With roll-back EPG, integrated catch-up and media playback, Freesat's Free Time box heralds the end of the PVR. Here's our Humax HB-1000s review
With the diminutive Humax HB-1000S, the maker has delivered a forward-thinking satellite box that could well herald the end of the set-top PVR as we know it. Elegantly integrating IP delivered catch-up services with fully formed network media streaming and YouTube, it's pretty much all you'll need for your regular telly fix. No monthly sub required.
Humax HB-1000S: Size and build
Admittedly, this box isn't the prettiest gadget in the pile. But at least it's small, measuring just 200mm ear-to-ear, so you can at least squirrel it away from sight.
Humax HB-1000S: Features
The original Freesat user interface was a dull functional affair, but Free Time is way more engaging. Quite apart from the snazzy PIP animations, there's a 7-day EPG, which works forward and backwards in tandem with channel catch-up services, a Showcase area for curated programme highlights, YouTube, Flickr and Picasa clients, plus network and USB media file playback.
Video file support covers MKV, AVI, MOV, MP4 and WMV, while audio compatibility extends to MP3, M4A and WMA (USB audio playback is limited to MP3s).
The receiver also offers automated power On/Off and a parental channel lock. While there's no hard drive resident, should you feel an overwhelming need to timeshift content you can also record from its single tuner to a connected USB hard drive.
Humax HB-1000S: Connections
Everything you need and nothing more. That's the mantra here. There's a single f-connector for your (Sky) dish, HDMI supported by phono AV outputs, USB connector, optical digital audio and Ethernet port. The unit may be titchy, but it comes with a full-size Humax learning remote control.
Humax HB-1000S: Content
Freesat currently proffers around 170 TV and radio channels, 11 of which are in hi-def (these comprise the BBC's HD channels, ITV HD, C4 HD and NHK HD). This is augmented by catch-up from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5.
The box also boasts an online portal, although the content cupboard here is pretty threadbare - unless you hanker after dribblings from the Daily Express, Daily Star, OK magazine and Bible TV.
Humax HB-1000S: Picture quality
This may be a budget box but there's nothing cut-price about its performance. The receiver can upscale all content to 1080p and native HD looks terrific. Image quality from internet-delivered catch-up is also extremely good, although to be fair it was connected to a super-fast VirginMedia fibre broadband during our audition so buffering was never going to be an issue.
Sonically, the HB-1000S also excels. The receiver sports a Dolby Digital Plus decoder and can deliver multichannel 5.1, when broadcast, from both HDMI and digital outputs.
Humax HB-1000S: Verdict
This budget sat box may look modest, but it's actually an extraordinarily talented TV box. If you've been mulling a churn away from monthly subscription TV it could well prove irresistible, particularly if you don't feel compelled to timeshift. With an excellent UI, comprehensive catch-up and first-class media streaming it's difficult not to fall a little in love with this £99 Humax.
Humax HB-1000S release date: Out now
Humax HB-1000S price: £99, no subscription required