Although we were highly impressed by Humax's Foxsat-HD Freesat receiver when it launched last year, we felt that a vital part of the puzzle was missing, namely the ability to record programmes. The only way of doing it is to hook the box up to a DVD recorder or VCR, which feels somewhat antiquated in the days of Sky+. But now the company has launched this PVR version which makes it a lot more convenient to record your favourite programmes and could pose a serious threat to Sky's dominance of the digital PVR market.
Unless you've been living on Mars for the last year, you'll know that Freesat is a subscription-free service that provides the ideal solution for people who can't get Freeview or don't want to pay Sky's monthly fees. You get a wide range of free-to-air TV and radio channels, as well as high-definition channels from the BBC and ITV.
The Foxsat-HDR features a 320GB hard-disk, which dwarfs the 160GB hard-disk inside the Sky+ HD box and allows you to record up to 80 hours of hi-def programmes or 200 hours of standard-definition programmes. It also boasts twin satellite tuners, enabling you to record one channel while watching another or record two channels while watching a third.
In addition to the impressive hard-disk capacity the unit also supports Freesat+, which like Freeview+ is a group of features that makes it really easy to record programmes using data from the respective broadcasters. They include Series and Split Recording; Accurate Recording, which tracks the start and end times of programmes and adjusts the recording schedule accordingly; Schedule Tracking, which records the programme if it moves to a different day or time, and Alternate Instances, which searches the EPG to find another broadcast if the recording schedule overlaps.
The unit constantly records up to two hours of TV into a buffer memory, which allows you to pause and rewind live TV, but sadly you can't retrospectively record programmes from the buffer. You can also start watching a programme before it has finished recording, or ‘chase play' in marketing speak.
Humax has put a lot of effort into the unit's design, resulting in a stylish, robustly-built machine. It's a lot slimmer and shallower than the Sky+ HD box, and the blue-tinged reflective fascia injects a touch of glamour into its otherwise modest black finish. There's a backlit display panel bang in the centre, which clearly shows the name of the current channel and other information like the output resolution.