At the back of the unit, you’ll also find an HDMI interface, two Scarts and one set of RCA video connectors, which should allow you to connect it to most recent types of TV, including older standard-definition CRT sets. We were also pleased to see that Humax actually bothers to include cables for all three interfaces. A SPDIF connector provides digital audio for surroundsound speaker systems, and there are two USB ports – one on the front, another on the back – that can be used for playing MP3 music files or JPEG photos, so you’ve got some limited media player functionality.
Plenty of connection choices
We also noticed an Ethernet port round the back, although Humax will only say that this is intended for some unspecified "future use". The firmware can be updated over the air, so that’s not it. Finally, there’s a CI (Common Interface) slot that lets you purchase upgrade cards for additional subscription channels.
It took us less than five minutes to plug in the satellite cables, HDMI lead and mains power, and to let the recorder’s Installation wizard automatically scan through the available Freesat channels. Then, before we knew it, we were watching k.d. lang warbling in high-definition on the BBC HD channel.
The unit makes very little noise when running – less than our Sky+ box – so it didn’t overwhelm Ms Lang’s dulcet tones. Power consumption rises to a peak of 50W when recording programmes onto the hard disk, but drops to just 1W in standby mode, and the unit can be set to automatically switch to standby when it’s not being used. One nice touch is that you can hit the ‘Standby’ button on the remote while recording a program and this tells the recorder to automatically switch to standby mode once the current recording is finished.
The Foxsat-HDR can output HD programmes in either 720p or 1080i HD formats – which are the two formats used by Freesat broadcasts – and the difference in quality between the HD and conventional SD broadcasts is immediately noticeable. One handy feature of ITV HD is that it allows you to quickly switch between the SD and HD versions of certain programmes simply by pressing one of the coloured buttons on the remote control. This makes it easy to switch back and forth in order compare the image quality of the various resolutions, and the HD image produced by the Foxsat-HDR on HD broadcasts really seems to jump forward and come into sharper focus.
The DVR comes with a decent remote
We were, however, a little disappointed to see that the Foxsat’s attempted upscaling of ordinary SD programmes doesn’t really make much difference to the image quality. That’s probably the fault of the low-bitrate SD signal itself, rather than a failing on Humax’s part, but given the limited HD content on Freesat right now we’d find it easier to justify the £299 price tag - plus the cost of the satellite dish - if the Foxsat-HDR did a better job of upscaling the SD programmes that you’ll be watching most of the time.
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!!!