Humax HD-Fox T2 Freeview HD receiver
Free-the-air HD in a living room near you
Review The HD-Fox T2 is the first zapper out of the Freeview HD blocks. Humax is aiming to carve a large slice of the early adopter market, especially amongst the legions of football fans that are expected to upgrade to HD in time for the World Cup in June. Priced at an eye-watering £180, it needs to deliver a seriously impressive performance if it’s to avoid being left on the bench.
Are you receiving? Humax's HD-Fox T2 Freeview HD
Currently, the HD-Fox T2 is the only option for upgrading a TV to Freeview HD. TVs with built-in HD tuners are starting to go on sale from the likes of Sony and Panasonic, but there are many recent converts to digital TV who are, quite rightly, unwilling to buy a whole new telly yet are keen to grab a slice of the HD action for a relatively affordable sum.
The T2 part of the HD-Fox’s name refers to its ability to receive and decode DVB-T2 HD signals – as well as DVB-T standard definition ones, of course – but it’s not as simple as that. A decent aerial is even more critical than with standard definition DVB-T.
Typically, while a signal strength of around 30 per cent might be enough to pick up standard def channels you need at least 50% for HD. Cue hoards of unhappy punters wondering why they can’t see the deepening furrows of Cappello’s brow as Peter Crouch does a Waddle against Germany after extra time. While the World Cup will be a major driver of Freeview HD, only half of the UK will be able to access it by the summer, the rest will have to wait until digital switchover is completed in their region, which will be no later than 2012.
Currently, hi-def programming is only being broadcast from the Winter Hill and Crystal Palace transmitters, covering Manchester and London respectively, although Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham and the West (Mendip) are imminent. You can check availability in your area here.
HD transmissions in the UK still have quite limited regional coverage
Another major factor against the HD-Fox T2 or indeed any Freeview HD tuner-only box is that it can’t record and hence, can't deliver any timeshifting tricks. Sure, you can hook it up to a DVR or DVD recorder but copy protection disallows the recording of HD shows on external devices. The box sports a USB socket and at some stage – Humax is promising a firmware upgrade – this will allow exporting of recordings to an external drive, but only in SD.
I think I'd rather have more bits on all the existing chanels to up there quality than one or two in HD , the rest in Low D,
Tuners are not the same as recorders
Of course Freeview+ HD boxes will record HD shows because they are PVRs. HD receivers (tuners) such as this one don't allow you to record HD content to external devices including HDDs and DVDs although they will allow you to export SD content. Humax will be facilitating the USB drive on this STB to make SD recordings.
I don't see many manufacturers publicising the recording restriction and being able to record is something most of us take for granted, even if it involves hooking up more than one bit of kit.
This particular box can't timeshift.
But the HD spec does specifically allow for recorders, and there have been quite a few announced over recent weeks (and a few on display at this morning's launch down at C4).
There are specific requirements, and more testing for recorders to get the FreeviewHD+ certification (and testing seems more rigorous in general for HD, perhaps because of experiences with poorly performing ultra-cheap kit in the past).
There will be recorders, including one from Humax, and they will be able to record HD. What's at issue so far is whether or not there will be the content protection included in the EPG data, which will allow broadcasters to prevent copying to other high definition media, such as Blu-ray; it's not a blanket ban on copying, but pretty much the same system that's already in place on Freesat.
Ethernet is mandatory on all FreeviewHD boxes, and there have been suggestions that it could be used for iPlayer and similar in future, though the main marketing push at least initially is about other things.
It would be a big surprise if iPlayer doesn't arrive, but some of the manufacturers will also very likely use the ethernet port for their own services - and that may include pay services delivered by IPTV as well. At least one of the boxes on display at the launch today had a card slot, for instance, and comes from a company that's pretty well experienced in the IPTV and pay arenas.
At the technical launch (there's a link somewhere around here to my report of that), SeeSaw was also one of the things mentioned as being potentially able to take advantage of the ethernet connection in future.
Calm down dear
Humax released a number of updates for the 9200 until, I think, February 2008. As you probably know another update is expected soon to fix two bugs which seem to affect a number of owners (mine suffers with the "slow response" bug every now and then but it doesn't make the box unusable). Granted the latest update has been delayed recently, and Humax still haven't announced an actual OTA update date. But what would you rather have? an update in three months that fixes your issue with no side effects, or an update now that introduces new bugs?
From what I can tell Humax have been reluctant to spend much time/money on the firmware since the end of 2007 but at least they're now bowing to pressure to release a fix to the firmware of what is quite an old product (some manufacturers would just tell their customers that their hardware is out of warranty so take a hike). Back in 2008 I wanted to see new features added to the 9200 but it became apparent that Humax were focussing on new products and further updates to the 9200 were not to be expected. This isn't unusual - Humax had already released many new features and fixes for the 9200 at this point and there's a limit to what can be done with hardware that was designed a few years earlier.
FWIW the problems you're describing with your 9200 make me think you have a faulty hard drive. The hard drive is easily replaced if you don't mind voiding the warranty (if your unit has any warranty left on it, that is). If you already tried replacing the HD then it's probably a different hardware issue (disk controller or maybe memory).
As I mentioned before our 9200 has been very reliable. I've *never* had to reformat the drive and our recording list regularly swells to 300 programmes before I prune it back down to 200 or so.
Maybe if you get your hardware problem fixed you'll then only have to worry about your series link problems (missing the start and end of programmes). From what I've experienced this always happens with programmes on the same channels (mainly on E4 and More4). Some channels are very reliable (BBC1 and Five USA strangely enough!). If I notice that we're often missing the start or end of a programme I just change the recording from a series link to a "weekly" or "daily" recording (whatever is required) and then pad the start/end times. It's not hard to do - it takes about 30 seconds. You can schedule recordings like this alongside other series links (on more reliable channels) and they work alongside each other with no problems. It's an easy work-around that will save you hours or hair-pulling so I suggest giving it a try.