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*** ALERT Very long review, hope you can make it through and I do appreciate it if you do :O) ***
I am a former Sky TV customer but after some serious cost-cutting a few years ago I did not see the need to pay for a multitude of channels I did not have time to watch. Don't worry you still get the free to air channels from BBC1 to Channel 5 so I did not lose out. However I still have to use my combi VCR and DVD-Recorder to records programs I was never around to watch.
The progression from a VCR and DVD-Recorder has to be a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) recorder. Simply put you can record programmes straight to a hard drive. Great if you do not want to keep having to change tapes or DVDs.
I have always been wanting to get one of these which I meant could free myself of my combi. I never wanted to miss my programmes but it is quite cumbersome to have to routinely plan the programmes you want to watch. However with the continual introduction of new features such as Freeview, Sky+, Freeview+ there never seemed to a good time to buy especially as what you buy would immediately be succeeded by the latest and greatest. Furthermore with the introduction of High-Definition and hearing that there is a free service I was happy to wait until a product that provided all the benefits of the various features.
So the Humax Foxsat-HDR is subscription-free satellite that gives you High Definition viewing on certain channels and allows you to record TV too. It is the first device of it's kind.
~~~ WHAT DO YOU GET? ~~~
The product comes packaged in a cardboard box with instructions, RCA, SCART and HDMI cables, and the remote control. It is very well packaged in egg carton like cardboard and is very secure in the box. The device also comes wrapped in a thin poly bag. So the packaging is fully recyclable.
The device is pure black with a shiny black front panel that flips down. With the flap down, you get controls for the following functions:
- TV/Radio - Menu - Guide - Left/Right/Up/Down controls - Back
There is a USB port to connect a USB pen/memory stick or a portable hard drive. This is for transfer of recordings.
On the right of the device is a CI module slot. Not knowing what this is for a quick search in the instructions means you can use this for channels that require a subscription. You would need to purchase additional hardware to use this feature.
Centrally placed on the device is a bright digital display that darkens when the device is off. Below the digital display is a light. The light is blue when the device is on and red when the device is turned off.
In terms of measurement, for those of you with Sky receivers, this device is slightly shorter and not as wide as the sky receiver. It is the same height as a DVD player/recorder.
On the back of the device you get the following ports:
- Two LNB In ports so you can connect 2 cables from the satellite dish - LNB out for connecting up another digital satellite receiver (like sky multiroom) - Audio port for connecting to a TV or VCR - Video port - TV SCART - Video SCART - SPDIF for connecting to an audio system using an S/PDIF cable - HDMI - Another USB port - Ethernet (not currently active) - Power On/Off
In my configuration I have the satellite dish connected to the LNB In and an HDMI cable to connect up to the TV. For the future I want to connect up a DVD-recorder and record straight to DVD. I'm informed that this is possible, I just haven't figured out how.
~~~ CONNECTING UP THE DEVICE ~~~
Cabling is a very basic activity. All you need to do is connect the LNB IN to your satellite dish and if you had Sky previously you can use the same connection from the dish. If you have never had sky you will need to get a dish installed. If you want to connect both tuners you may need to upgrade or install a dish with dual LNB which means you can have 2 feeds from the dish. . It is easy enough to do, ask my boyfriend Steve on....... :O)
The connectors on the aerial feed are screw-in so there is no chance they will fall out. Next you need to connect the device to the TV using the HDMI cable and then connect the power cable.
Most TVs are very intelligent and as soon as you turn your device on, it will recognise it as an HDMI interface.
~~~ SETTING UP THE DEVICE ~~~
When you switch the device on the First Time Installation appears and it asks you to set configuration items such as language, screen ratio/resolution. Then it asks you to confirm the cables are connected to the satellite dish after which it tries to detect a freesat connection. If there are no problems this succeeds and it asks you to enter your postcode.
Strange I thought, why does it need my postcode? I'm not registering this device through the Satellite and I certainly don't want my postcode broadcast. Relax, it uses the postcode to cross check what type of Satellite service you should receive and it detects England. Dur, I could have told it that and would have preferred to. Entering the postcode is very easy if you are a texter because it uses the same keypad configuration as a mobile phone.
After detecting what type of service you receive it starts searching for channels. It is very quick.
In fact installation from power on to sitting there watching my first HD channel took 10 minutes. It was so easy and intuitive that I didn't even have to read the manual.
5 out of 5 stars from me.
~~~ CONTROLLING THE DEVICE ~~~
So, the remote control is the primary object for controlling the device. I haven't even used the buttons as I can't consider standing there holding my hand up to keep pressing buttons. So the remote control is as you would expect. You can change channels 3 ways:
 Using the up/down button  Typing the channel number in (usually 3 digits: 101 is BBC1, 102 is BBC2, 105 is Five etc...)  Navigating the electronic programme guide and selecting a channel
The remote control also comes with the standard features: Volume control, Text buttons, Subtitles, Playback buttons and Menu buttons. There is also a wheel like button that is left, right and up, down with an ok button in the centre.
The remote control is very light and the front is very shiny. So shiny you can see the buttons I use the most as they are smudged and the shine will probably fade from overuse.
~~~ FUNCTIONS ~~~
Accessing the electronic programme guide (EPG) is easy, you press the 'GUIDE' button and you are taken into the EPG, where you can move back/forth 2 or 24 hours and up/down to see the different channels. Within the guide you can select programmes to either watch and record.
You can browse programmes up to 8 days ahead. I would like 14 days but this is not too much of a disappointment.
Within the guide, you can choose to view the TV schedule ahead by using the wheel in table format. So the channels are listed on the left top/down and across the programmes are displayed in half hour chunks.
Using the interactive buttons (red, green, yellow and blue) you can select the following functions with the EPG:
- RED: table list of programmes by channel - GREEN: a list of programmes per channel - YELLOW: Schedule of programmes/series selected for recording - BLUE: Find programmes using keyword, genre or time filters
Recording can be selected in 2 ways. If the recording is for a future programme you can select it through the EPG. If the programme has already started you can simply press the record button and the device will record the show until it ends.
If menu setting AUTO is selected the programme will start recording within the allocated broadcasting slot and will start if the programme is delayed. Sometimes, you miss about the first 30 seconds but this is usually the credits. I have not yet missed a recording.
If you choose to record a programme that forms part of a series, you can choose whether to record a single programme or the whole series.
Playback is accessed via the media button on the remote control. When you first enter the media screen you are presented with a list of all recordings by default. If the recording is part of a series then you will get each recording categorised by the show name in Alphabetical order like a folder, which you can press ok to open a folder.
If the programme is a one-off it will be listed beneath the folders. Each programme will be listed along with the name, duration, date, channel and format (HD or SD).
In this window you can press the 'i' button and it will present a short summary of the programme and when it was broadcast (date and time)
Other screens are selected by using the coloured buttons:
- RED is video recording - GREEN is Radio recording - YELLOW is music - BLUE is photos
To select a video or radio for viewing navigate to the programme using the coloured buttons and select using the Ok button. You'll be presented with a number of options to view:
 Play from last position  Play from start  Delete  Rename
Alternatively a really cool feature is the thumbnails of each chapter so you can navigate to a specific part of the programme. The only downside with this is that it presents a thumbnail every 8 seconds. In an hour long show this would be tedious to navigate to the later part of the show. I would suggest you play a programme from the start and use the fast-forward buttons which will allow you to move ahead 2 minutes each time.
You can manage your hard disk space by either deleting recordings or moving them to an external hard drive.
You can delete a recording by selecting an option in the playback screens. You cannot edit or delete programmes while the device is recording another programme.
HUGE NOTE: Only BBC HD and ITV HD are available on Freesat currently. Channel 4 HD should be arriving on Freesat in 2009.
~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~
Well, the best thing about this device is that you get HD for free. Ok, you don't get all the HD channels, but this will start to expand later in the year. I don't watch subscription channels anyway, so any HD is a plus for me. The device itself is very easy to use and its interfaces are intuitive that I didn't even need to consult the instruction manual, it is mostly plug and play.
I paid £292 for the device from John Lewis after inclusion of the VAT rate cut and if you are on the market for a TV recording device I can't recommend this enough. You will get so many more features than the freeview+ devices I have seen and there is only a one-off cost.
- List of Freesat channels - Humax product website http://www.humaxdigital.com/uk/products/product_stb_satellite_foxsathdr.asp - Specifications http://www.humaxdigital.com/uk/products/new_leaflet/ FOXSAT-HDR_leaflet.pdf - User Manual http://www.humaxdigital.com/global/products/new_manual/UM_FOXSATHDR_100GB_1 01308_low.pdf
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me.