Welcome to T3's Humax Aura 4K PVR review, where we discover that Humax has effectively reinvented the humble Freeview PVR. It’s a next-gen telly box that’s powered by the latest iteration of Android’s TV OS, has integrated catch-up players and is 4K and Dolby Atmos capable.
In many ways, it’s Sky Q’s worst nightmare: a feature rich entertainment hub that’s smart enough to compete with the TV elite, but doesn’t demand an ongoing subscription.
It’s nearest competitor is the Manhattan T3-R, but that particular Freeview Play recorder doesn’t have the versatility of the Android TV OS.
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Humax Aura 4K review: Price & features
The Aura comes with a choice of 1TB or 2TB hard drives. The two options offer 250 and 500 hours of HD capacity, priced at £249 and £279 respectively.
Inside you’ll find three digital tuners, which allow up to four programmes to be recorded at once, while watching an additional live channel.
Built on Android 9 (aka Pie) with integrated Freeview Play, the Aura behaves like an Android TV when it comes to operation – much like the new Chromecast with Google TV.
You can add your choice of apps and services via Google Play. A sprightly quad-core processor with 3GB of RAM makes it refreshingly quick to scoot hither and yon.
The integration of Freeview Play within the Android interface is key to the success of this smart PVR; it’s seamlessly handled. A seven day TV guide includes a roll-back programme guide, allied to a full set of catch-up players, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5. There’s also UKTV Play, CBS Catchup, Horror Bites, STV Player and BBC Sounds, plus Freeview Play curated highlights.
In addition to Amazon Prime Video, your streaming app choice includes Disney+, BT Sport, and Google Play Movies and others. The obvious omission is Netflix, which isn’t to say it won't appear on the Humax box, but just that it’s not yet available. There's no Apple TV, either.
Other Google niceties include Google Assistant voice control, which proves a particularly effective way to search, plus Chromecast built-in for easy content sharing.
Humax Aura 4K review: Performance
When it comes to TV time shifting, there’s no difference between what you’ll watch live and what the Aura records.
And when it comes to apps, the set top box is comparable with any high-spec streaming stick when it comes 4K HDR clarity (broadband speed dependent) from compatible streaming services.
File playback from USB enjoys wide format support, including h.265, VP8, VP9, MPEG 1/2, as well as HD sources that use MJPEG, MPEG4 and WVM9/VC1.
Audio is solid too. Dolby Atmos delivered over HDMI into an Atmos enabled AV receiver is as full-bodied and involving as you would hope, making the Aura perfectly suited for use in a home cinema system.
In addition to Atmos compatibility, the Aura can also play high-res audio up to 24-bit/192 over HDMI.
Humax Aura 4K review: Design & usability
Like many PVRs it’ll stick out like a sore thumb in your equipment rack, but with a grille to the front and a shiny black plastic lid, the oval Aura looks neat enough. Up top there’s some physical buttons, should you lose the remote, while around the back there’s all the usual connectivity options.
Along with an HDMI 2.1 port, there’s optical digital audio output, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB ports (one of which is 3.0), and terrestrial aerial loop through. Dual Wi-Fi is standard.
The remote control features dedicated keys for Freeview Play, Google Assistant, Prime Video, and a Humax Kids’ Zone button, which fast tracks you to a family-friendly safe space for younger viewers that want to explore terrestrial TV and on-demand content.
The latter is actually a rather cool addition to the mix, and for parents could prove a godsend. Its clean, thumbnail driven interface helpfully gives prominence to programme running times, while a Search function only delivers appropriate results.
Operating noise is reassuringly quiet. The Aura has an internal fan, but during our audition it didn’t make itself known.
Humax Aura 4K review: Verdict
For Freeview PVR enthusiasts, we rate the Humax Aura 4K a compelling reason to upgrade your box. It’s lighting fast, and offers seamless integration between Freeview Play catch-up, Google voice control and Chromecast functionality.
But its appeal will likely stretch beyond that. For those looking to trade in their premium pay TV services for something a little cheaper to run, but who don’t want to sacrifice leading-edge functionality, it’s a great option.
Now give us Netflix, and we’ll be really happy.