple presses, but it does take about a second for the picture to appear. The menus don't seem to make use of the coloured buttons like sky do, everything is done with the OK button and sub-menus which pop up.
Recording programmes is easy, it will ask if you want to record a single prog or a series if applicable, and if you select a non-HD version where an HD version is also available, it will ask you if you want the HD version too, a nice feature. It will also tell you when a prog starts if you are watching the non-HD version of an HD channel and you can switch by pressing OK. Another nice feature. If you have been watching a programme from the start and press record part way through it, it most definitely DOES use the buffer and record the prog from the start. In the settings you can set start and end padding to "auto" or specific values. I have it on auto at the moment, too early to say yet what this does or how well it works compared to sky.
Most of the buttons on the remote are soft-touch (like a sky remote), but the central up/down/left/right navigation keys and the OK button in the middle are clicky. I don't know why they decided on this mix, I never found the lack of a click on the sky remote to be a problem, but the click is very subtle and quiet, it is no where near the huge annoying problem that some reviews would have you believe. The remote is well laid out, but is very slippery in your hand, it could do with some tactile non-slip strips like the back of the sky remote. I keep dropping it.
When you look at your recordings, the default view is "most recent", meaning they are in time order with the newest at the top - in other words, the reverse of sky. Also, planned recordings yet to happen are not in the same list, they are in a separate "planned" list. At first this seems a hindrance, but after a short while it actually seems more logical and easier to see what is going on. You can also call up lists of things you haven't watched yet, and whole series. There are other lists for things you have marked "kept" (meaning they won't get auto deleted), things that will "delete soon", HD recordings, and the whole list in A-Z format. It's different, but on the whole it seems to work pretty well. You can start watching a recording while it is still going on, another function which some reviews said was missing.
The on demand side works very well. I already had network access to the sky box set up using mains plug adapters, and we are blessed with a reliable and fast cable internet service, so watching iplayer progs in HD is no problem. The integration on the various services in to the guide works well. It is a shame that catch-up programmes do not appear in the tv guide search results like they do on sky.
Picture quality: on HD channels, it's just as good as sky. it's using the same signals, so no surprise there really. On non-HD channels, it is a revelation - it upscales the picture to the output you have selected in the settings (1080p, 1080i etc.) so for us, there is a huge improvement in the non-HD channels compared to the sky box.
Noise: the power supply is external, like a laptop supply, so there is no cooling required for that in the box. There is still a small fan, but I can't hear it. But I can hear the disk seeking, especially when two recordings are in progress. It is quiet, but not as silent as the sky box was.
Now for something which has me confused. I expected to be able to record two progs and watch another recording at the same time, as is possible on the sky box. You most certainly can. However, with two recordings going, I was also able to watch a third live channel, AND pause and rewind it. I am baffled as to how this worked as I cannot find mention of it anywhere. The recordings both worked, there were no breaks in them.
So far, the only real niggle for me is the glaring lack of ability to set default behaviour for things like the screen you want to appear when you switch it on (I don't want the silly home screen), the format of the tv guide and list of channels when you go in to it (I want my favourites to appear with the full guide, not the useless now & next screen), given the really quite extensive flexibility within the menus I don't know why they left this kind of setting out. To get at your favourite channels in the full grid listing in the tv guide takes a stupidly ridiculous SIX key presses. Allowing some defaults to be set would allow this to be achieved with ONE, which is how it should be.
Other minor irritants - you can't programme the remote to control any TV functions, such as altering the TV volume, like you can with the sky remote. So you have to set the TV to a reasonable level and then use the volume control on the box itself. Or juggle two remotes.
So, in summary, this box is good, and much better than I was expecting after all my research. As long as it doesn't break it will be, for us, a brilliant cheap alternative to the exorbitant poorly used sky sub it has replaced. Over 5 years (or more) it will save us A LOT of money.
UPDATE: After using this for a couple of weeks, there is one bug I have found. We generally set up a lot of series links for things in case we miss the programme, but quite often end up watching it "live" anyway. In this situation, as the prog is about to start, we also often still end up pausing it while we grab a drink, let the dog out, take a "comfort break" etc... We used to do this a lot with the sky box and never thought twice about it, it always just worked, but the Humax seems to get its knickers in a twist in this situation. If the recording has not yet started and you live pause, when the recording does then kick in, it puts up a clash warning saying it can't cope, do you want to cancel the recording? This is with only one recording set, AND you're watching the same channel. If the recording has *just* started and you then press live pause, it fails to react to the pause button at all, it simply won't do it. If you keep trying, it eventually responds and does it, but then subsequent checking of the recording shows that it seems to have been truncated at the start to the point where the live pause eventually "worked". So it seems that the handling of the live recording buffer and any scheduled recordings is not quite flawless compared to the way the sky box works. I get the impression that the live buffer and any recording are always separate streams, whereas the sky box seemed to realise if they were the same thing and manage accordingly.
We get around this now by going in to the recordings and starting to watch the prog there instead, and then pausing that. So it's a minor point, but to me clearly a bug which I hope will get sorted at some point.
Otherwise we are increasingly pleased with it.