Launch: October 2012 | Price: £279 (rrp)
The Humax HDR-1000S is the very first of the second generation Freesat receivers with <free time>, a service designed to offer the user a more seamless experience in accessing the content you want to watch.
This review is based on my experiences over the duration of a day/evening, as a semi-technical individual, combined with the thoughts of a.n.other, with zero technical ability but a passion for television! It should therefore give a fairly impartial review of how the Humax HDR-1000S performs for everyone, not just those familiar with how the service operates.
Opening the box you will find an external power supply, a change from the now discontinued FOXSAT-HDR, which used an in-built power module. External power supplies are probably the way to go despite them getting in the way; they offer quieter operation of the unit itself because less fans are needed to keep the unit cool; the HDR-1000S on our test was whisper quiet, just a slight boot noise from the HDD every now and again. This would definitely suit those with a PVR in the bedroom!
Front image of Humax HDR-1000S Freesat+HD <free time> Receiver
The box also contained a complete range of accessories, including remote (with 2 x AAA batteries), HDMI cable, Ethernet Cable, plus helpful quick start guide and <free time> manual, though very basic compared to the details manual of the FOXSAT-HDR (sure the full manual will be online soon).
We have differing opinions on the remote, the other tester loves it, where as I’m not a fan; it is very long and with the stylish curve, hard to hold in my hands, though given time, this can be forgiven. What can’t be forgiven is the use of gloss black by so many electrical products these days; it is a nightmare to keep clean for those that like everything to look pristine. The remote also has a few clicky buttons, rather than soft press, and these are the main navigation buttons so used quite often; the noise they make is a little annoying. Fortunately though Humax have now dropped support for multiple inputs therefore preventing inadvertently pressing one of the other inputs and so no longer had control of the PVR; unfortunately a further price for this though is the inability to set the remote to control your televisions volume and standby (unless we’ve missed that!).
As for the unit itself, it is clearly well thought out, with a modern look (and lots more gloss and chrome!) and will suit any television setup. However, we do still prefer the box style look of the previous version, rather than all the curves, especially given most television equipment uses sharp lines. Fortunately being black, it is subtle enough not to matter much; though a white version is also due so just make sure you like the look of it before opting for such an obvious colour!
Rear image of Humax HDR-1000S Freesat+HD <free time> Receiver
The unit carries the usual connections you’d expect, with a number of buttons on the front for basic operation, though this unit is very much remote control led, as you’d expect. There is a less than subtle reminder of this with two identical guides to how the remote works! There is a USB port hidden on the front, with a CI slot (CI/CI+) on the right hand side, but most of the action takes place at the back where you will find the power socket, LNB inputs (twin tuner), HDMI, Ethernet, Optical (S/Pdif Out), RCA (CVBS/L/R), TV Scart and USB port. Humax have dropped one of the scart ports, though unsurprising given the move towards HDMI everything. What is more surprising is the lack of the LNB output found on the FOXSAT-HDR, which allowed a little more flexibility for those with only one satellite cable (loop-through); this unit is very much designed on two cables, with SRC (single cable) LNB functionality due to be added in the future.
Setup is easy, the quick start guide is simple enough to follow, with the Internet connection being the only difficult part if you don’t already have a router or homeplugs close by you can plug straight in to. We believe the Humax wifi adaptor will work on this product, though haven’t tested ourselves. Once you have plugged in the required cables, you are ready to go.
The start-up is nice, only takes a few seconds and has a fancy, albeit slightly jerky animation of the <free time> logo. You will then be greeted with the postcode screen to start the setup process. The postcode can be any UK postcode and will determine the regional channels that are default to the main channel positions (such as BBC, ITV etc). The nice change here is that the postcode can be entered simply by using arrows and the OK button, rather than confusing those that don’t understand how to enter letters on numerical buttons. Once you click next, it will confirm a few basic picture settings, then on to the channel search screen. Funnily enough I sat their waiting for the channels to populate the list as has been the case with every Freesat receiver before, but with this unit, it was instantly ready, so I needn’t of wait! The next stage was confirmation of my Internet connection (plugged directly into router via Ethernet cable), showing access to BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, I guess so there are no nasty surprises when you find 4OD and 5 Demand are not yet available! The final stage was the parental control allowing you to set a PIN number so younger eyes don’t see channels they really shouldn’t; great to see you can skip this stage.
Once past that final step, you will find yourself on BBC 1 ready to explore the new device; the very first thing we found was the sound was very low, and if you are use to controlling your sound via the television remote, then the best advice is to turn the Humax volume up to maximum and then never use it again. We did however find the sound differing between main channels and on-demand, but it was a minor nuisance. Overall the picture and sound quality is second to none; very crisp when tested on high-definition channels and not overly soft on SD channels.
Now the stages that follow might get a little confusing to understand, as you really just need to play around to understand how the menus work and how to navigate the system. It didn’t take us too long to get a reasonable grip on things (unlike the remote) but it is a completely different experience. One thing’s for sure, whether you get frustrated or not by the structure negotiation, the menus look visually stunning, the best being the slight dark fade on the bottom half of the screen when looking at the now/next data for the channel you are on; lovely. All this beauty does come at a cost though, as the screens can delay by a second before appearing, so not ideal for those that like to speed through, though this might improve once the system is fully populated and bugs ironed out.
Now and Next programme information within TV guide
Freesat have taken an interesting step with <free time> which is very much about reducing the amount of data you see on-screen, on an initial button press; the most obvious being now/next programme data rather than a full list showing hours ahead. You can of course still see head, up to 7 days, but it requires a further click or two. There are no doubt shortcuts to be found once you get familiar with it, but almost all options require a few clicks of a button for more information. The TV Guide is great though; it has icons for the channels and shows 7 channels on the screen, as well as programme info at the top and a mini-screen so you don’t miss any action from the live channel. You can also type in a channel number to straight to that channel on the guide, as well as skip forward/backwards 2 hours or 24 hours.
The navigation is great, the HOME button takes you to the menu where you will find everything in a scrolling menu, plus you can skip all that and press the TV GUIDE button to get straight into the action. You can also take a single step back with the BACK button, or exit to your last channel with the EXIT button, simple. There are also buttons for recordings, settings and search, so every option is pretty much catered for on the remote itself.
The key facility of this new Humax HDR-1000S is without doubt <free time>, which isn’t just about a new look menu, but also the Interactive services. There is plenty of information available about <free time>, but the principle idea is the ability to go up to 7 days into the past to access a programme you might have missed. Scrolling back through days gone by you will find all programmes for the channel you had highlighted on the TV Guide (did say it gets a little complicated if you haven’t used it!), at which point you simply click OK, which will give you the option to play through the on-demand service. Now at this stage, only BBC iPlayer and ITV Player are available, so programmes will only appear 7 days backwards for those, but when 4OD and 5 Demand join, it will cover them too. When you click to play, you will be transferred to the on-demand service of choice via your Internet connection.
Backwards TV guide letting you watch programmes that have already been on
The on-demand services seem to work ok; I have to confess to only having a 2.5mbps broadband line, so I did spot a few problems (more to follow), but it is a least a good benchmark to what is possible for you lucky ones with fast lines. From accessing a programme on the guide to it physically playing within the on-demand services is about 20-30 seconds, so not bad at all, though it can sometimes be hard to explain to another person why it isn’t instant like a live programme or recording. The option for high-definition on BBC iPlayer was available (hurray), though SD was the order of the day for my slow connection. We did stumble across a problem straight away though, the programme only lasted a few seconds before it was jerking constantly, probably trying and failing to buffer; this led to having to exit as it wouldn’t pause, stop or anything! When trying again, we simply paused the programme as it started, then left for a minute and pressed play; this got rid of the buffering/jerk issue. As said though, this is most likely down to the speed of my broadband, but we have seen reports on the forums of similar, so might just be a bit glitchy at the moment. You can also access the on-demand services via a specific menu; you don’t have to go through the TV Guide.
Freesat have introduced a new showcase option too, highlighting what they deem to be the best programmes to watch that day/evening, or best of on-demand. The suggestions we were given were a nice mix and current, so hopefully this will be the case each day. You can set reminders and recordings from the showcase menu which is very handy.
Showcase section that offers recommendations on programmes to watch
Recording is simple and you will have plenty of space on this 500GB unit (1TB option available), you can either press record on a live channel (though we found knowing it was recording a little difficult to spot), or select to record from within the TV guide. The recording structure has been improved, with it sorting series into one place, as well as allowing you to choose whether to record a single episode, an entire series, or in high-definition if available. The recordings are also sorted by a number of options, which include HD, A-Z, most recent, still to watch, series etc, so finding what you want shouldn’t be too hard. Playback is simple, just select the programme and enjoy, with the option to pause, stop, fast-forward/rewind up to 32 speed.
There is a non-freesat mode too, for those that want to add more channels not currently on the Freesat TV Guide (EPG), but it remains a lesser priority and basic in operation; DiSEqC is supported up to version 2.0.
Overall can the Humax HDR-1000S be classed as all style and no substance, absolutely not, it has been incredibly well thought out and will be a system used by all manufacturers of the G2 spec Freesat receivers going forward; Humax have done an incredible job to build a unit around this new Freesat standard. We do still feel that it takes too many clicks to access specific areas of the system, but we may uncover more shortcuts, and it can react a little slow at times if you are use to navigating through menus at lightning speed. We also find that whilst the unit itself is inoffensive enough in black, it is a little ugly compared to conventional receivers, but then Freesat/Humax are taking a bold step into the future, and this little rocket ship maybe fits the bill. Of everything, it is actually the remote control that was the biggest let down for me personally (why don’t manufacturers think more carefully about the device you use to control everything), hard to hold (in my hands) and some very noisy buttons which ironically are louder than the whisper quite receiver itself. We would also like to have seen built-in wifi but with the invention of homeplugs, shouldn’t prevent most from getting online. It would also have been great to launch with 4OD and 5 demand too, plus a few more interactive features like Netflix (rumoured), but hopefully they won’t be far behind.
Apart from those little niggles, the unit is quiet, relatively quick and simple in navigation when you consider the amount of data/graphics it is pushing, and the on-demand services work very well, providing you have a suitably quick broadband connection. Picture and sound quality is amazingly good, unmatched at this time in comparison. Yes, it might take a little time to get use to the completely re-developed structure, but once you do, you’ll be wondering how you ever coped with the more static/analogue approach of the G1 spec receivers. At an rrp of £279, the unit is relatively good value for money and a worthy upgrade if you are keen on a better looking interface and want access to more interactive services.
Joinfreesat score 9 out of 10
The Humax HDR-1000S launched this month with an RRP of £279. You can buy now via our product page (also available through other retailers).
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