back to article Ten... Freeview HD recorders

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 …

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  1. MJI Silver badge
    Pint

    Interesting article

    As I am now in a post switchover area, I need a new PVR and HD is a definate.

    Our Humax HDR is overloaded as the Pace Twin is basically an inaccurate digital clock.

    Ones which interest me are Humax, TVonics and the Technomate looks interesting.

    But then I also need to replace my satellite dish so I can use multiple LNBs for F1 next year.

    Decisions decisions.

  2. Jim 59

    Topfield

    Not tempted. I suspect an old Topfield / MyStuff setup would beat these offerings.

    1. Ian 4
      Thumb Up

      Agreed

      ...but will Topfield produce a HD version?

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Nope.

        No, they won't. There is a set top box for Freeview HD made by Topfield and badged by IceCrypt (Turbosat) but no recorder coming along. They don't seem to be terribly keen on the UK market any more, in my view.

      2. jason 7 Silver badge
        Meh

        Topfield - Dead as a Dodo

        Long gone. I wouldn't hang around for them to come back.

        Shoddy build quality and even with all your Taps and My Stuff, its still not a great user experience.

        I'm amazed that after all these years PVR boxes are all still a dogs dinner when it comes to usability.

        How difficult does it have to be?

        1. Jim 59

          Toppy

          Disagree with Jason7. The Topfield/MyStuff user experience is pretty near perfect. In feature terms it is well ahead of Sky+ (eg recording based on text search - basic on the Toppy since 2007 - can Sky owners even do that yet?). My only complaint with the Toppy is that the 250 gb disk is getting too small now, and you have to be techy to administer MyStuff. But the authors are friendly and helpful, unlike Rockboxers.

          I will take Greg 16's advice: wait 12 months, and then buy a FreeSat HD box with YouView installed.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge
            Go

            topfield hd recorders

            they *do* exist as smallworld cable are using them in trials (customer trials).

    2. Rolf Howarth
      Alert

      Programme guide

      I don't care about features like Bluray or internet connectivity or subtitles or 5.1 sound.

      The killer feature for me, which I'm still looking for to replace my now sadly defunct Topfield, is a decent programme guide. I bought a Humax Fox T2 but had to return it as being unusable because it ionly has the traditional "horizontal" program guide, where you end up with lots of helpful information like "Sp... T... In..." because there isn't room for the full program title. Utterly, utterly useless!

      What you could do on the Topfield is switch to a single channel at a time "vertical" view, so each programme appeared on its own line with a vertical time axis, and you could scroll down to see the entire week's schedule for one channel, deciding what to record.

      If any of these PVRs has a usable programme guide I'll buy it in an instant.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hybrid device

    Does anyone produce a PVR with both Freesat HD and Freeview HD tuners - so one can record from both sources ? The more upmarket Samsung and Panasonic 2011 TVs have both tuners so a similar PVR would be great. I guess you could build a Quiet PC with a Freeview and FeeeSat card...

    1. Shaun 1

      Page 4

      Isn't that what the Technomate TM-7102 HD-T2 Super does?

  4. Just Thinking

    How long did you run these for?

    The one I bought from Tesco for £80 is just fine, except that about once a week it hangs, needs to be power cycled then spends 10 mins "repairing" its hard drive.

    I suppose some of the more expensive ones have more reliable disks, but how much do you need to pay to be sure that you aren't just getting the same crap in a shinier box?

    1. David Gosnell

      Long term reliability

      Well, even medium term reliability, is the bug-bear of all recording boxes I've had any experience of. Not necessarily catastrophic hardware failure, but simple lack of perhaps the most important aspect with any recorder, especially with huge storage capacity: dependability. Forget the bells and whistles. Frankly if someone can produce for me a twin tuner PVR (DVB-T or DVB-T2) that can be relied upon to make the recordings requested, when requested, my money's on the table. I'm not holding my breath. Sadly these are the kinds of issues never coming up in reviews, only the forums once lumbered with an unreliable piece of junk. Never acknowledged by the manufacturers either: yes Humax, that includes you.

      1. llodge
        Thumb Up

        Humax's have been OK for me.

        I've had Humax's since the 9200 and had very few problems.

        The 9200's started to get a bit problematical after 4 or 5 years but a cold boot normally fixes that .

        The Freesat HD might lock up once in 6 months or so but I don't use that much now as the user interface of the FOX-HDR is much better IMHO and now you can have the FOX HD and watch content on the HDR using that it's gettting much better.

        Now looking forward to being able to programme them over the net :-). It might even be available on hacked versions I haven't looked recently.

  5. taysider
    Happy

    Sagemcom RT190-320 T2 HD, USB stick

    I have this box and just to let you know the USB port allows you to download from the box to the stick and export to a PC. you need the sagemcom-file-converter.exe which you can download from sagemcom to view on a PC.

  6. Colin Millar

    Missed opportunity

    I gave up on freeview recorders as they were consistently underpowered and poorly featured.

    From the look of this bunch it doesn't look like they have moved on a lot.

    What's the betting you could cure most of the LG crashes with an uprated transformer unit?

    And DVB-T only? Do they even know what year it is?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well there's a pile o' shite, every one missing something, now when will someone put all the needed features in one box while leaving out the crap?

    1. Greg 16

      The Samsung box had the potential to piss on all the others from a great height - but then they forgot to connect the second tuner to the harddrive - Retards!

  8. joshimitsu

    Decisions?

    There's only 3-4 FreeSat HD recorders on the market, and Humax haven't released a new once since 2009

  9. Fuzz

    I'm pretty happy with my Acer Revo running windows media centre. I have Freeview HD and satellite (DVB-S2), plenty of space for recordings and it can play all my media off of local drives, USB or network. It can also stream nicely from the Internet.

    Total cost was more than most of the receivers here bar the technomate. Only feature it's missing is the transcode of AAC into DD5.1 on the freeview HD channels.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DVB-T2 is included in the 3View. And I can see other features missing from both the 3View and other products in this list. The review is very "bare bones" and fails to actually list specs or compare features.

    So to the posts above this one asking about why the are "only DVB-T" or "missing features", please don't take this as a "complete" review. I assume all of these products do a lot more than has been documented here.

    Still an interesting comparison.

    1. Bob H
      Boffin

      Not Freeview compliant

      Last time I checked the 3view box wasn't Freeview HD compliant nor certified to be so. It really should be made clear because others have put great effort in to ensuring they achieve compliance to the national standards.

      Also the ICE Crypt boxes aren't actually made by Turbosat themselves, they are licensed designs built by a third party.

    2. Colin Millar
      Facepalm

      T/T2 not the point

      The point is S which I am sure the reviewer would have mentioned no matter how bare boned a review.

      And why do you assume that the products do a lot more than the reviewer has mentioned? Are you referring to the long list of things like "EPG, remote control, power on light etc" which manufacturers of shoddy crap like to include to distract us from the fact that it's shoddy crap? Or are you aware of some actual useful feature that the reviewer has failed to mention?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Grow up troll...

        Obviously I was not referring to default features like an on switch or a remote control. I was referring to extra tricks that each box will do that makes them unique. I own one of the 3View boxes, and the Internet Connected side is very handy. It also means that via the forum we already have it doing tricks it was not designed to. (No - I am not going to write a review as I don't have experience of other products and I'll be accused of bias. And the review here was bang on about this product still being a work in progress. Potential looks interesting. And AAC is also in the "soon" list due for one of the next firmware updates)

        Look at what the after market has done for Humax and other brands. The best products grow a life of their own among their fans.

  11. Anna Logg

    @Taysider

    Does export to PC work with HD content? I thought most of these boxes, at least the 'big name' ones, locked down HD content so it can only be replayed on the box it was recorded on, I was hoping some of the more 'left field' brands might not have been so rigorous about DRM.

  12. The Jester

    Fetch TV 8320HD

    No love for the Fetch TV 8320HD reviewed previously? I've had one of these since new and they really have fixed the firmware to an acceptable standard now. Dual DVB-T2 tuners, DLNA, iPlayer, Sky Go built in, and can be picked up for £150 if you look hard enough!

  13. Greg 16
    Alert

    Freeview is forever crippled

    Freeview HD has the major issue of not having the bandwidth. They just upgraded the compression so they can transmit a total of FIVE HD channels! - but in doing this a large number of earlier Freeview HD boxes were made obsolete.

    FreeSat HD is the platform with the capacity, especially as its just had a new satellite launched, but FreeSat is also being upgraded to the new G2 standard early next year so its not a great idea to buy a box right now.

    Then of course there is the long delayed YouView which has massive promise, but will need a high speed internet connection to be any use. They have also published a minimum spec of their hardware which is far higher than any currently available FreeSat or FreeView box.

    Probably the best bet is to wait 12 months, and then buy a FreeSat HD box with YouView installed.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      No.

      No Freeview HD boxes have been obsoleted. The compression used for FreeviewHD now is exactly the same as it was at launch - H.264. Compression ratios may have changed slightly, but that has not made any Freeview HD box obsolete.

      1. Greg 16

        Yes, my mistake it was some of the early FreeSat HD boxes that were made obsolete by the update. It was the upgrade to the DVB-S2 standard which is basically compression.

        The hope for FreeView HD is that miraculous improvements are made in compression to allow more than the 5 HD channels it can currently manage - I can't see it happening, so it will just mean a reduction in channels as they move from SD to HD.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Freeview HD no, Freeview yes

        Quite a few early Freeview tuners are non DSO compatible.

        Pace DTVA - only used it for a couple of months before that TV died fully (bedroom TV) now scrap but was still working.

        Pace Twin - oh look an expensive digital clock - as soon as we have cleared the hard drive bin time.

        And due to their lack of concern I won't be buying Pace again, I had a techy on the phone for 1/4 hour about the Twin issue, it only needs a software update to work. I actually asked him if Humax products work OK after DSO, as they are top of list at the moment.

        But then an email to Humax was not answered about their DTTV stuff.

  14. Iain Thomas

    Digitalstream?

    No mention of the digitalstream boxes? They're not much older than the Humax, and with current firmware, they'll do the media player from USB thing, and DD transcoding via HDMI and TOSLINK...

    1. ph0b0s

      Maybe due to what the theregister were sent by manufacturers. Disappointing not to see this one in there though. They are doing really well with putting out new features via firmware. Really good support of the product. Does most of what the recommended box does but for less money....

  15. Christoph Hechl

    dreambox?

    Why isn't a single dreambox included in this review?

    For those asking for the ultimate in highend there is the PVR8000HD, but they also offer smaller models for smaller budgets.

    I have never found anything that came close to the dreamboxes in features and ease of use.

    1. Pete 2

      The hackers choice

      Yes, a starling omission, given its reputation as the platform of choice for people who like to tinker with their STBs.

      1. Greg 16

        Or how about the £60 Openbox with a cheap USB HDD attached - does pretty much the same thing (yes you know what I mean) at a 1/5 of the price.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Digital Tv the biggest con of the 21st century. Bad picture quality. In the 70's you were able to watch motion without picture break up. All channels worked. Now every other week you need to re-scan to get new channels at the cost of losing ones that worked before. You used to have the ability to sort your channels into any order you wanted. You didn't get shat on by the BBC 'Press red' when ever a news or sport program airs.

    I'll stick to torrenting and save the license fee. Maybe someone will design a decent box by the tear 2020.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Red button

      Generally, simply pressing the Green button makes the "Press Red" sign go away (and on my Toppy, I can permanently disable it)

      The real problem is the DOG, the channel logo in the corner. There's no way I'm going to watch a programme with "BBC HD" blatently superimposed in the corner, when I can watch the same programme on BBC1 without it.

      Also, it seems me that what Freeview HD is best at is making the encoding artefacts show even more clearly than usual...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        DOGs

        "There's no way I'm going to watch a programme with "BBC HD" blatently superimposed in the corner, when I can watch the same programme on BBC1 without it"

        I've always thought this is their strategy to get DOGs onto the main channels. They know people hate them, and had a hard enough time putting them on BBC3, More 4 and Plus-One channels, etc. But that's now going to stop them doing it.

        The obvious way is to include them from the very beginning on terrestrial HD channels, when they're still thought of as alternative digital channels. Then, as the public slowly break the habit of watching SD channels when there's an HD version available, and transition onto HD channels, these DOGs will effectively sneak onto their TVs on the remaining channels which don't use them.

        People won't make a fuss because "they've always been there".

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Nearly had C4 in tears

          Complaining about C4HD logo as it is terrible and ruins films. How many insults for marketing twonks is there?

          And why has BBC dropped its promise to keep the turd off dramas and films.

          Good job I NEVER watch films on TV anymore.

      2. King Jack
        Thumb Down

        So by pressing green, it makes it interactive TV. What happened to passive TV viewing? I don't want to have to fish out a remote every time the BBC chooses to show sport. There is no reason for them to it. Teletext was never rammed down peoples throats. You chose to press text when YOU wanted teletext.

  17. Adam T

    Multiple channel recording

    I just want something that can record multiple channels at once....:p

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Which is exactly what anything with a "dual tuner" in it can do.

      And the really clever ones can set a tuner to a single MUX and then record multiple channels from it a the same time. An old PC PCI product I have used for the past six years could do that - on a single tuner.

      1. David Gosnell

        Dual tuner = dual record = not necessarily

        The Samsung model reviewed here will only record from one of its tuners, and this always used to be a very widespread state of affairs. Some units were fine but under-sold, because "watch one, record one" sounded better to the unwashed masses than "record two", when they would actually do either - but not universally so.

  18. Blubster
    Meh

    Technology.........

    Ain't it wonderful.

    All these latest FreeView boxes all nice and shiny, crammed with with the latest must-have features. But for what?

    What's really worth watching on Freeview - HD or otherwise?..........................anybody?...............

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      dr who, merlin, top gear. are the big ones

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Futurama

      on Pick TV.

      BBC Radio 4 Extra is good fun too. And Dave, if you like the stuff they have.

      Yes, repeats; so what?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why did we come down from the trees?

      "But for what?"

      So that the large vertical bands that ran down my TV screen on the four analogue channels I could pick up well due to large buildings that had gone up in my vicinity 20 years ago, would go away.

      And so that I could pick up Channel 5 without all that snow.

      And so that I could watch old shows like The Professionals, Sweeney or Minder that would never have been repeated in a million years on analogue TV.

      And so that I could watch TV on a huge screen in my living room without the picture looking like I was viewing through the bottom of two Pepsi bottles due to stretching a fuzzy 576-line analogue image across a 50" LCD display.

      And so that I have access to a rolling news channel on the occasions I'd like to watch it (such as riots or natural disasters).

      And so that I could click one button to record a whole series instead of having to enter the times and dates of every episode of a series into the LCD of a VCR, not helped by the fact it could only store 8 timers and many shows no longer broadcast at a consistent time each week.

      And... so many more reasons besides.

      Frankly, I'm baffled by your attitude on an techno-savvy website like this. It's not like you're asking what's the point of Twitter or the MS ribbon. You're seriously not seeing any benefits in Freeview (HD, recording or otherwise) over analogue TV!

      I bet you're an IT middle manager who gets to decide what equipment to buy for the real staff to use. Staff who'll spend the next three years of their work hours wasting most of it as they try their best to compete against your 21st century rivals with woefully underpowered and not-very-suitable kit running Windows 98 because you think the jury's still out on all this 'NT' stuff.

      Raid array? What's wrong with just buying yet another box of external HDs, with each employee name written on them in white marker? if it's important, we'll just burn it to CDR. Simples.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge
        Go

        aye

        to be fair I must say I use iplayer more than BBC and if the other channels had similar offerings that can be played on XBMC i'd use those too (the itv one has horrific compression). Maybe a recorder would help me out. Still, i'd want it to replace the XBMC so ethernet streaming would need to work too.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you serious?

    You didn't include the Digital Stream DHR8205?

    I flicked through all 5 pages scanning for the DS, and when I didn't see it listed, didn't bother wasting my time wading through the text.

    How anyone appointing themselves as an expert qualified to write a review/buyers' guide can not mention Digital Stream is beyond me...

    1. iancalc

      Digital Stream was asked to supply a review sample for this new round-up but it declined because the current models are relatively old and due to be replaced in the near future.

      It's a similar case with the Fetch TV Smartbox, which is about to have an overhaul of its firmware and user interface.

      Review stock was not available for the Sony HDT500 either, and it's said to be in very short supply at retailers at the moment.

  20. Anonymous Cowbard

    No Sony HDT500

    Omitting the Sony Freeview HD also seems like a mistake.

  21. Iain Thomas

    Seriously?!?

    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.

  22. dansus
    FAIL

    Oh dear..

    So what your saying is, that all of em are rubbish?

    I agree.

  23. Alan Brown Silver badge
    FAIL

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

    2. Colin Millar
      Happy

      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.

      What worked?

      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.

  24. getHandle
    Stop

    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...

    1. llodge

      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.

  25. druck Silver badge
    Go

    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.

  26. Afx

    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:

    www.hummy.tv

    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:

    http://hummypkg.org.uk/

    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.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

    Cost?

    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.

    1. druck Silver badge
      Stop

      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!

    2. Greg 16
      Facepalm

      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.

  28. Konrad P
    WTF?

    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?

    1. Rolf Howarth

      EPG

      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?

  29. Matthew 3

    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.

  30. Peterfpan

    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.

  31. Tom 7 Silver badge

    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.

  32. MrJP
    Thumb Up

    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.

  33. Gordon Barret
    Thumb Down

    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?

  34. jolly
    WTF?

    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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