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back to article Ten... Freesat TV receivers

Whether you’ve cut the cord and churned away from Sky, or need to survive the digital switch-over without recourse to Pay-TV or aerial, it’s worth considering Freesat. The gratis satellite TV service matches Freeview for SD channels, and offers a smattering of high-def plus the BBC iPlayer, hardware permitting. It’s a good bet …

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The Bush freezes completely every few days, and has to be disconnected from the power to reset. Annoying / avoid.

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Stop

Beg to differ

I have 2 bushes (fnarr) and the basic Foxsat HD box.

Both bushes have been as reliable as the Foxsat - no issues with any of them.

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Only very occasional freezing here...

...but it does frequently seem to lose the ability to repopulate the EPG (in particular BBC channels, for some reason) which necessitates a power cycle to fix.

The only things I miss from Sky are to do with reminders - the apparently limited number of active reminders (about 20 or so AFAICT), the ability to view all reminders on a single page, and the fact that there's no series link function.

Otherwise, OK for the price (IIRC about £64 at Argos three years ago).

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Big Brother

not just for cash strapped.

Some of us don't want to subscribe to the Murdock Monopoly. We have freeSat in thePanasonic TV and a Humax HD recorder. Very pleased with both and also not giving £££'s to the evil empire.

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awesome

good for you, of course you realise that BSkyB are involved in freesat so any box marked with the freesat logo some money goes to Mudock.

If you want to stick it to the man you're going to need a box without a freesat logo and with corresponding poor EPG, UI etc.

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As a media pc with dual freesat tuner is as much as done of these then use a PC and WMC to stick it to Murdoch and get a PC, great UI and a more flexible system.

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Stop

Not just...

.... for the cash strapped and anti-capitalists.

Some of just don't have time to to watch that much TV and make Sky worthwhile... Free[sat|view] keeps us occupied when we need it.

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Oh?

And costs how much exactly? And what about updates and down times? How long does ti take from a cold power up (i.e. I switch my wall socket off during the day - standby still uses energy) Whilst I applaud your ability to do such a task I wouldnt expect my dad to be able to.

Alternatively there are a plethora of sky boxes that can be used with a freeview card for not-so-much money.

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BSkyB aren't involved in *this* freesat

Confusingly, BSkyB has their own free satellite initiative called "Freesat". You pay a one-off fee for a smart card and a box, which allows you to view all the free-to-air content via the Sky EPG.

You can find it here: http://www.sky.com/shop/freesat/home/

The Sky "Freesat" is nothing to do with the one in the Reg review. BBC and ITV are joint shareholders in the service reviewed here, but there is no Murdoch involvement at all. So they are different, but confusingly same-branded, things.

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Mushroom

What Murdoch monopoly?

There are plenty of alternatives to Sky's service. VM and various online offerings. Then there's two competing free services (FreeView and FreeSat) and if you really want to be independent get an FTA box and watch anything that isn't encrypted from any satellite you can get line of site to.

The channels on Sky's platform are free to switch to other platforms if they want. Most of the channels on Sky aren't even owned by Sky. They are just choosing - for the time being - to only be listed on Sky's EPG and to utilise Sky's encryption system.

Some people need to get a life. Just because Sky choose to charge for a service doesn't make them evil unless it's an essential service and they are charging an amount that makes it hard for people dependent on that service. Sky's TV service is not essential (and indeed may be harmful) so as long as competition exists (which it does) there's no problem. If you can't afford it that's your look out. Are Ferrari also evil because their cars cost the same as a small house?

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@Fuzz Incorrect, there's no connection between Freesat and Sky / Murdoch, other than the use of same (Astra) satellite(s)

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Coat

I tried many of these before purchasing.

The Humax failed to make the grade because the EPG was slow annd painful to use, it was also very buggy, with the EPG taking minutes to appear when I tried to use it, the UI also looked dated.

The Echostar failed on aesthetics, I don't care what it's got inside when it looks as fucking ugly as that.

In the end, the Samsung SMT-7800 came out on top. Slick UI, all the features I needed, and because it's the newest, it's also getting an update to bring it into line with the G2 spec in May., it was also cheaper than the others and looked better put together.

I don't think ANY of the other manufacturers have committed to their sets being G2-Ready, and therefore, the SMT-7800 gets MY Editors choice award (I can no longer go on yours, as it's based on seemingly meaningless criteria).

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Agreed

The Samsung was buggy as hell when first released but several firmware updates have been released and it is a pleasure to own.

If you're going to ditch the evil empire then there's no better Freesat box than the Sammie.

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Anonymous Coward

Humax alternatives

Was hoping the Sagemcom stuff was going to be an improvement over Humax after Freesat appeared to back them over Humax recently. I'm on my 2nd Humax box as the first expired after about 14 months with what appears to be a known inherent fault with the power supply. Just waiting for this one to stop working one morning.

I personally feel that the ongoing development isn't there with Humax, there are some annoying niggles in the interface (program cuts out while the Guide loads, clunky handling of conflicting recordings), while there were mentions of updates to the software on forums (by someone apparently linked to Humax) these never appeared, I feel they may be relying a little too much on their reviews... I'll try the Samsung next I think

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Technisat

I can't look anything up from here, but were Technisat the people who did "generic" sat receivers that could do things like decoding in software, support steerable dishes, and work as a DVR using a NAS?

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FoxSat can have ADDED functionality!

Re the FOXSAT DVR.

One advantage you neglected to mention is the firmware is Linux and has been used to implement a vast range of extremely useful addons:-

http://www.avforums.com/forums/freesat/1517610-media-file-server-bundle-foxsat-hdr-release-4-0-a.html

""A fully functioning web interface for the Foxsat HDR.

A package management system with web based repository for the downloading and updating of applications.

This can be accessed both from the web interface and from the command line.

A service management system to display status of custom applications, start or stop them, and disable/enable boot-time autostart.

Again, this is accessible from the web interface and the command line. ""

Applications allow use of various streaming media servers to allow playing recordings on other media devices, uploading recordings from the Foxsat to your PC, downloading media files to play on your Foxsat, editing and setting recording times from anywhere in the world on a PC and more!!

These added abilities makes the Foxsat stand out head and shoulders above all other FreeSat devices!

cheers

P

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Anonymous Coward

The Humax Foxsat HDR also is available a bit cheaper

from the manufacturers 'direct' refurb store (managers specials Foxsat-HDR/500-G is below £190,) just don't accidentally buy a freeview

The inter webs also have instructions for porting the Serial ATA HDD cable out of the humax box to allow attaching a couple of tera externally, whilst maintaining the original HDD inside - untouched for guarantee reasons. The only prob I have with the Humax Foxsat HDR is that kids damage the remote - it goes into flash but not control mode eventually - so I have to buy a new one each year from the rain forest.

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FAIL

Poor roundup

Mixing PVR's and receiver-only boxes and lightweight summaries, and missing some models which have had universal acclaim (Manhattan HD-S)? The information on the Bush box is well out of whack too, the box is only retailed at Argos and costs £70 and it's been replaced for the last year or so by the "BFSAT03HD" model which provides a useless (non-functional) USB port and a software overhaul which supposedly makes the unit a lot more stable than its predecessors. I got one from ebay for £40 and give the following verdict: Good picture quality, terrible user interface, no setting to automatically fill a 16:9 screen with 4:3 programs (i.e. you're forced to have black borders each side, which is really annoying if you're worried about image retention on a plasma!)

It will do until the G2 PVRs come out, though...

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Am I doing something wrong with the Humax?

Why when I start watching a programme from the beginning get half way through and then decide to record it does it not record from the beginning, like the TIVO does, as the beginning is certainly in the buffer?

Why if I am watching something buffered does it refuse to allow me to change channels until I fast forward to the end of the buffer?

Why does it seem to make it difficult to change channels if the channel you are changing to is between programs?

I really hope that I am being thick and it really isnt programed like this.

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Haven't tried it on the inlaws foxsat but... on our humax freeview box you rewind to the point you want to record from and hit record. Useful for saving space compared to dumping the enture buffer and you can grab programmes that already finished, not just the current one if the recorder tried to be smart.

Give it a try. Might work the same way. Review also failed to mention the foxsat can work in non freesat mode. And what a lot of really crappy channels there are to wade through, w

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I think you're doing something wrong with your Humax! :)

What you're not doing wrong, just expecting more than the box has to offer is that you can't record the buffer. It doesn't operate like a Tivo, unfortunately. When pressing record while wacthing the timeshift buffer, a message pops up saying that timeshift mode will stop and recording will start from the present time.

What you must be doing wrong, however, is not being able to change channels whilst watching the timeshift buffer. I just tried it now, to double-check: rewind time and watch the buffer; press up or down using the P channel change keys = the channel changes.

Check to make sure you're using up-to-date firmware maybe?

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"It doesn't operate like a Tivo, unfortunately."

I think that that is the problem. My 10 years old Series 1 Tivo still has a far better UI & functionality than anything else I have tried.

If it wasnt for the lack of HD and twin tuners I would still be using it all the time, as it is it is there to remind me what I am missing ;-)

Why is it so, I cannot believe that TIVO have the patents on everything that make it so good, or do they?

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MJI
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Strange list

Couple of bedroom TV boxes along with a few proper boxes.

TBH with Freesat I cannot see a reason in buying a non HD box, nor one missing the vital HDD.

Happy Humax HDR owner

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I have a Foxsat HDR

It's a good device and stable but it does have some annoyances. The remote control is fine but the IR beam or the receive on the box is incredibly weedy. Unless you are standing directly in front of the device it will often ignore you completely.

The device also allows series link but it is a very bare bones feature. You can record shows but you cannot say (for example) that members of that series should be deleted after being watched or some period of time. It means if you record something long running like Coronation Street that show after show after show will build up and the box has no auto setting to clean them out. Which brings me to...

Deleting stuff on the box is a huge pain in the arse. Everything is nested hiearchically so if you have 4 or 5 series links then you have to manually navigate into each folder and tediously check off each item and then wait 5 minutes for the box to delete them all before moving onto the next folder. The box blocks while it is deleting so you can't queue up a bunch of stuff to delete until the last delete action is complete. This stuff should be a queue.

So the box would be improved immeasurably with some fairly modest but useful changes to the delete behaviour.

That aside it's a pretty good box. HD output great, the software is reliable and it has a usable UI though no Freesat box is a patch on Sky for usability.

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I'd have to agree with all of this.

I have a Foxsat HDR and a Sky+ box. The UI on the Foxsat is complex and slow in comparison to the Sky+ box - it may be better than other freesat boxes, I don't know. It does support Unicable LNBs though, very useful if you only have a single downlead from an existing dish.

The Foxsat Remote is one of those glossy black jobs with loads of buttons - and you have to use loads of them. Unfortunately the legends are too small to read without glasses. Don't the manufacturers realise that if you need reading glasses, you don't usually wear them when watching TV?

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MJI
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Delete as you watch.

That seems to do it

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Agreed on the remote being shite. That is the ONLY annoyance I have with the foxsat.

otherwise it is the best on the market.

I would definiately buy another one, as I've been an owner for what, 2 years almost and zero issues.

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Agreed, however the picture quality is vastly superiour to Sky is it not?

I couldn't believe the difference when I unplugged my skybox and plugged in the foxsat in its stead.

Comparing SD to SD as I didn't have a sky HD box.

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So you were comparing an SD Sky box with analogue out (probably set up as composite as well) to watching SD programmes that are up-converted in the decoder and sent digitally to the TV.

And you were surprised by the difference in quality?

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Picture quality

"Agreed, however the picture quality is vastly superiour to Sky is it not?"

It shouldn't be unless you're comparing SD to HD. Both satellite systems are decrypting the same program streams so what they stick on the screen and play through the speakers should be bit for bit identical.

That said I do notice that the output via HDMI is noticeably less blocky and artifacted than it is via SCART, I haven't been bothered to find out the reason for this but I suspect the box has some image processing capability going on somewhere to smooth the HD output. Some SD channels like Five look excellent in HD.

Regarding the controls I agree they're fiddly. The UI is usable but it does feel workmanlike in places and lacks self consistency. e.g. some places want you to push coloured buttons to make choices, other places want you to navigate onscreen options. IIRC some of the on screen coloured button choices aren't even presented in the same order as the buttons on the remote which is silly. My biggest issue is with the delete behaviour though. Just fixing that would reduce the times I need to wade through menus by 90%.

Having been involved with settop box development and committed some of the same sins, I know its not easy to get things right but I do wish manufacturers of high end devices would put a lot more effort into usability and ongoing improvements than they do.

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In regard to the IR beam, I found that there was an elusive bit of protective plastic in front of the IR reciever, which I didn't spot when I unpacked and removed such tape from the rest of the box. Removing that improved the responsiveness. Might be worth a check.

Regarding auto-deleteing a series-linked show. Why would you not just hit "delete" after watching it, if you wanted it deleted? I agree, though, that the feature would be nice.

Regarding deleting many items, you're right - there should be no reason why the box can't simply automatically queue deletions in the background as and when the user deletes them. Saying you can't delete stuff while stuff is being deleted is kinds ridiculous.

I think the Humax box has come a long way since it was first released. They improved the speed of the menus and responsiveness and made all sorts of improvements that still make it one of the least problematic boxes on the market today. Releases by much bigger manufacturers like Panasonic and Sony fail on any number of things that Humax has long since resolved.

It still has quirks, it still needs to improve - the long-delay Guide download that occurrs and can be fixed with a re-scanning of channels (without saving) is another trait that should be worjed on, but it still performs better than anything else out there. And that's its saving grace. For the big stuff - it's the best available, and very good.

Humax has made a good name for themselves over the years with these boxes. It was the only one I considered buying at all.

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Happy

I found a fix for the narrow field of view on my Humax Foxsat remote. If you flip down the front cover you'll see the window for the display and a second round window for the remote sensor. On my Humax both windows had some grey tint paint applied. Carefully scraping the paint from the round window has resulted in much wider field of view for the remote! Seems like a bit of a daft design. I can't take credit for this fix - I found it on one of the Humax support forums.

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Deleting files....

Given that even your average desktop OS isn't capable of queuing file operations, I'm not that surprised if a Freesat box isn't.

Although I still don't get WHY your average desktop OS isn't capable of queing file operations, to be fair....

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We turned to Freesat after ditching Sky and haven't looked back, Our Humax box allows recordings to be copied to a USB drive or external hard discs (I have two permenantly hooked up via a hub) and SD recordings can be transfered to a computer for viewing (HD can also be transfered but will need to be recorded in non Freesat mode due to DRM restrictions). There are some nice modifications around for this box too allowing streaming of recordings to multiple machines.

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ACZ
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Humax definitely comes top

Yes there is some minor snagging with the EPG on the Humax, but the additional firmware that oldcodger links to (above) is absolutely fantastic. Personally, I copy recorded TV programs from it directly to Flex Player running on an iPad (no need for format-shifting - just drag-and-drop). The end result is that I can easily watch full quality TV shows on the iPad whilst sat on the train.

For me, apart from the minor GUI tweaks, the only extra thing that I would want is gigabit ethernet instead of the current 100Mbit. Overall, excellent piece of kit.

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Humax Foxsat HDR remote response / Deleting lots

As well as making sure you have removed both films from the front panel (there is a second one behind the flap) look to see if you have one of the models which has the coating all the way across with no clear hole left where the sensor is. If so you can scrape the coating off in front of the sensor to significantly improve the remote response.

To delete lots and lots and leave it to chug away move all recordings to be deleted to one folder (or to the top level) then Select All in that folder then Delete. Time for lunch.

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Humax and Bush observations

Have 2 Bushes and the Humax HD (non-DVR) box dotted around the house.

Humax

Best image quality.

Really slow cold boot. (We use a remote control plug).

All the IP TV facilities appear as beta's on FoxSat first.

Bush

Best budget buy by a mile.

Almost instant cold boot compared to Humax.

Has a combined Freesat and Non-freesat mode. No fiddling with the settings menu to switch mode.

Downside Fugly but functional UI.

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MJI
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Humax is slow because

It turns off the LNB heater and they take 30 seconds to warm

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MJI
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Humax slow boot

It turns off its LNB heater while off - unlike Sky boxes

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Anonymous Coward

I have a gigantic cricket/locust thing that overwinters snuggled next to my quad LNB. It's been there for the last 3 years so I suppose I should name him/it. I don't mind the bit of power loss if I'm keeping my external pets happy. Pics available on demand

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Anonymous Coward

Lidl FTW

Lidl periodically sell a satellite receiver for about 30 quid. They can receive all the freeset channels and some others (mostly foreign). For another 30 quid you can add diseqc motor, and point your dish at several other satellites for even more channels.

The only problem is finding something worth watching amongst 2000 channels of shite. But then it takes over an hour just to flick through them all, so by the time you've decided what to watch, it's finished and something else is on instead.

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Except the Lidl boxes are not Freesat, they're just Free to Air Satellite. Basic now and next EPG.

Freesat, is, essentially, the EPG - channels pay a modest fee to be included on it and boxes have to agree to licensing terms to include the logo that certifies a certain format and EPG.

The EPG is what makes Freesat boxes usable, over the bog-standard Free To Air satellite things.

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MJI
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Lidl something worth watching

How about Formula 1 free to air when the BBC are not showing it?

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Anonymous Coward

Sagem DSI86

We have some of these at work and they are ok but the remote control is really bad on all of them, you have to get pretty close and be very patient with it to get it to do what you want.

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Happy

It's great to finally see a competitor to the Foxsat HDR

It seems utterly insane to me that it has taken this long for anybody to catch up to the Humax Foxsat HDR - two to three years? Every other field of consumer electronics has been through at least one if not two generations in that time, yet Freesat HD+ is unchanged.

So it's not exactly surprising if Humax have been somewhat resting on their laurels - perhaps now that Samsung have a device that is roughly as good they'll hurry up on bringing out something even better.

- I would love a set-top box that would let me stream video from my home network. I can stream from my Hummy, but not back - and that is a great shame.

One comment on these reviews though - only one picture of the remote for any of these devices, and no pictures of the EPGs at all.

It's fair enough that you don't go into much detail in these Ten... reviews, but those are the two things that we'd be looking at all the time.

- The manufacturers seem to try to avoid letting us see the remotes whenever possible, and the remote can often make or break a device.

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Happy

inbuilt

Fortunate to have an inbuilt dual freesat/view tuners on a panasonic plasma, I find the freesat signal more stable. More channels too but mostly junk, although cbs acion has TNG at 8pm every night :p...

More tvs should have it built in really.

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Should I be worried about buying if there is a revision in the works?

I've just moved into a house in London which is apparently sans TV ariel. I have Virgin Cable HD, but don't currently have one of their Tivo boxes and don't really want to fork out a monthly payment just to be able to record. So I was thinking about a FreeSat box.

However the article mentions a forthcoming revision of the standard, so should I hang on before buying, to avoid getting an obsolescent box? Are there any stickers I should be looking for e.g. 'FreeSat2 Ready'?

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ARGH! MY EYES!

I see that all those VCR designers from the 70's are back in business!

BTW, for those with cheap tablets and G wifi, SD > HD when it comes to transcoding.

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Devil

poor/chaotic review

As noted by others.

WHY mix STBs with DVRs?

WHY such a limited range? There are a bunch of promising DVRs missed.

FWIW: I asked Echostar why the Slings don't have ITV player.

The answer is "Because Freesat won't let us release it"

At first blush it appears there's some interesting backroom dealing going on. Apparently only Humax has been authorised to provide ITV player on Freesat boxes.

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Foxsat HDR

I disagree with your review, had one of these and was lucky enough that where I bought it from happily exchanged it for a Samsung S7800, it just simply died after 11 months despite being properly ventilated.

When I claimed under the wwaranty they sent back a badly beaten up refurb.

Dreadful, I'd not buy a Humax again, the Samsung S7800 is a much better machine.

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