So onto those new Freeview Playback features. The PVR-9200T can now be programmed to record an entire series of a particular programme at the touch of a button thanks to the Series Recording feature, while Split Recording detects when a programme has been split in two (perhaps to accommodate the news) and automatically records both parts. The unit will even let you know when a clash occurs in your recording schedule, and suggests an alternative time when the programme is repeated. All of these features make the recording experience incredibly simple, and finally make the Humax a serious rival to Sky+.
All units shipped into the UK after November 2007 already contain the new software, but if you bought one before then (or buy an older version second hand) then Humax says the over-the-air updates take place at least once a month, possibly for the next few months if not more. You can check the two-week download schedule here
Nestled inside is a 160GB hard-disk, which offers up to 100 hours of recording time. As with most hard-disk recorders you can pause live TV, but unlike some rivals the Humax's buffer memory lets you rewind back to the point where you started watching the channel. Further flexibility is provided by the inclusion of two digital tuners, which makes it possible not only to record two channels at the same time but also to watch a third, provided it's on the same multiplex as one of the programmes being recorded. You can also watch a recording from the hard-disk while recording two channels.
The features don't stop there. There's also an 8-day EPG, digital text, an auto-tracking feature for reserved recordings that keeps up to date with schedule changes, and a picture-in-picture mode to keep an eye on another channel without leaving the current one. And if you thought video editing was limited to DVD/HDD combi recorders, you'd be wrong - the PVR-9200T lets you copy, cut and split recordings to remove unwanted parts using a slick onscreen display.
The main reason for the unit's success is its user-friendliness. With its canny use of icons and bright colours, the onscreen displays are nigh-on perfect, treading a fine line between welcoming newcomers and not patronising experienced users. The unit is ultra-quick in action, not only when changing channels or using digital text, but also when cruising around the menu options. Watching recorded shows is easy thanks to the attractive library menu that plays each video in a small box - but pressing Exit instead of OK or Play to start watching the recording in full screen is counter intuitive.