The Humax FVP-4000T is a little slow and Freeview Play isn't as strong as rival catchup television approaches like YouView or Freetime
Tuners: 3x DVB-T2, Dimensions (WxDxH): 280x200x48mm, Networking: Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Internal disk capacity: 500GB, Warranty: One year RTB, Details: www.humax.co.uk, Part code: FVP-4000T
With a wide range of catch-up services from all of the terrestrial channels, watching live television simply isn’t as popular as it used to be. After all, when you can watch your favourite shows on your own schedule, why would you let someone else decide for you? Until recently, when it came to integrated catch-up services that worked directly through an EPG (electronic programme guide), your main two choices were Freetime via Freesat or YouView.
This has now changed, with Freeview launching its own integrated catch-up platform called Freeview Play. Like its rivals, this allows you to effectively go back in time through the conventional timeline-based EPG to find content you’ve missed. It’s meant to be a simpler approach to finding content than using individual catch-up apps such as BBC iPlayer. That’s not to say these independent apps aren’t available as, importantly, Demand 5 is currently not integrated into Freeview Play. To watch Channel 5 and its other related channels’ content you’ll still need to fire up the Demand 5 app.
Humax is the first PVR manufacturer out of the blocks with its own Freeview Play PVR, the FVR-4000T. It’s available with either 500GB (£200) or 1TB of storage (£230) and in a choice of either “coffee inspired” Cappuccino (white) or Mocha (dark brown). It’s around the same size as Humax’s Freesat PVR, the HDR-1100S, with a very similar design that does away with a redundant SCART connection and front LCD panel. Ditching these has helped bring the size of the box down. The FVR-4000T has a slight design flourish with a faux-leather top, complete with stitching, unlike the plain glossy finish of the HDR-1100S. I think it looks a little kitsch, but it’s at least not something you’ll notice if the PVR box is slotted into your AV cabinet.
The top of the box also has volume and channel controls, although how often you’ll actually use these is debatable. Again, if the box is in a cabinet they might not even be easily reached. Most people, I suspect, will just use the remote control. The remote looks nice enough, with a metallic-like finish at the bottom contrasting against the black at the top. It has all the usual playback controls and a shortcut button to the On Demand services. The only annoyance is the clicky navigation buttons that are tightly packed, meaning you accidentally hit the wrong button when scrolling or entering text.
On the back are HDMI and composite ports for connecting your television. There’s an aerial in for receiving the Freeview channels, which include 12 in HD. An RF out pass-through is also available. You can output audio over an optical S/PDIF jack. In order to use the catch-up services, you’ll need to connect the FVP-4000T to your home network, using either the built-in Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. Setting up the box is a simple affair with clear guidance.
Menu and EPG
The main menu, available through the Home button on the remote control, is broken down into five sections: On Demand, TV Guide, My Recordings, Media Centre and Settings. I liked the way that menus and the EPG are overlayed over whatever programme you’re watching, so it’s not too disruptive when you’re searching for new content or changing settings, as you can just about keep up with whatever programme is on in the background.
The EPG is straightforward with a large, easily legible timeline and you can find content by scrolling forward so you can set up recordings. You can only see five channels at a time, however, and there’s no quick way of paging up and down. This means scrolling through all the channels can be very slow. Thumbnails for programmes don’t always load as well, which removes some of the gloss of the EPG. Quickly being able to jump to an HD-equivalent channel when initially switching to the SD version makes a welcome return from Humax’s other PVRs and is always useful. You can also hit the + button on the remote to view groups including the Radio channels or only the HD channels.
It’s worth noting that Freeview Play is already integrated into certain Panasonic Viera televisions, and that Freeview has allowed manufacturers to create their own interfaces, so your Freeview Play experience could be slightly different dependent on what device you use. To access the Freeview Play content, you just need to go left in the EPG. This then lets you scroll back through seven days’ worth of scheduling. However, this is where Freeview Play’s shortcomings become apparent.
Only content that has a small Play icon can actually be watched on-demand through the Freeview Play interface shortcut. Trying to select anything else just brings you up the programme details. The BBC channels are decently represented when it comes to watchable content, but the ITV and Channel 4-related channels are far sparser, meaning you can effectively scroll through several hours before you find anything. Scroll back 24 hours and things improve, but there are still plenty of holes in what’s available. If you’ve just missed a programme you want to watch, chances are it’s not going to be watchable through Freeview Play until later. Channel 5 isn’t available at all.
Panasonic’s Freeview Play integration removes a lot of this needless scrolling through unavailable content by only showing you what you can watch on a per-channel basis, helping to mask the holes. The problem isn’t helped by the fact that scrolling can be a tad slow, especially when you’re scrolling vertically between channels. It makes the experience laborious and tedious.
Compared to YouView, too, Freeview Play comes up short. YouView has Channel 5’s channels in its integrated catchup, as well as a few extra channels beyond the terrestrial providers. The Freetime experience through Freesat also feels a lot less disjointed. My complaints, beyond the responsiveness issues with the FVP-4000T’s interface, are more aimed towards Freeview Play but the platform certainly feels like it needs refinements and improvements. I’m hoping these will be forthcoming.
If you don’t want to deal with the Freeview Play integrated EPG, you can always just use the On Demand interface. Here you have all of the usual terrestrial catch-up services as well as a few extras but the only real notable one is YouTube. I’m confident not many people will care about the Finance Markets app. Staying true to its promise at launch, Humax has updated the FVP-4000T box with support for Netflix streaming. This is available as an over the air update for existing owners. Continues on Page 2
|1x optical S/PDIF, RCA
|1x HDMI 1.4
|Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi
|Memory card reader
|Video playback formats
|H.264, MKV, MOV, MPEG4, Xvid HD
|Image viewing formats
|Audio playback formats
|Smart TV apps
|BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All4, Demand 5
|Internal disk capacity
|Hours of recording on internal media
|125h (high-quality HD), 300h (high-quality SD)
|Simultanous channel recording
|Up to 4
|Price including VAT
|One year RTB