The UK’s ongoing digital switchover means that Freeview HD has probably now rolled out to a transmitter near you. If you’re using old digital TVs or set-top boxes, you won’t get the four – soon to be five – high-def channels through your aerial, alongside the standard line-up. One of the best ways to upgrade is with a new …
70% for the crash-prone LG? On paper it seems like a good, capable machine, but methinks manufacturers need to be penalised more, much more, for delivering such unreliable kit. Would point to DS/MIT, who appear to have taken a "ship something reliable, add extra features later once the software is tested stable" approach.
So what your saying is, that all of em are rubbish?
What a pile of steaming dingo kidneys
The gear that is.
Every single one of the devices reviewed is deficient in one or more major areas.
As others have said: There are better boxes not reviewed, but having said that even those have problems.
WHY is it so hard to make a decent, RELIABLE unit? (Anything which needs power cycling at the wall every few days/weeks should be an automatic FAIL. It seems Windows has trained people very well to blind accept shitty software/hardware.)
FoTW: why is FreeviewHD gear so much pricier than SD gear? Is this a not so subtle push to get us to buy FreeviewHD TVs?
The most reliable Freeview unit I had was an old Setpal unit purchased for 30 quid back in 2002. That eventually fell over thanks to some lack of programmer foresight about EPG size, but for 5 years it never missed a beat. Everything since then has needed a kicking once a week or less.
Re: Quality Control
"WHY is it so hard to make a decent, RELIABLE unit?"
Because of the culture ingrained into electrical goods manufacturers.
You may remember how Sony used to be when it first entered the PC market. They considered running Windows update (rather than getting 'Sony' patches from their own Vaio site) or installing third-party programs that didn't come with the machine as some kind of unauthorised user modification to their factory-spec that voided the warranty!
They were used to making simple electrical goods and the complexity of PCs was too much for their internal culture to adapt to.
The same applies today for other companies who are effectively entering the PC market, by making PVRs. Their management see them as modern VCRs, which require HARDWARE engineering know-how. They simply don't see them as Linux computers (complete with networking, a TCP/IP stack, USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi interfaces, etc) in a fancy custom desktop case which revolve around software, so the concept of software needing to be managed and integrated to high standards escapes them.
Until they realise they've become software companies which don't just hide all their techies in the R&D basement to invent new kinds of magnetic tape heads, a mechanism to automatically retract a mains lead when not in use or design a new kind of circuit board that reduces power consumption in standby to comply with new EU rules, nothing will change. Especially when the public is happy to keep queueing up to buy their crap products.
That's one reason it was so disappointing to see Digitalstream ignored. John Lewis were doing their fantastic 500GB HD recorder for £185, but I notice it's gone up to £199 in the last few days. I suspect this increase is purely to let them engineer a nice sounding price drop in the run-up to Christmas. "Was £199 - Now £179!" sounds more impressive than "Was £185 - Now £179", which is probably all they can afford to drop it by in the current financial climate.
It's £100 less than the Humax equivalent (more if you wait for the price to drop back down again), and just as reliable. When I bought mine, it was only £30 more than a slightly less reliable Humax that had a smaller HD and didn't do HD.
Great value, great reliability & feature-set, and from a great company who keep developing and improving things for existing customers rather than consider embedded products as 'frozen' the moment they leave the factory and expect you to upgrade to a new model to get new features.
Not perfect, but certainly fit-for-purpose and acceptably good, which is more than can be said for most of the models reviewed.
Oh the ironing
Re windows training
Had terrible problems with my HTPC setup. Hardware conflicts, failure to resume, empty recordings. Tried all sorts of solutions. Various OSes and apps.
Vista (with GBPVR)
Continuous up time now at about 9 months - never missed a beat.
So there is at least one useful installation of Vista in the world.
Does the Humax have a DLNA media server?
It's not entirely clear from the specs or the Humax website. Would be very handy to be able to watch recorded shows on a Sony KDL-22EX320B in a different room...
You can watch content from the HDR on the FOX-HD but and I think you can stream SD content to other devices but ISTR the HD is crippled by DRM.
Stop the whinging
Stop the whinging and get the Humax HDR Fox T2, they've done a superb job on it, and it richly deserves the editors choice.
It does everything asked of it, with superb 5.1 sound through any surround sound amp, and has a gorgeous looking easy to use interface. It's an order magnitude better than the old 9300, solving all the problems such as forgetting series record half way though and jumping out of catch up play if you are recording that program. The only negative point I can hold against it is the volume level differences between SD, HD and HD with 5.1 sound.
Humax HDR Fox T2
For this whinging about the lack of choice and features, you might want to grab the humax and keep an eye on the forum at:
There is already an application to decrypt HD recordings and save them wherever you wish. With the modified firmware you can already run any number of apps on the box. A web interface has been implemented and i believe they are in the process of altering the available TV portal page to add more streaming content
Heres the link to the website for the modified firmware:
In an ideal world i guess all this stuff would work out the box, but it's pretty straighforward to install this firmware and it adds a lot to what is already a very good STB.
PC + MythTV beats them all and has done for years
I've been running MythTV on my PC for about 5 years now. I think it's crashed twice, and it offers:
- Multiple tuners (I can record up to six programs at once depending on what multiplex they're on)
- Multiroom by default (all you need is another laptop or PC and it's one click to install the client software, which works on Windows, Mac and Linux)
- also plays DVDs, and any videos it can find on your hard drive
- remote access. If someone's chatting about a show at work, I can log in to the web interface from my desk and set series record instantly. If you've got good upload on your broadband, you can even stream stuff you've already recorded onto your remote machine.
- all the usual programme guide, series record, search for programs stuff. You can choose from a number of nice themes, create your own or enhance an existing one.
- you can make it work with iPlayer, youtube and so on with a bit of effort. Or just fire them up in the browser instead.
- don't need expensive hardware. I'm using a 10-year-old 2Ghz single-core Pentium 4 with an ancient NVidia graphics card. Admittedly it won't play HD but that's only an upgrade away.
- extendable with various silly widgets which will show you the weather and so on.
Dual TV tuners (Freeview/DVB-T) : £30. Came with remote control.
PC: £50 second hand
Graphics card: £20 second hand
Large-ish HDD (320GB): £20 second hand. Gets you hundreds of hours of recording time.
Nice shiny case and quiet power supply: £50. Fits under the telly where the DVD player used to be.
MythTV software and Ubuntu operating system - £0, it's all open-source.
A few hours of my time (across 5 years) to set up and tweak to my liking.
Total cost £170 - less than most decent DVRs.
It's a PC, so you can run VLC or something similar and play pretty much any video you put on it. You can probably integrate vlc into mythtv. You can browse the web, etc etc if you connect a wireless keyboard & mouse.
Because I'm a geek, the same PC also functions as a file server, print server, web server and so on, just adding to the value for money.
It'll need an upgrade to get HD channels - a dual core mobo with integrated graphics would probably be sufficient, and obviously a new tuner. Probably another £150 or so, but in total it's still no more expensive than several of the models here, which don't have half the features.
Yes it's a custom solution and not everything works out-of-the-box, but if you use a pre-built distribution like MythBuntu and follow an online guide then it's actually fairly simple to set up these days, and not time-consuming. Anyone who is even slightly more than a mindless consumer drone should consider doing it, or getting a geeky friend to do it.
I guess you can do something similar with Windows Media Centre but you probably need better hardware.
Re: PC + MythTV beats them all and has done for years
Come back to us when you've upgraded to HD tuners, and transcoded the sound so it works with the amp - without loosing sync halfway through playing!
Yes MythTV is great but:
"A few hours of my time (across 5 years) to set up and tweak to my liking."
Sit down and honestly admit to us how many hours you have spent researching, installing and updating it over the years.
Then think about how long it would take anyone who isn't very computer literate.
What the hell are you all on about?
I bought the Humax box about 6 months ago. It's great. Absolutely fantastic. I'd go so far as to say it's my favourite bit of consumer electronics I've bought in years. It was slightly iffy before the last firmware update, but since then, it's been rock solid, records two programmes simultaneously, doesn't miss things, does Series Link rather nicely, and in general has stopped us watching any live TV at all (and I've had a PVR for years).
I'd give it 90%, personally. If you want to witter on about the problems with Freeview, go for it, but frankly, I get lots of channels, some decent-enough quality HD channels, and this box records them all with no fuss or problems. What more can you ask for?
I bought a Fox T2 earlier this year and had to return it because the programme guide was unusable. Just shows the first two or three letters followed by "..." for all the programme names!
Did the firmware date fix that and finally provide an EPG with a vertical time axis?
As a long-time user of a Humax PVR it's great to see that the reviewers still rate the Freeview HD version of their products. No need to get used to anyone else's way of doing things. I also like the way that they can network together so you can record in one room and watch in another, just like MythTV or Media Centre.
I'd love to see a review of HD tuners for Windows Media Centre as the next thing El Reg covers and, if anyone still makes them, Media Centre Extenders.
Try the Panasonic DMR-HW100
I connecting the Humax HDR-FOX T2 to my Yamaha RX V3900 AV receiver and got HDMI handshake problems. The blinking was so bad it could have caused a seizure! Look at the egg box packaging it comes in, not a good sign of quality. It went straight back to John Lewis. The HDCP implementation is probably at fault. Forums have said this is the best of a bad bunch, but if you plan on routing it through an AV receiver it might cause handshake problems. I could have connected it to the TV directly and fed the optical audio out back to the receiver, but didn't bother because in the few moments of stability the HD picture quality didn't seem as good as the TV's built in freesat HD picture, and I'd had enough pantomime.
The good news is that I replaced it with Panasonic's DMR-HW100 which has no HDMI problems whatsoever with the AV receiver and has been working flawlessly. The quality of HD live and recorded viewing is excellent. SD PQ is as good as my Panasonic PZ81 TV, which is very good. As the review says, 5.1 surround sound works. Tried the Acetrax movies; streamed an 'HD' movie at a claimed 5Mbits/sec and it was fine except for one brief buffering lasting a few seconds - which was probably down to my o2 ADSL2+ broadband connection having a dip on a Friday evening. Not tried Skype or YouTube. Box as server cannot see my PC, because its Win XP and manual states only works with Win 7. As client, came up with my AV receiver only, which is not much use.
However, I am very happy, and it shows how Panasonic tend to get the basics right, even if they infuriate with the rationing of Viera Connect and iPlayer. This is coming from someone who waited 3 years to get BBC iplayer on his Panasonic TV. Incidentally, to be fair, I have a Humax freesat HD box, elsewhere in the house, connected directly to another Panasonic TV, which works great. It has both iplayer and ITV player. The later is dire but came in useful for the World cup rugby before I got the DMR-HW100.
Do any of them work away from the transmitter?
I've an old panasonic box that works fine with 90%+ signal. I've tried several modern boxes none of which can I get solid picture from.
Nice to see no-one even bats an eyelid when you return them though.
My two penneth...
We went for the Humax HDR-FOX T2 and am really pleased with it. The one thing that always put me off freeview was the thought of most of the really cr*ppy, clunky EPG's that come with them that look like a photo of lined A4 put through a typewriter (it's a superficial gripe, I know) but I really like how the Humax EPG looks and it also works really well. We went from VM TV to the Humax and we get far more functionality (that we actually use day to day) now. Unfortunately we're about to go back to VM for the broadband so we can plug the box in to the Internet and get even more.
IceCrypt T2400 - I'd give it 70%
I went for the IceCrypt a couple of months ago - on the whole it is very good, lots of nice features, can record from 2 channels at the same time whilst sometimes allowing you to watch a 3rd (depending on the channels and mux), but that's not really necessary as if you want to watch a 3rd then that's what your tv has its own tuner for.
The guide is very easy to use and programs record correctly even when transmission is delayed.
However - when I first bought it it had the rather annoying habit of losing the sound if you fast-forward the playback. A firmware update seemed to fix that, but then it started again and now has a new problem - often when fast-forwarding it would suddenly jump to say 70% or 86% through the program when you were close to the start, so you have to then go back to where it was, and rewinding playback doesn't work very well at all. That is very very very frustrating.
At least you can very quickly jump to any percentage through the program by pressing, say, 50 to go to halfway.
And when you press stop it shows a message on screen "Playback stopped" ... but it keeps on playing for another 5 seconds. Also very annoying, I stopped it for a reason, it knows instantly that I have pressed stop so why keep on playing?
TVonics DTR-Z500HD - reg recommended?
Just checked the Amazon page for the reg recommended TVonics DTR-Z500HD.
7/10 customers definitely don't agree with the reg review (giving it 1*).
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