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Humax Foxsat-HDR review

Seth Barton
25 Feb 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
294
inc VAT

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Freesat was launched in May 2007, allowing viewers to watch digital satellite TV without a subscription.

We were excited by the inclusion of BBC HD in the line-up of channels, as this was the first time free-to-air HD programming had been made available in the UK. For further opinions on the Freesat service, see our Humax Foxsat-HD review (What's New, Shopper 247).

The Foxsat-HDR is the first Freesat personal video recorder (PVR) and carries the new Freesat+ branding, which means that it has very similar features to Freeview+ PVRs. It has dual tuners, so you can watch one programme while you're recording another, or record two shows at the same time.

The recorder's 320GB hard disk is easily big enough for SD programmes - holding around 160 hours of recordings. HD shows take up around three times that space, though, which means that around 50 hours of HD programming will fill your hard disk. Most Freesat broadcasts are still in standard definition (SD), with only BBC HD and occasional programming from ITV available in HD, so you're unlikely to find much content at present. A common interface slot is provided should you wish to add pay-per-view channels.

As part of its Freesat+ branding, the Foxsat-HDR includes numerous useful recording features. It will automatically adjust the start and end times of recordings if the beginning of a programme is delayed or moved to a different time slot. You can record a whole season with a single button press, and the Humax will record a repeat of a particular episode if its original broadcast clashes with previously set recordings. Finally, the Foxsat-HDR will recognise when a programme has been split, (as some films are by the news) and record both halves. These features rely on broadcasters providing updated scheduling information, but we had no problems when recording shows on popular channels from the BBC and ITV.

Setting up the Foxsat-HDR is straightforward. There are two low-noise block (LNB) inputs and you'll need to connect these to use both tuners simultaneously. The most common satellite dish in the UK is Sky's Minidish, which has a twin-LNB output and should already be angled correctly to receive Freesat. Humax's recorder will work with Single Cable Distribution (SCD) satellite installations, where a single cable provides a signal to both tuners. However, this feature isn't officially supported and is absent from the manual. If you don't have a dish, it will cost around £80 to have one installed.

Video outputs are rather limited, with HDMI being the only sensible choice for HD. There's no component output, but this isn't surprising as Freesat HD channels have copy protection that prevents HD output over analogue connections. Output resolutions include PAL, 720p and 1080i. There's no 1080p support but then there are no 1080p broadcasts, either. SCART and composite outputs are provided, and while these won't carry HD video, the former is ideal for those with CRT TVs. While HD continues to impress us, SD picture quality is nothing special, with the usual MPEG2 artefacts apparent. However, these days the onus seems to be on TVs rather than AV sources to take charge of improving image quality.

The interface is as good as we've come to expect from Humax. Everything is clear, colourful and easy to understand. It benefits from the crispness of HD, making the text easy to read. The remote is pretty good, too, although we narrowly prefer the layout and buttons on the older models. It can also control other devices such as your TV, so it will cut down on living room clutter.

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