tech tv

Review of the Humax HDR-FOX T2 PVR

Yes, another step into the 21st Century for the Chaudhry household has been taken with the addition of a PVR (thats “Personal Video Recorder” for the un-initiated). Check photos below, I’m sure the “fox” in the name refers to it’s sleek understated appearance. Hereafter it will be referred to as “Hummy”.

This amazing little black box records Freeview and Freeview HD and does it extremely well. I never really appreciated the power of easy timeshifting of TV content that these allow. It is so easy to bring up the TV schedule for the next few days and choose to record a show or an entire series – all with one button press. Simples! This means I can watch them back at a time to suit me – case in point: this morning at 7am I watched a documentary on spectacular rise and fall of the Hittite Empire from BBC Four 🙂 It also means that when I’m relaxing with the Missus we can choose to watch something more interesting than “The Kardashians” (btw, I love teasing her by referring to them as “The Cardassians“).

Anyhow, the PVR functionality is not the only thing I bought it for. It can also playback arbitrary digital media such as videos, music and photos. It also has a very decent BBC iPlayer and YouTube “app” built in which is a much more usable effort for a TV form-factor than practically all others I have seen. That said, I’m not giving up my trusty Xbox XBMC systems any time soon. The reason is that even though the “Hummy” can playback hi-def video (e.g. a 3G Avatar blu-ray rip – in mp4 format, not tried mkv yet) and can stream over a network or playback from local USB media – the network streaming is limited to UPnP only. Yes, I can install Mediatomb or Twonky on my LAN Debian server but I already run Samba and NFS already. Given the Hummy runs Linux then why not support these other protocols? They work so well for media streaming dammit (XBMC).

Did I mention that the Hummy runs Linux? Case in point – the HDD is formatted with ext3. This also means it opens up a world of modding potential and a community has of course built up around it over the last 3 years.
If you want to buy one then I would advise looking for a good condition used specimen from an eBay private seller – lots of folks are choosing to go with Virgin Media or Sky to get the premium sports channels and thus selling on their Hummys. Now and again you might see a listing of a Hummy missing the HDD – go for these and you can get a bargain as installing and formatting the HDD is very easy (see blog post above).

OK so a few bad points – HD channel reception is unreliable and I just ignore them even though they look amazing. There are only 5 of them on Freeview HD at present.  Sometimes there is rare signal breakup in SD mode, I have the latest firmware I think so hopefully an update from the Humax will help. I don’t think this is due to my Freeview reception as the Freeview tuner built-in to my TV never had this issue. I would also like some way to turn on and off the TV and Hummy with one button press. I have a Samsung LE32R7 TV so if anyone knows how to do that with the standard remote then let me know. By the way, the 3-digit remote code for this TV I used is 115.

Now excuse me while I find some more shows to fill up my 500G HDD with…