Review Price £259.95
The entire front panel drops down to reveal a bank of regularly used buttons, a common interface smartcard slot and a USB port, which enables you to move MP3 and JPEG files between a pen drive/external HDD and the unit's hard-disk, turning it into a multimedia hub. But even more impressive is that you can archive TV recordings on an external hard-disk.
On the back are two LNB inputs, supplying the signals for the twin satellite tuners, plus an LNB output. If you don't have two separate feeds you can loop the signal through to the second input, but this only allows you to record one channel and view a second. Elsewhere the rear panel boasts a generous range of connections, including an HDMI socket that supports 576i/p, 720p and 1080i output, two SCART outputs (one of which outputs RGB, S-video and composite, the other S-video and composite), composite and stereo audio output. You'll also find an optical digital output that delivers Dolby Digital sound from broadcasts that support it, an Ethernet port for future IPTV applications (such as BBC iPlayer) and a second USB port that performs the same functions as the one on the front.
Setting up the Humax couldn't be simpler. When you first boot it up (which takes a surprisingly long time) you're guided through an installation wizard that sets the basics and then proceeds to check for connected dishes. After you've entered your postcode in order to get the correct regional variations, it tunes the 106 TV and 35 radio channels in ultra-quick time and confirms all your settings in a handy Result screen.
And once you're up and running, the unit is an absolute joy to use. Every single aspect of the operating system oozes sophistication and user-friendliness - the jazzy, vibrant menus put Sky+ to shame, using colourful, hi-res graphics and a straightforward structure, while in terms of responsiveness it's one of the slickest digital TV receivers we've ever encountered. What's particularly helpful is the way every menu screen is accompanied by a legend at the bottom showing what buttons you need to press.
It's complemented by a terrific remote that's clearly been designed with simplicity in mind. The buttons are large, well spaced and plainly labelled, plus the gloss black finish and silver menu controls give it a dash of elegance to boot.
The interface is packed with smart touches, such as the magnificent i-Plate display that displays every conceivable piece of information about the current programme, and the Play Bar, a timeline that shows you where you are in relation to live TV during timeshifted playback. Also impressive is the amount of flexibility when navigating the channel list, which can be narrowed down to favourites, HD channels or individual genres.