Humax Foxsat-HDR Freesat HD digital video recorder
Record and replay HD
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.