Humax HDR-1000S Review
This new Freesat box from Humax had everyone excited.
It’s been a long time since they launched the very popular and highly rated Foxsat HDR (now discontinued, but a long time best buy from both our site and many of the high street hifi and tech magazines).
So does the HDR-1000S live up to the hype? How has it improved on the Foxsat? Let’s find out.
So What’s New
Things have moved on a lot since Humax’s Foxsat appeared back in 2010.
BBC iPlayer became popular, as did other catch-up services – and we wanted them on our TV’s, not on our laptops.
The YouView initiative launched with the aim of giving us exactly that. It scared the heck of certain rival services, and took a long time arriving. And this box is just one of the results.
FreeTime vs. YouView?
The first thing to cover is just what the heck is ‘FreeTime’. On the face of it, FreeTime is YouView but for satellite based boxes.
Underneath the hood it’s a totally different thing, built on different technology by different people. But what really matters is what it does and how it works.
Things could change, but for now at least think YouView = Freeview, and FreeTime = FreeSat.
What Does FreeTime Offer
It’s a whole new interface and TV Guide. And it’s really rather good.
The ‘killer’ new feature here of course is that you can now go backwards in your program guide (EPG).
Why would you want to do that?
Because that’s how you easily find programs on the catch up services. Scroll back to Top Gear that you missed last night (and forgot to record) – click ‘Watch Now’, and up it comes. Easy as that. Pulled directly from iPlayer.
This is exactly the kind of feature that is just so incredibly powerful and convenient, that within 5 minutes of having it you’ll wonder how anyone ever did this kind of thing before. Or why anyone would ever use BBC iPlayer on a computer ever again.
(NOTE: at the time of writing 4oD and Demand 5 have not been added yet, but are high on the ‘to do’ list)
You can also delve into the actual apps themselves for iPlayer and ITV Player – if you wanted to browse more generally.
Things are not quite as polished as MySky, but it is impressive and to my eye anyway it looks pretty darn slick.
What Else Is Good
Most important of all really, but the picture quality and sound are both top notch – SD and HD channels.
Through the HDMI connector it’s the best I’ve seen from a Freesat box. And yes, you will get 5.1 surround sound out of it too. SCART is also available if your TV/amp is looking long in the tooth.
(Please don’t use the RCA video out though, unless you preferred how TV pictures looked in the 1980’s… why do they still include these things?)
Moving around the menus generally is a very pleasant experience – it’s clear, easy to use and fast. We’ve come a very long way from some of the early PVR’s!
The integration of the catch up services is not limited to the EPG either. Bring up the Showcase and you’ll start seeing suggestions not only of what to watch today or this week, but the best of last week too.
There doesn’t appear to be any ‘learning’ to tailor these recommendations, but I’ll bet it’s on the cards for later.
And it’s quiet. For anyone who has sat across the room from certain Freesat recorder boxes wondering why someone is trying to land a small aircraft in their lounge – you’ll be pleased to know the HDR-1000S is blissfully quiet. Helped out in part by using an external power supply unit (like most laptop computers do).
What About Recording
Nothing is lost from the excellent Foxsat recorder that came before. This box is of course a twin tuner device too, so you can both record one channel while watching another, as well as record two different channels at the same time.
(OK, so you can also record two programs and still watch a 3rd pre-recorded program, but now we’re just showing off!)
Recording is just as easy as it should be, and the ‘series record’ feature makes having to remember to record next weeks episode a distant memory.
The HDR-1000S is available in 500GB and 1000GB (=1TB) versions. The price difference between the two is fairly small (about £20-30) so it seems a bit mean to go for the smaller option. Particularly now we have more HD channel options these days – which obviously take up a lot more disk space.
But if you don’t tend to keep a lot of recordings ‘just in case’ you want to watch them, then you could probably get away with the smaller 500GB model. You’ll get about 125 hours of HD recording with that – and about 250 hours with it’s bigger brother.
Connecting Up – Cables Included!
A quick mention should go to the fact you actually get both an HDMI cable, and an ethernet cable in the box! And batteries for the remote too.
Clearly Humax wants you to just enjoy using the box as soon as the postman leaves 🙂
What’s Not So Good
There’s no built-in wi-fi. But there is both a LAN connector for direct cable connection to your internet access, and a USB port which you can use for a wireless dongle.
Personally I prefer the reliability of a cabled connection to my router rather than Wi-Fi for this purpose. If you’ve ever put up with stuttering HD using iPlayer on your laptop you may want to go that route too.
You can also try those Powerline adaptors if you don’t have convenient cabling and also want to avoid Wi-Fi. The technology is now very well proven and surprisingly good.
I’d recommend these Powerline adaptors as they are much slimmer than the older designs, and have power saving built-in (great price too).
The search facility for finding programs doesn’t yet cover catch up programming. Unless you access the catch up apps themselves where you can. It’s a minor thing but hopefully something Humax will add in a later software update.
It’s important to point at that (as is often the case) the early days saw some software glitches for the HDR-1000S. And you will see some fairly negative old reviews around as a result. But fixes have been released by Humax in December 2012, and again since, and right now, it’s pretty darn reliable for most people!
The most anticipated feature is of course support for 4oD and Demand 5. It looks like this has taken longer to deliver than planned due to Humax having to work on those early bug fixes instead. But a new software update is due very soon.
Other new features already touted for inclusion are a remote control app for your mobile – which should be fun, and will tick off another advantage MySky used to have!
I must say this box has totally won me over!
It’s a pleasure to use, and feels like a serious upgrade from my previous favourite Freesat PVR – Humax’s Foxsat HDR.
The HDR-1000S has a slick user interface that is colourful and friendly. And fast to move around – a feature so often underrated! Yes, it could do with a final polish – and I suspect it will get one anyway from future software upgrades – but if you’re using a PVR that is 4 or 5 years old, get one of these and you’ll feel like you just woke up from a bad dream!
Picture quality and sound are good – really good! Use the HDMI if you can.
Record and playback is easy. And now watching programs you missed is easy too.
This is our new Winner of Best Freesat Recorder.