* Prices may differ from that shown
I have had this Humax for 2 years and was torn between the freesat version which was more expensive but could be attached to the satellite on my house which would give me HD channels. Despite having an HD enabled TV and the satellite on my house I chose the cheaper option the 9300 T. This was a good choice as I am very happy with the screen quality that this offers.
The best parts of this are the easy to use programme guide that quickly loads information about whats on. I have used other PVR's were the programme guide is slow and difficult to navigate so this is a great feature. The guide looks at the next 7 days which I think is plenty. The next best thing is the series link function so that you can record the whole series with one button. This prevents missing episodes and you can save up a whole series and watch it all at once should you want to! There is then the 30 secs fast forward button, this can be used during the ad breaks so that with a couple of clicks you have missed all the adverts.
The downside of the machine which are by no means a deal breaker is that the fan is a little noisy. This is really only noticeable when the Humax is recording and you aren't watching it which is't that often in my house. When I switch my machine on it occasionally has no sound so I switch it off and on again which solves it.
Overall I am really happy with this Humax and have no intention of replacing it any time soon. After 2 years it is a very reliable product that I use everyday.
I am very aware that technology keeps advancing and I don't always manage to keep up with it. For years I had my trusted video recorder and video tapes to record any television programmes that I wanted to watch at a later date, and I could never imagine not having one. However eventually I had to admit that it really was out of date and everyone was talking about PVRs these days. Now I did not even know what a PVR was, but when my video recorder eventually died a slow and painful death I knew I had to replace it with some more up to date technology and therefore began to investigate.
For anyone who does not know a PVR is a Personal Video Recorder. Who knows why it is called this or who came up with the name as it is actually nothing like the old video recorder I was used to (where are the tapes?) and I would guess that anything you record on any device is "personal." However PVRs are also known as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and I think this is a much better name for them as it describes the fact that they use digital technology to record your programme on a hard drive and have a whole range of additional features that old video recorders could never have imagined.
The first thing I was suspicious about with a PVR was that it involved some type of magic, as the programmes that are recorded are stored in an invisible land that you cannot physically see. I was worried about how I would cope without my trusty and labeled video tape that I knew exactly what was recorded on, and could transport and watch in any video recorder I wanted . However I soon found out that I did not need to worry about this and that PVRs are much easier to use and more convenient than the old video system.
On researching a PVR I wanted something that would be easy to set up and use and that would be reliable. It was also important to me that I could record more than one programme at a time and record a programme at the same time as watching something else on TV, just like I used to be able to do with my old video recorder. During my research I came across several good reviews about the brand Humax as being good quality and reliable so I therefore decided to purchase this Humax PVR 9300T.
The PVR includes a number of features some of which are a bit beyond me. However for those of you who can make sense of them all here they are:
Digital set-top box with Freeview+
Enables simultaneous viewing of one channel and recording another channel
320 GB hard-disk
Up to 200 hours of recording
Pause & Play live TV (Time Shift Recording)
One touch record scheduling
Picture In Picture (PIP) for viewing 2 programs on 1 screen
The appearance of the PVR is not particularly stylish and it is basically a medium sized black box which is quite slim with a few buttons on the front that are hidden under a panel. I place mine on a bottom shelf of my TV unit so it is not in view which is fine.
Installing the PVR was quite simple and just involved plugging it into my TV and aerial socket. I did need to buy an additional scart lead to connect it so it is always worth checking if this is included when you collect a PVR from the shop.
The PVR includes Freeview and enables you to watch Freeview channels through your television. I found this quite confusing as I could already watch Freeview through my existing TV, but the PVR does not seem to work unless you set up everything to watch the TV channels directly through it rather than your TV. This also means that you have to have the PVR turned on for your TV to work, but after a few weeks I got used to this.
The first step to set up the PVR is to search for the TV and radio channels just like you are programming a TV. This was very easily done via the automatic search menu and also gave you an option to organise the channels into favourite lists which is very useful.
To plan and reserve which programmes to watch is really easy and this is a feature that I like a lot. The PVR has an inbuilt Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) for up to a week and you just scroll through this and then hit OK when you come across a programme that you want to record. This makes it much easier than programming an old video recorder and is very quick. You can also set it to record the whole series of a particular programme which is brilliant as this means that you don't have to remember to set it every week.
To watch the programmes you have recorded you just turn on the recorded programmes list and all of the programmes that you have recorded are displayed on the screen. Then all you need to do is scroll down them and hit enter to watch the one you want. If you only watch some of the programme, the PVR remembers where you left off and starts you in that place again whenever you come back to it, even if it is days later. There is also a system which enables you to skip through the adverts (at 30 seconds at a time) which is brilliant (although I am sure that the advertisers hate it!) After watching the programme you can either keep it stored in case you ever want to watch it again or delete it.
The PVR has Freeview+ compatibility which means it will record a programme accurately even when the schedule changes. This means you don't have to worry about a last minute schedule change or missing your favourite programme if it is re-arranged as the PVR knows the new programme time and records it at that time instead. No more coming home to watch Eastenders only to find that the news has over-run and all you have is the latest headlines recorded!
The PVR also has a range of other features which to be honest I have never really got my head around to use that frequently. These include pausing the TV while you are watching it and then starting it again from the same place when you are ready (I am sure this is the magic fairies at work again as I have no idea how this is done!) and managing to have two screens with two different channels on them up at the same time
The PVR is worked via a remote control which operates both the TV channels and the recorder. A number of buttons are hidden under a sliding flap at the bottom of the control which can be a bit annoying as these seem to be the buttons I use quite often.
As a novice user of this technology the features that I have found the most useful have been just how easy it is to record a programme and the fact that once recorded it is stored for ever until you decide to delete it. The number of programmes that can be recorded and stored seems huge and I have never yet found that the hard drive which stores them becomes full. I have also found that I can even record two programmes while watching a third at the same time which is great and gives so much more capacity for recording than my old video recording system would.
The only minor problems that I have had with this system is that occasionally the programme guide is very slow to display all of the week's programmes and you get gaps for a few hours until everything is downloaded. There have also been a few times when the system has frozen and I have had to restart it but this has just involved turning it off and then back on again.
I think this PVR cost me about £150 which was expensive at the time but well worth it. I am sure there are more recent models that can do even more fancy things out there now, but this model is great for me as it is easy to use and can do everything I will ever require of it. I would definitely recommend it especially if the whole digital world is a new enigma to you as it was to me!
-When I bought this product-
I first decided that I was going to replace my existing free view recorder after the one I owned had given me a lot of trouble by missing series recordings and sometimes just not recording at all.
I looked at the options available and after considering different types of recorders I didn't want to risk buying a recorder that might fail after six months or so, I had read excellent reviews on various Humax recorders available but at the time were out of my budget by about £40, in the end I decided a Humax Free view recorder would be the best option even though they were more expensive.
I bought the 320gb version for £140 from Argos which at the time seemed very expensive compared to what I was prepared to pay, but looking back on my purchase it was well worth the money spent.
This product features a 320GB Hard drive which has been more than enough for the programmes I've recorded as I've built up nearly 400 media files an am only just down to the last 10GB of space available, these files also range from today (April 2013) to (December 2011)
The product supports series recording so that you can load up the electronic program guide and select your favourite programme for series recording, you can also set it for a single recording if you don't want the programme recording all the time.
You can also sort the recorded programmes by the most recent date and the earliest recording which may come in handy if there is a recorded programme that you might want to watch again.
There is also the ability to edit a file to trim it into multiple parts or just to trim a certain part of the programme, this might be useful if you want to cut out the adverts from a TV show you might have recorded.
When viewing a recorded programme it also includes the ability to skip part of the programme (it's set to 30 seconds by default), this can come in handy when you have recorded a programme and want to skip the adverts.
With this recorder you can also select multiple files for deletion, I have around 400 files on my recorded which would be a pain to manually delete them so having this feature makes it a lot easier to clear space on the hard drive.
The recorder also has utilities to view the current signal strength and quality, you can also view the current firmware version if you need to know which version is currently installed.
The settings are also very easy to change whenever necessary just by accessing the relevant subsections under the preferences section of the menu.
I have owned this product for at least a year or two now and have had a highly enjoyable experience with this free view recorder with minimal crashes, I would highly recommend this product to anyone looking for a replacement recorder as it has been very useful to me and as a result give this product a 5/5 rating.
I thought I had better update this review as the hard drive in this box appears to have failed, the unit froze so I switched it off and back on again but lost access to the the list of recorded programs, although I removed the case to see what type of hard drive it uses (it lifts off quite easily) and found a standard PC 3.5" Sata hard drive plugged in, I tested another hard drive which I find works perfectly (this hdd isn't mine so only had a few minutes to test it), I'll be able to replace the hard drive next week which will enable this freeview box to work again
My dad bought this for us in the Christmas sales and I'd heard a lot about Humax so I was expecting great things. To start with the setup was straightforward - plug it in and off it (loudly) went.
The Image quality was excellent and we had no issues with reception. However, we did have problems when started we tried to queue up the recording schedule. It isn't a very user friendly machine and the manual is very complicated.
The EPG doesn't extend beyond seven days which could be an issue if you were going away for more than a week and wanted to schedule recordings beyond that (as we are a couple of times a year). However, we loved that fact that recording times are governed by an external source, so if the program timings change the machine automatically alters the record time.
All in all, this is a decent PVR with few extra (all be they; complicated) bells and whistles. The user guide demands serious reading and after using apple products seems a very outdated way of using electronics. We will be keeping it, but I think when we come to switch we'll look around and read some reviews first.
It was incredibly easy to set up and didn't require much input from me. Simply scanned the channels and connected!
This model is extremely noisy and can be a problem if your watching tv quietly (for somebody sleeping, for example) as you can't hear it over the "hummm" of the box. There is an update for this, which gets rid of this problem, but you shouldn't need to download an update in order to make it quiet in the first place.
The USB port can only be used for displaying photos as far as I am aware. It ignored any video files that were on my USB pen drive.
The picture in picture option is really handy. You can have the sports channel playing in the corner while your kids or whatever watch something different.
The hard drive is massive, holding upto 200 hours. This makes it suitable for recording entire series and keeping your own personal on demand collection.
All in all, it looks good and does the job. The picture quality is excellent. Just the matter or the noise/noise update is my only discrepancy.
My partner and I don't watch a huge amount of TV so couldn't justify a SKY+ subscription but still wanted a way to record our favorite TV shows. After a few weeks of research and reading reviews, we decided on the Humax PVR 9300T.
The box itself looks okay and the small display is nicely presented but I'll admit it feels a little cheap. Once hooked up under my TV it looks okay amongst the other items and is a tidy enough box - dimensions are quite small. Setup was a breeze - a single HDMI cable from the PVR into the back of my TV and RF ariel cable from the wall socket back to the PVR and the job is done! A quick automatic scan for channels picks up all of the available Freeview channels in my area and starts to populate the guide. The guide itself is fairly basic (as are all the menus and on-screen displays) but it gets the job done. It'd have been nice to have had a high-res menu system when connected via HDMI but it's a minor point as the current setup is very clear and functional. Selecting a program is as easy as you'd expect as is recording. To record something that is currently playing, simply press the record button. If you select a program from the guide to record, you can select to record just that episode or the entore series (series-link). Other reviewers have mentioned issues with the series-link feature but after 18 months of ownership, we have had none. The generous 320GB hard drive is a good size allowing for many hours of recordings which can be deleted when you like or even trimmed down to save space (you could erase ad-breaks from a movie if you wish). The twin-tuner setup requires just one ariel cable but allows you to record one or even two channels and watch a third (depending on what multiplex the channles are on) - this is excellent for when my programmes clash with Strictly Come Dancing!
Although all this recording is great, another feature that this box is capable of doing is pausing live TV! Great for when the phone rings - hit pause and you'll not miss any of the gags in Inbetweeners. Then, when you're off the phone hit play and even fast-forward through the ads to catch up to the live broadcast!
I'm afraid I cannot comment on the quality of the remote as I have been using a universal remote since day one!
Overall I love having a PVR but have difficulty comparing as I have never used any others. I really like this one and certainly other reviews suggest that it is better than most others. Cheap looks / build aside, I highly recommend this if you don't have, want or need SKY but want to record your shows!
Humax PVR 9300T
This particular model is not the most attractive of the bunch, though it is far from being the ugliest. Whilst the slim, black model is eye catching at first, on closer inspection it seems to have that 'fake' look, what with the shiny coating and plastic look. The LCD display shines very dimly with the clock only just barely being able to be seen when the machine is on standby. A small negative for sure, though an annoying one.
There are two scart sockets to this model, both labelled clearly for those not in the know! The first is for the TV and the second for the VCR. It is quite simple to set up with the box plugging into your TV and the ariel into the box. Once this is done, the load screen appears with quite clear instructions to follow.
The best thing about this PVR is that not only does it work as a freeview box, but also has the capabilities to do such things as pause live TV due to the hard drive within it. So much cheaper than paying a monthly sky plus bill. You are also able to record your favourite TV programmes and can select to record whole series' which is possibly the most used feature in our house. You are also able to overlap recordings as well as watch channels on the same frequency at the same time. Who could ask for more!
I can only imagine that it is due to the hard drive that this box does have a few small problems with falling out of tuning at times, and telling you that there are more channels when there are not and making you go through the channel finder needlessly, though this could also be a problem on many other models. I had similar problems with my old basic freeview box. Other than that, I have not really come across any problems.
I can not quite remember how much we paid for this box, though the lowest price I can find online is £154 from Amazon.co.uk.
I am pleased with this box and would recommend it fully!
I have owned many different Freeview boxes in the last few years as many have either completely conked out or are just not upto the job with signal problems and problems updating. I bought the Humax PVR9300T with its 320GB storage for recording my favourite programmes. I had never owned a Freeview recorder until this model and I found that within an hour or two I was familiar with all its controls and uses - it is very easy to operate! Using it on a regular basis I find it very quick to set up recording a particular programme and although the electronic programme guide isnt as quick to load as it possibly could be, I have never had a problem with it.
My main (and probably only) issue with the recorder is that the series link recording function isnt something to rely on. Often I find that all episodes havnt been recorded and so I would definately suggest you either programme it to record each episode one at a time or you check to see if it has the specific time on its agenda to record. Having contacted Humax about this issue they just reply with a standard template suggesting I look out for Over The Air (OTA) downloads. I suspect this is a major problem with a lot of machines and I suggest Humax could care a bit more about this issue.
Humax have, in the past, produced the best boxes in the early days of Freeview and unfortunately they now have released a box full of bugs which cause the machine to constantly crash and not only fail to record also to delete recordings. I would suggest you look elsewhere or at least consider these issues before purchasing a Humax recorder because the 2 year guarantee is as useless as their customer service and I would think Humax need to improve these areas before I even take another look at buying from them in the future. For now, I will be looking at HD technology and although avoiding Humax I am hopeful I can find something that serves its purpose.
I unfortunately don't have Sky TV, and I have always been very jealous of those who have Sky Plus and can record a whole series at the touch of a button, rewind TV when their girlfriend was talking over a vitally important part of Family Guy, and just generally have a nice, user friendly interface for browsing what is on the telly.
It was through a friend at work that I found out about PVRs - I believe it stands for Personal Video Recorder, and they are essentially a video recorder that uses a hard drive to store information on rather than videos/DVDs. The issue with this is that you can't just lend what you have recorded to your mates - although it may be possible to extract the programs via a computer connection and put them onto another media, I am afraid I am not too sure. However this is not a major consideration for me as I never get back anything I lend out anyway!
This particular model has built in Freeview too!
The box plugs into your TV and the ariel plugs into the box. Once you have it powered up, a load screen appears and everything you need to press to get the system set up is very straight forward and clearly indicated.
The EPG (or TV guide to you and me) can be displayed to your preference. It always has the channel you are watching in the top right corner so you don't miss anything, but you can order the channels to show "now and next" or the more traditional chronological timeline.
To record a program, simply select in in the EPG ahead of the time it starts and press Select. If applicable you will be prompted as to whether you want to record a one off episode or the whole series. If the program is already on, just select it and press the red record button. The PVR works out itself when the program stops.
There is a massive 320GB harddrive, which is enough for 100s of hours of TV. You can monitor how full the drive is and clear space by deleting old programs very easily.
There are some random features such as watching two channels at one in a split screen mode - which was handy when the tennis and football clashed recently.
The box is quite large - about the size of mid-90s VCR, but is fairly plain in appearance (mainly black with some silver detailing) so won't stand out or be an eyesore.
There were complaints on the web about noisy fans - newer models don't have this fan. Also the EPG software has been updated and saves itself rather than reloading every time you turn it on. Brilliantly, the updates are sent over the air, so all you have to do is put your box in standby (not off) overnight when they broadcast it.
I am really happy with my box and give it 5/5.
Now here's a funny thing - I'm writing about something I didn't intend buying and didn't really want.
It's equally infrequently that I'm forced to 'fess-up' and admit that despite extensive research, I've "bought the Betamax", the dodo in question this time being a Topfield 5810 Freeview PVR (hard disk recorder). Even with the best efforts of retailer Peter Tyson, I just could not get one of these to stand up for more than a month at a time, and after even the second factory-fresh replacement went faulty, I threw in the towel and asked for a credit note, with which I've bought the nearest-specified Humax machine, the 9300T.
I say 'nearest' because nothing comes close to the tweakability of a Topfield, having the delightful prospect of being able to run extra or alternative programmes called Topfield Applications or 'TAPs' to the basic built-in menus. Thus, if particular channels are not too hot in keeping their data up to date or even accurate in the first place, you can set timers by searching for the text within the titles, which is a lot less likely to be changed - well you can once you've added an extra application called 'MyStuff'.
The Humax does none of this, being stuck with its embedded menus and nothing more and is therefore much more dependant (the fools) on the accuracy of the data given out by the channels for its programme guide. As I said, I don't really want it - what I really wanted was a Topfield 5810 that works!
However, if the Topfield can't be depended on to work at all, that doesn't actually factor in the argument.
HUMAX 9300T - First Impressions
It's somewhat dinkier than I was expecting, being quite slim and not very wide. Whilst the main case is less impressive, being a bit piano-black gloss and plasticky*, the remote control feels likes it's up to the job, being made of a much more rigid and smooth material. Buttons feel like they're good for several thousand presses. The Topfield had a quality metal feel to its case, but the remote was rubbery and insubstantial.
(*I'm not sure why manufacturers regard this as prestige finish.)
There are no visible controls on the 9300T - such as there are, are to be found under a press-once-to-open discrete flap on the left. Here you'll find the basic functions, in fact enough to control programming and transport whilst you wait for Poundland to open so you can put some new batteries in the remote! The right-hand flap covers the slot for the smartcard reader or CAM (conditional access module), which would allow for the watching and recording of pay-TV channels like G.O.L.D., ESPN (formerly Setanta Sport) and Television X. Since TopUp TV made it practically useless to have anything other than 'their' recorder, pay TV on a Humax is pretty limited, nostalgia for old comedies, sport or porn now being the main uses for a CAM.
I'm not sure where 'vintage topless darts' feature in there!
A back-lit LCD display shows the clock (dimly) when on standby, the channel name when fired up, and reminders of recording and playback where relevant. Lettering is a bit coarse (ooh, picky, picky!).
KNIT ONE, PURL TWO
The rear panel has a quite daunting array of connection options, some of which, mercifully, you'll not need at all or maybe only once.
The aerial (antenna) connection is as you'd expect from VCR days; i.e. you run your aerial lead into it, and add a shorter patch cable to keep the through-connection to the TV intact.
There's an HDMI connector for use with HD-ready TVs - note this is NOT HiDef television, it just up-scales the picture to 720p standards, and maintains the 'digital chain' one stage nearer to your eyeballs before converting it to analogue! HD Freeview does now exist, at time of writing in the Liverpool, London and Manchester transmitter areas with more coverage to come in time for the World Cup 2010. However, you'll need new kit with HD tuners, and of now, it's pretty thin on the ground. I can feel another opinion coming on soon, especially if I can find someone to sell this machine on to!
Two SCART leads are labelled separately for TV and 'VCR' - how quaint. The TV output is capable of a higher quality signal (Red-Green-Blue) than that for the VCR, the premise being that no VCRs can receive such a high quality input. As I'll be using the HDMI lead for the TV connection, I can use the TV SCART for my Panasonic HDD-DVD Recorder, as this will accept an RGB input, thereby maximising the quality of anything I try to archive - something worth recording would be nice!
Having got the video connections sorted, you have some audio matters to attend to. Of course, if using a SCART or HDMI connection, stereo sound will already come from the TV, but if you've an alternative means of amplifying the sound, then the two audio/phono connectors will be of use, as will the digital-optical SPDIF output if you have a 'home cinema' set-up although it'll still be only stereo, not 5.1 surround sound
This really leaves the puzzling 9-pin RS232 socket looking a bit old fashioned - wot, no USB port, Mr. Humax? Curiously, for something that is their current top Freeview model, Humax have stepped back from supplying a USB port on this one despite a previous model's ability to transfer recordings to a PC. This serial port only really serves one purpose, to update the machine's software if you missed out on the automatic Over-The-Air (OTA) update; say for instance you just bought the machine and found it had been in stock a long time at the shop. Updating is not difficult if you follow the process through, although getting what is known as a 'null modem' cable is necessary, and life gets yet more complex, if your PC doesn't even have an RS232 output (previously used for dial-up modems).
Well, obviously it works as a set-top box and digital converter for those with an analogue TV, but given the advantage of two tuners, you can stretch this into a PiP (Picture-in-Picture) display showing a kind of thumbnail sketch of a second channel - this display can be moved around the screen and the two channels in use can even swap status. Since there's a hard disk drive running in the background, you can of course perform that other favourite trick of PVRs, 'pausing live TV', resuming with the play button after the Scottish Hydro salesman has been given the boot from your doorstep.
Setting a Recording
By far the easiest method to set timers is using the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). From here it's easy enough to 'cherry-pick' the programmes you want up to 8 days ahead. Once chosen, and if the information is available, you'll be asked if you want to record the series. The set up can also spot split-timings, like when a movie continues after the news; you'll be asked if you want both halves. In the case of creating a clash with existing timers, the machine will make a limited attempt to find alternatives. Incidentally, you can also record radio programmes but these rarely if ever carry series data.
As with all such PVRs, picture quality when playing a recording is indiscernible from live. It therefore follows that channels with a lower 'bit rate', like Virgin1 will look as bad as they do normally, whereas BBC2 which normally runs at a much higher rate will look as good as it does normally. This is not a criticism of the machine - it's the way digital TV is delivered with some channels being more about delivering as many adverts to you at as low a cost as possible. Playback obviously allows for the pausing of progress of the recording, but there's also a handy little 'advance' button, the duration of which you can set, for the jumping of commercial breaks. There's no reverse though, so it's best to leave this set at 30 seconds and press it several times, otherwise you could leave yourself having to rewind to see what you missed of the programme proper. If interrupted, you can also 'bookmark' a recording for ease of resumption later. You can find your list of recordings in two ways. One is to go into MENU>Recording>Recorded Programmes, and the other is to press an Archive button, which is under the sliding flap revealing extra buttons on the remote. If I have one criticism of the latter, it's that these buttons are so useful (also includes the 'skip' buttons and those for PiP), that I'm thinking of disposing of the flap, rather than having to keep on moving it to use these.
The Humax is a bit short on 'wow I never knew it could do that!' features, or maybe I'm just getting jaded.
However, not only can you make two overlapping recordings at the same time, you can also watch a (limited) selection of other channels live too. For example, let's say you're recording BBC1 and ITV1 at the same time which would involve the use of both tuners. Because of the way Freeview is transmitted with up to say 8 channels on one frequency, you can watch the other channels associated with these frequencies.
Further to what I said previously, you can not only pause live TV, but you can start recording it instead with a press of the record button. If you've been watching the programme in question from the beginning without channel-surfing, you may even be able to rewind and record it all. Very useful for one of those 'you might have told me it had started!' moments.
If you are in a poor signal area and need what's known as a mast-head amplifier, the Humax can supply 5 volts via its antenna output to power it. However, this does mean that it can't be set to power down into its economy mode using only 0.9 watts of standby power, since it will stop powering your aerial for other tuners such as the one in your telly. This will also switch off the 'pass-through' amplifier, starving your TV of a good signal when used alone.
Since there are really only two major players* in the field of Freeview twin-tuner hard-disk recorders, let's do a quick tot-up based on my experience of both Topfield and Humax.
*(There are other, Digifusion, Sagem etc. but reading around the subject, they get lousy ratings)
The Humax, whilst not lily-white in the matter, has less of a reliability question-mark hanging over it, whilst the Topfield 5810 seems dogged with a bad batch of hard drives going from personal experience.
The Humax's remote feels nicer, being more substantial with less rubbery buttons. However, it deceptive neatness is somewhat spoiled by constantly having to open a slider to see some extra and frequently needed buttons.
On balance, the Topfield looks more prestigious and well built, notwithstanding what I said about its remote control and its display is more 'tasteful'.
The Humax is less quirky, but this of course also means it's less flexible. More suited to those who don't want to dabble, like a Mac user compared to a PC geek.
Genre searches are built-in on the Humax, so listing all movies in the next eight days is easy. The Topfield needs a MyStuff search timer to be set up although this is a once-only chore.
The Humax only has a limited ability to resolve recording clashes based on the Freeview+ data, whilst a Topfield running MyStuff can come up with a dazzling array of alternatives, using the 'plus one' channels, or alternative channels like Fiver is to C5.
Copying programmes for archive purposes can only be done in real time via the SCART lead on the Humax, whereas the Topfield allows for file transfer to a PC via its USB port.
Both only emit hard drive noise most of the time, although the Humax does have a fan which cuts in when needed, making it measurably noisier. Having no fan, the Topfield never gets any noisier making it more suitable for bedroom use.
Once you've accepted the Humax's ability to record a series using the Freeview+ broadcast data, it becomes a slave to it. The Topfield however, can still 'pad' a recording, even of a series 'just in case'. BBC programmes in particular come out with a few vital first seconds missing - I suppose ITV offerings have their own padding called 'adverts'!
On the Humax, there's a tedious wait whilst the Programme Guide repopulates every time the machine boots up. The Topfield running MyStuff write the data to disk, so it's there at a split second's notice.
Admittedly you can overcome this by setting the Humax's 'Wake Timer' to bring the machine back to life just before you habitually start watching it, say as you come through the door in the evening.
Despite what the hopelessly out-of-date manual says, there is NO means of transferring mp3 or jpeg files to this machine, whereas on the Topfield, you could use it like a juke box and photo album if you really wanted to tie up your disk space. I only got a 'Quick Start Guide' on paper, and strangely a CD-ROM with the same thing all over again on it and the 80-page full manual.
Both machines came with both a SCART and HDMI lead, which is one (or is it two?) up on computer printer manufacturers.
Reading the hundreds of mostly positive reviews on Amazon.co.uk you would gain the impression from the still noticeable minority that the machine is noisy as hell and keeps freezing. Either that or since the recent wholesale re-tune of Freeview, it keeps giving annoying messages that it has found new channels, when in fact there aren't any. Many of the Humax recorders thus afflicted end up as customer returns, if e-bay is anything to go by! The actual solution, as with most set-top boxes is to make sure you are running the latest software version and if you aren't to do something about it.
a) First port of call would be the
web-site, which will list any OTA (over the air) software updates due for your machine. Then all you do is write yourself a 'Post-It', stick it on the fridge and make sure that the machine is set to BBC1 and put on standby on the dates quoted, usually overnight.
b) Secondly, and especially if you've just missed an OTA session, check the manufacturer's web-site, in this case
to see what the latest software version should be, as opposed to what your machine has. If there's a difference, the site can talk you through how to upgrade the software via your PC.
Mine had version 15 installed, when version 19 was available, so as you can imagine, it took me a couple of minutes to unplug it all again, connect it to my PC and to install the latest version, dated January 2010.
The 80-page manual ought to be enough for most people, but I found it had an annoying habit of merely showing how to do things, without explaining why you'd want to. For example, as I mentioned earlier, you can set the box to turn off into an extra economical standby mode using a tiny amount of current. Great, you'd think, why not?
It's only when using the troubleshooting pages to find out why it is that the TV can't get a signal on its own, that you find you shouldn't have switched on the economy standby as this turns off the pass-through amplifier for your TV aerial cable.
Glad I got it?
No, not really, although it's competent enough at what it does, give or take the odd glitch at the beginning and some curtailed programme starts.
I do however object in this day and age to feeling like I'm a beta-test engineer, having to haunt the dark corridors of gee....errr....enthusiast forums to get it as bug-free as possible. Goodness knows how Humax gets so many plaudits, but then how many magazine reviewers keep the thing for any length of time? The Topfield 5810 got some pretty good press too, but I bet they never ran one for a month!
Set-top box manufacturers seem to think it's OK to launch something, bugs 'n' all - they don't seem to have moved on from the Sinclair mentality despite the fact that DTT (digital terrestrial TV) has now been around for years.
Ho hum, let's see what the next development, HD Freeview brings.
Buggy boxes, I'll be bound - oh bugger!
I've got a perfectly good television so when I realised I was spending more time watching TV on my laptop through iPlayer and 4OD than I was on the 32 incher, I realised it was time to invest in a box.
This Humax PVR-9300T came out as a best buy on the Which website and there were plenty of positive reviews on the Amazon website - so I invested. Looking on the manufacturer's website, this product also got five stars from Stuff magazine and was a What Video and Hi-Def TV best buy too.
The main attraction is the ability to record 200 hours of television on its 320GB hard drive. You can record up to two channels while watching one live TV channel back. It also offers picture in picture viewing (although to be honest I haven't used this yet) and the opportunity to pause and play live TV.
It's a simple lightweight box which I found really easy to install and set up, using the easy-to-follow instructions. It was quick to find the Freeview channels (I have an external arial which helps!) and the picture quality is good and consistent. The remote control is also substantial with decent sized buttons.
It seems that early releases of this product suffered from a very noisy fan but this seemed to be resolved and I don't hear a peep out of mine.
Recording is very simple - just two clicks from the menu to record a single programme or bookmark a whole series. The EPG is simple and easy to use. However I have noticed that if you switch the box off, it can take quite a few minutes for it to retrieve the schedule information.
It's easy to retrieve details of the programmes you've recorded and see information on which ones you've watched. Each programme has an information page associated with it so you can see information such as the episode details - really handy when your list shows nine episodes of FlashForward like mine currently does!
One small niggle - when displaying information on the programme you're currently watching, it unfortunately doesn't display what's on next - a feature I now realise I paid a lot of attention to when I had Sky.
I've also noticed that it sometimes refused to allow me to watch some channels when I am recording two programmes on other channels. There may be a simple technical reason for this but I'm a little baffled as to why it's happening.
But on a day to day basis I've found it a very reliable, well built product which is well worth the money. I'm very much enjoying being able to watch television on the big screen once more!
I bought this as a replacement for a Topfield TF5800 and i must say i am disappointed.
Ok this PVR does everything you would expect - you can pause and rewind live TV, you can record a programme and watch another, you can record two programmes and watch another (with limitations), it has series link (which allows you to set up the PVR to record an entire series) and it has a big harddrive so you are unlikely to run out of space.
However having had a Topfield i do have a load of gripes
1. It freezes regularly. You will look over and notice that the time is not right which is sure sign that it has frozen. Annoyingly this will mean any recordings in that time will not have worked. I power off the box at night and that does not help
2. The interface is really not nice. The menus look old and are counter intuitive to use
3. There is no way of organising your recordings. On the Topfield you could put them into folders but on the Humax they just appear in one long list
4. Series link works but you can't then adjust the recordings to start 5 minutes early and finish 5 minutes late so you ofter miss the first minute or last minute of a programme
At this price i really expected more. Humax need to take a look at some of the user created content for the Topfield and make some significant improvements to the interface.
Anyone who has used 'SkyPlus' will realise that its innovative system (which allows users to pause and rewind live TV) has revolutionised what consumers expect from a set top box, and has set a high standard for other hard drive recorder manufacturers. Freeview were soon to jump on the SkyPlus bandwagon with 'Freeview+' which grants similar handy pause and rewind privileges. However, many of the Freeview+ compatible boxes are a mixed bag in terms of their features and reliability, and until recently, they were no match for SkyPlus. That all changed however, with the release of the 'Humax PVR-9300T' - a Freeview hard-disk recorder, which, in my opinion, is a true SkyPlus beater.
Available for £179.99 from Argos, or £163.99 from Amazon, the 9300 (as I shall refer to it from now on) is a Freeview receiver combined with a 320GB hard drive which allows you to record up to 160 hours of TV. Due to the fact that it has a twin digital tuner, you can watch two channels at once, and even record two channels whilst watching another - pretty cool eh!
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Although quite a wide machine, the box itself looks pleasing, with a glossy black front with silver trim. The front left side hides a series of buttons under a drop-down flap, which allow you to control certain features like channels, record mode, and the basic standby on and off function. Similarly, the front right hand side features another flap which houses a CAM slot, giving you the option to add a viewing card for selected pay channels like 'TopUpTV'.
When turned on, the Humax shows a blue LED display at the front, broadcasting the current channel and the current time - the text here is bright and easy to view, and again pleasing to look at.
Set Me Up
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I have set up a lot of AV equipment over the years, and I'm happy to report that the 9300 is one of the simplest and easiest machines to get going. Simply put the aerial in the aerial slot, the SCART or HDMI cable (both included) in the SCART or HDMI slot, and you're done - as soon as you swich on the power, the box will start scanning for available channels - very easy indeed.
What's on TV?
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The 9300 has an eight day Electronic Programme Guide, or 'EPG', which is easy to navigate and is accessed by pressing the 'GUIDE' button on the remote. Unlike the guide on Sky+, here you get a small preview of the channel which the box is currently tuned to, ensuring that you're not going to miss any of your favourite programme whilst finding out what's on later. There is also a search facility which allows you to type in a programe name, or browse through programmes by genre - really useful for seeing when the next live sport is going to be shown on TV, or for viewing a list of this weeks movies.
If you want to record something, you just have to find it in the programme guide, and click the 'OK' button to 'make a reservation' as Humax call it - it's a really simple and pain free process! If the programme you have selected is part of a series, then you can choose to record every episode from now until eternity - the box will do all the hard work for you.
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Made from black plastic, the remote control is a fairly chunky device which feels quite robust. All the buttons are found in intuitive locations, and are responsive when pressed. The bottom of the control features a slide-open section, revealing yet more buttons. If something is going to give, it's probably the slide mechanism which, with frequent opening and closing, may eventually break. The remote takes 2xAA batteries, which are included with a new machine.
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The 9300 has a plethora of hi-tech and handy features, making it a fun and advanced machine to use. One such feature is the 'PiP' (Picture in Picture) viewing mode. Here, you can watch two channels at once - either side by side, or with one channel as the main screen, and another as a small box in the corner. This feature is really useful if you're watching a film, but want to keep up to date with the footie on another channel.
The box also offers four games for the user to play should you be completely disallusioned with what's on TV, and want to have a bit of leisure time. The games are all puzzle based, and generally fun to play - graphically, they aren't that great, but it's not a bad effort for a digi-box!
As I mentioned in my opening paragraphy, Freeview+ allows you to pause and rewind live TV, and on the Humax box, this system works beautifully - just as good as on SkyPlus in fact - so no problems there.
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The picture quality via an RGB scart cable is very impressive indeed, with natural skin tones and sharp, non-ghosting edges - this of course depends on the quality of your TV, but compared to my old Netgem box, the Humax is the clear winner. You can also connect to your television via a HDMI cable, and although Freeview doesn't broadcast in high-definition, you can send an upscaled cleaner 720 or 576 progressive signal to your HD ready TV for improved picture quality.
Round the back of the box, there is a digital optical out socket, which would theoretically allow you to export Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound from the unit - although Freeview doesn't currently support that option.
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I have conducted extensive research into the pros and cons of Freeview+ boxes, and it seems that many of the models available on the market are rushed and shoddy devices. In fact, the Humax 9300 itself has a couple of negative points, although these generally don't mar the overall quality of the product.
Firatly, if you've got a machine bought prior to December 2008, you may have a model with a noisy fan. This isn't a pressing issue however, as Humax have released an update (available over the air, or from the internet) which sorts out the problem.
Secondly the EPG (electronic programme guide) can take up to fifiteen minutes to fully load when the box is first switched on. Personally, I find this to be one of the characteristics of the machine, and to be honest, it doesn't bother me whatsoever.
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Let's not beat around the bush, all Freeview+ machines are copies of the original SkyPlus model, trying to replicate its easy to use features, and general reliability. And the 9300 is no exception - however, the Humax model successfully takes all the bits which make SkyPlus great, and adds innovative new features of its own. The result is a powerful and easy to use machine which I would thoroughly recommend - go get one!
Full Technical Specifications
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Size: 360 mm x 50 mm x 245 mm
Weight: (Net) 2.9kg
Aspect Ratio: 4:3, 16:9
Video Resolution: 720 x 576
Audio Decoding: MPEG/MusiCam Layer I & II
Audio Mode: Single /Dual mono/ Stereo /Joint stereo
A/V & Data In/Out
Video: RCA/TV SCART/VCR SCART Video Output (CVBS, S-Video, RGB)
Audio L/R: RCA/TV SCART/VCR SCART Volume and Mute Control
Input Voltage: 90-250V a.c., 50/60Hz
Power Consumption: Operation - Max 26W, Power Saving in Standby - 0.9W
Having owned one of the early Humax PVRs, the excellent PVR800 for many trouble-free years, I decided it was time to upgrade when I bought a Sony Bravia LCD TV for the following reasons:
1) Twin tuner
2) Larger recording capacity (up to 200 hours)
3) HDMI upscaling
4) Series Link
For those who are unsure what a Freeview PVR (Personal Video Recorder) is, it is essentially the free-to-air version of Sky+ i.e. it is a Freeview receiver with an internal hard disk that allows you to do everything Sky+ can do (record, pause and rewind live or scheduled TV) and in some cases better. No discs or tapes required! Obviously no Sky subscription means no Sky channels don't forget, apart from Sky 3 for some reason.
As Amazon were the cheapest (£163.99 delivered), I bought there again and super saver delivery was a decent 3 days. Out of the box, I was surprised to see it came with both a SCART and HDMI lead which is unusual, but welcome. Setting up was an absolute doddle, just a case of plugging in the power, co-ax input (from wall to box), co-ax output (to TV) and of course the HDMI to the TV. I then went to the menu to search for channels and was up and running in about 10 minutes. I was helped in the setup as the menu is very similar to my old Humax (I haven't needed to look at the CD manual) but with a few useful tweaks. A case of if it ain't broke.....
The box itself is fairly attractive in a black and understated way. The remote is also quite smart and sleek. The advanced buttons are hidden under a sliding flap at the bottom which is a good idea. Recording is very easy; just find the programme on the excellent (if slightly small) EPG and click ok. You are prompted for option of series link (which works brilliantly by the way) at that time also. Playback is just as easy, find the programme from your recorded list and hit play; as few as two button presses. If you only watch some of it, the PVR remembers where you left off, similar to most DVD players. Having a twin tuner, you can start watching programmes being recorded before they have finished which is very useful, as well as watch one channel and record another.
Unlike the Sky EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), the Humax shows a small picture of the selected channel (with sound) and has an excellent search facility that includes genre (e.g. movies, sport) or name search with an on-screen keyboard. The only drawback is that the EPG may take a minute or two to fully load from standby but this is not uncommon among any digi-box.
From power on, the fan is noisy for all of 5 seconds and the box then operates silently which I was very relieved about. Anyone suffering from a noisy fan should update the system firmware from the menu which should fix the issue. Standby power usage is 0.9w which is green enough for me.
The picture (you can toggle between 576p or 720p) is very good. Despite having a 1080p TV, I find 576p is more natural. It is better than my 800 but not massively so and has that slight "digitised" feel to it on occasion but it depends a lot on the age and format of the programme you are watching. The new series of Waking the Dead for example looks amazing whereas old episodes of Frasier are slightly blurry and washed out. If anything, the inbuilt tuner on my TV delivers a slightly clearer image but the features on the 9300 mean I will use that much more for general viewing. I get the occasional pause but only in bad weather when my ariel is taking a battering from the wind.
The picture-in-picture feature is under the flap and very useful and easy to use. You can move the small picture around to different corners or even have 50:50 - handy for when there's two games on.
Overall, I am very happy with this box and glad I've upgraded though the 800 is still sitting under my TV whilst I catch up on old episodes of The Wire. Humax have fixed the fan issue and whilst it may take a bit of getting used to (if you haven't owned one before), it is an excellent alternative to Sky+ for price, features and recording capacity.
** UPDATE - A NOTE ABOUT FREEVIEW HD **
Not to be confused with Freesat (which requires a dish), Freeview HD will be rolled out across the country between 2010 and 2012 (which is why we had to re-tune this week). To receive free HD channels from the BBC, ITV, C4 and 5 you will need to upgrade your box to one that supports the superior MPEG-4 rather than MPEG-2 compression technology (and have an HD TV obviously). Before you rush out to buy one though, note they aren't for sale yet. The 9300T is MPEG-2 unfortunately.
For more info, go to http://www.freeview.co.uk/_retuneinfo/
For those of us who can't afford to fork out a monthly fee when finances are tight there is now Freeview+
The Humax 9300T is actually the third device we have owned for recording freeview and by far the best. Previously to this we had a computer with a digital TV card and a Samsung PVR (SH855M). We bought the Samsung to match our TV but ended up taking it back and swapping it as it was so frustrating to use.
So, Humax 9300T:
*Big 320Gb hard drive - Currently have around 25 movies and 5 tv series on there and its less than half full.
*Two freeview tuners - Record two channels at once and even watch a third. If you are recording only one channel you can watch any other channel but if recording on two at once you do have some restrictions as to what you can watch.
* Freeview+ - this is much the same idea as Sky+. Record whole series at the touch of one button. You can also pause live TV if your phone goes off mid way through your favorite programme which is just genius!
* HDMI output - this upscales to 720p - this gives a really clear picture if your TV is High Definition ready. If not then you should get whatever the best your TV can do.
* Slot to add a card for pay TV channels (we have not used this as the idea was to save money!)
one HDMI output
two scart connections
Actually it looks pretty similar to any other black set top box. It has a gloss finish and a light blue LED display which I like. There is not much to say as all PVRs I have seen look pretty much the same and in that case why would you choose based on looks?
Ease of Use:
The Humax is really easy to use. If you have ever seen a digital TV or normal freeview box you will have seen an EPC (Electronic Programme Guide) - its just the posh name for the screen which lists channels down one side, times across the top and has the names of the of programmes in the middle.
On the Humax you press one button on the remote to access this. You simply move around the screen to the programme you are interested in using the up down left and right keys. Then you press the "OK" button. If the programme you selected is on now it will take you straight there. If it is on later it will offer to record it for you. Even better, if it is part of a series it automatically recognise this and simply ask you if you want to record one prog or the whole series - select "one" or "all" and press"OK". It really couldn't be any simpler! The programme guide does take a couple of minutes to populate sometimes as it has to download the TV guide.
To watch back something you have recorded you press "Menu" and then select "Recorded Programmes" then select the one you want and press "Play". Again all very straight forward. Its pretty much like watching a DVD at this point - you have the option to stop, pause, rewind or fastforward - particularly useful if you aren't interested in the adverts!
If you are buying this for a family where one person is a techie but the other is your elderly aunt then both are going to be able to easily do whatever they want.
Advanced features for the tech savvy include the ability to chop the adverts out, picture in picture, a USB port to put movies out onto if you want to put them onto your PC and many others.
Drawbacks in Use:
The fan used to be a bit noisy - about the same as an older Video Cassette player where you could hear the tape going round - but Humax have issued an update which has made it much quieter.
The EPG (Programme Guide) can be slow to load sometimes - taking up to a minute or so.
We paid £179 for it in John Lewis as we wanted it before our holidays and didn't have time to wait for internet delivery.
Dual-tuner Freeview+ PVR with 320GB hard drive