Freesat Freetime is a subscription-free satellite service that gives catch-up and other web services get equal billing, via the Humax HDR-1000S set-top box
Freesat, the non-subscription alternative to Freeview and Pay TV providers, has updated its proposition with Freetime. Combining BBC iPlayer and ITV Player with dish-delivered TV channels, it offers a thoroughly fashionable catch-up service. But has Freesat Freetime been rushed to market ahead of time? Read on for our full review...
Humax HDR-1000S: Size and build
Like other Humax set top boxes before it, the HDR-1000S is a well-made PVR. It may be finished in regulation black, but there's colourful flair to its rounded edges and in use is almost supernaturally quiet. This contrasts starkly to the glossy remote control which clicks like a Kalhari bushman.
Humax HDR-1000S: Features
Freetime introduces significant changes to the Freesat feature roster. The new user interface merges TV listings with On Demand and web service content, your recordings library and a Showcase highlights area.
The EPG offers only Now & Next programme information, but as part of its catch-up implementation there are also retrospective listings; these are only active when you're parked on BBC and ITV channels though.
One clear advantage Freesat Freetime has over YouView and its Pay TV counterparts is the fact it works with external media. You can play sound and vision files from USB and across a network from a NAS. Codec support is good. You can also treat your set top box like a multimedia jukebox by copying content from USB to Music, Movies and Photo folders on the hard drive.
Humax HDR-1000S: Connections
No surprises here. This Freesat box offers HDMI, Scart, phono AV, twin LNB inputs, an optical digital output, two USBs (one on the front) and Ethernet. You don't get Wi-Fi, but Humax suggests Powerline as a solution for those without a networked living room. Alternatively, plug in a Humax branded Wi-Fi dongle.
Humax HDR-1000S: Picture quality
Image quality can be regarded as excellent, with recordings mirroring the clarity of original transmissions. Although Freesat only offers five HD channels, the box can upscale to 1080p and makes a nice job of densing-up SD channels. Audio is output as stereo or multichannel.
Unfortunately both BBC iPlayer and ITV Player proved flaky under test. On several occasions iPlayer just crashed out, landing you back on live TV with a bump; ITV Player sometimes failed to work entirely, offering a 'The Service Was Unable To Locate The Content...' error message. Not quite the seamless user experience Freetime is meant to deliver.
Humax HDR-1000S: Content
With a handful of HD channels (BBC One, BBC HD, ITV HD, 4HD and NHK World HD), and sprawling selection of SD and radio, Freesat only just betters the channel bouquet offered by Freeview. But there's still potential for growth.
Humax HDR-1000S: Verdict
Freetime is the facelift that Freesat has been waiting patiently for. With its snazzy multi-layered menus and built-in catch-up, the gratis satellite service is now looking like a real competitor to YouView.
However, this box comes with caveats: the 500GB version featured here is poor value compared to the step-up HDR-100S1TB, and the platform itself appears far from polished. Freetime smacks of being rushed out to compete with its terrestrial rival. Interested buyers are advised to wait until the bugs have been ironed out before they jump on board.
Humax HDR-1000S release date: Out now
Humax HDR-1000S price: £279 (500GB), £299 (1TB)