Humax Foxsat-HDR Freesat HD digital video recorder
Record and replay HD
Review We’ve been looking forward to getting our hands on the Foxsat-HDR for quite a while now. In fact, we’d been hoping to review it early in the new year – until some uncouth louts decided to hijack an entire shipment of the devices as they came into the country, including, needless to say, one unit that had been earmarked for El Reg.
Humax's Foxsat HDR: record 80 hours of free-to-air HD TV shows
Still, we’re pleased to say that the Foxsat-HDR was worth the wait. It’s a bit pricey - it comes in at around £299 -but it’s a well-designed and versatile digital video recorder that includes the added bonus of being one of the few options for viewing and recording the free-to-air HD content that is available from the Freesat satellite TV service.
There are currently three types of Freesat receivers. The most basic ones, which Freesat refers to as "Freesat digital boxes", cost about £100 and allow you to view the full range of around 140 Freesat channels and radio stations – but only in standard definition. Then, at around £150 there are "Freesat HD" boxes, such as Humax’s own, less expensive Foxsat-HD, which can also receive high-definition broadcasts - though it’s worth remembering that Freesat’s subscription-free HD offerings are currently limited to just the BBC’s single HD channel and occasional outbursts of activity on ITV HD. However, neither of these options allows you to record Freesat programmes so that you can watch them at your own convenience.
That’s where the Foxsat-HDR comes in, as this is one of the first top-tier models that can both receive and record Freesat’s full range of SD and HD programmes. Just remember that the £299 price tag doesn’t include the cost of buying and installing a suitable satellite dish. You’ll need to budget an extra £50-100 for the dish, depending on the deals that you can find from various high-street retailers. However, it is possible to connect the Foxsat-HDR to an existing Sky satellite dish and receive the various Freesat channels through the Sky dish as both services are broadcast from the same Astra satellite up there in the great blue yonder.
When you lift it out of its box, the Foxsat-HDR looks like a slimline, matte-black DVD player. It measures 380 x 250 x 55mm deep, which makes it slightly wider, but not quite as high as our existing Sky+ box. Setting it up proved to be admirably straightforward. The Foxsat-HDR has two tuners built into it, allowing you to record two channels at the same time, or just to watch one channel while recording another. You will, however, need two input cables connecting the box to the satellite dish in order to use both tuners simultaneously.
Hope it's better than other models
Well, I hope they can develop a decent remote control and design the PVR so that it actually responds to the Infra Red signal! because some of Humax's conventional SD PVR models are absolutely diabolical.
As an electronics engineer, I have serious questions as to whether Humax really know how to design electronics!! As far as I can tell, the IR receiver appears to be software polled and there's no hardware buffer to receive and decode the IR signal and hold the character code received until it's read out by the processor. Absolutely s**te.
Not to mention there doesn't even appear to be a watchdog timer to reset the unit when one of the execution threads locks up. I have to pull the power plug!
@ Sam York, SD over HDMI
SD can be better over HDMI than any other connection standard. Why?
In most connection formats the signal is analogue and the different connection standards differ in how they transmit the signal, combining, separating luminance, chrominance information, whether it's modulated on to an RF carrier or not.
There are various methods employed which give different levels of image quality.
However for digital television systems, the image is represented as digital data ( typically MPEG2 data stream as the source material), and that digital stream has to be converted into an analogue signal to be transmitted down the cable to the television set, and there are losses and imperfections in this process.
For HDMI connectors, the video signal is represented as a digital data stream, which happens - and not by coincidence! - the same format as the source material - digital data.
So if an SD signal from freeview/digital satellite is sent down an HDMI cable there is no digital to analogue conversion taking place and no losses. There's no imperfections caused by combining, separating colour signals. Everything is received, processed, transmitted entirely in the digital domain.
So, yes, SD signals sent over HDMI can be higher quality than SD signals transmitted down any other connection type.
@Michelle Knight, HD over terrestrial
The BBC have conducted trials of HD over terrestrial. I know someone that recorded the programmes, using a Freeview card and software decoder incorporated into his PC.
However, it looks as if Ofcom, doesn't want the UK to have HD over Freeview(terrestrial). It's technically possible, it's proven to work.
From what I have heard, Ofcom would prefer the available frequency spectrum be occupied with many more SD channels than HD channels. They have decided for us, what the nation wants.
So I wouldn't hold your breath on waiting on HD over terrestrial. It may not happen.
RE: Single cable and LNB to record 1 / view another at same time is posible
By Nigel R
Care to elaborate? I can't find details of this new LNB anywhere... Got a link?
I know you can use the "loop through" on the back but that restricts you to watching/recording on the same band/polarity as the 1st tuner (1 of 4 possible band/polarity combinations)
Then there are the "stacker-destacker" devices that "stack" the bands on top of one another for transmission down a single cable, but AFAIK this can't be fed straight into the Foxsat, it still needs the destacker to separate them...
My folks managed to bag the last HDR in the local independant shop just after new year - fantastic bit of kit, my only gripe lies with ITV (put something in HD apart from football) and C4 (work out the contractual obligations with $ky and get your HD content on Freesat)
No Mention of some killer functions...
...like the fact you can use just the one LNB and get a decent service, you can record a channel and watch another, but you're limited by the MUX that the other channel is on... still decent foresight by them.
If you schedule a recording and it clashes it will let you know alternative times that the show you want to record is on and offer to record that instead - very smart!
Archive recordings to USB - was mentioned above...
A great system, just needs more HD content and then i'll buy my own rather than setting them up for friends!!!