After the death of TiVo, Aussies have wrestled with options to replace the device with something that’ll really cater for their needs. The good news is there’s a new device from Humax that doesn’t just replace TiVo, but does a whole lot more. First off, the 4tune features 4 tuners instead of 2, as the name suggests. The latest model HMS-1000T builds on what they learnt from the 7500T and 7510T models over the last couple of years.
Humax had previously leveraged the IceTV Guide and additional functions to fill out the feature list, but now that’s all changed. Humax have listened and learned what consumers want from a modern-day set top box and written their own software instead. With IceTV gone, their own software needed to impress for the move to be the right one, after spending some time with the 4tune, I’m happy to report it was the right decision.
The interface is now consistent, clean and slick. The speed has dramatically improved, helped by the inclusion of 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Previous versions were ok, but as most DVRs underpowered, leaving the overall experience in the acceptable, but not amazing category.
Since Australia’s FreeView lineup has grown from the 4 basic channels to many, many more, two tuners just don’t cut it anymore. Far too often your recordings will conflict and without prompt intervention, you’ll inevitably miss out on recording shows. This is also a symptom of many programs running long and that tuner being tied up past it’s intended time. Moving to 4 gives you plenty of room to breath, but 4 tuners is just the start for 4tune.
Humax are pitching this device, not as a DVR, but as a Media Server and there’s good reason for that. Thanks to a now included WiFi chip, or the Ethernet jack, your Humax is online and can now stream live and recorded content to devices on the same WiFi network. There’s a suite of mobile apps available on Android and iOS that are TV Remote, Live TV and Media Player.
The Live TV app is can be run by two devices simultaneously (mobile or tablet) and allow other people in your home to watch TV wirelessly, while you enjoy your favorite show on the big screen. This is like having a Slingbox without the need for another box, sure it’s only in your house, but it is a single box. Obviously being a Windows 8.1 and WP8.1 user, I’d love to see Humax extend the app availability to those platforms as well.
One of the best experiences was playing a recorded program in the Media Player Android app, then being able to send that to the Humax and therefore the TV. The HMS1000T also becomes a PlayTo device on your network (DLNA support), which means if you’re playing audio or video, you can send that to the TV, wirelessly, like you’re living in the future. This is particularly great if you have tutorial videos and are doing some learning on the couch.
The newly refreshed Guide is a breath of fresh air compared to either the old Humax guide or IceTV, the standardised layout looks clean and is easily approachable even for first time users. The TV tile is filled in with thumbnails from shows where the guide can identify the show and pull the thumbnail from the web. In the photo above I had just setup the device, so they hadn’t started flowing yet. There’s some really nice touches like the ability to see which channels are being recorded (tying up a tuner) and how much channels have buffered so you know you’ll be able to rewind if you switch.
Probably the smartest thing about the new guide is that you can press left to go back in time. If you select a show that was recorded, you can play it back, if it’s a show that Humax finds is available on a Catch-up service like ABC’s iView or SBS On-demand, then you get a one-button press to playback from catchup. This is a perfect integration, something that has been missing from the experience for a long time. This gets even better when you realise you can search the guide from a dedicated search button on the remote and results come from both the guide and apps like Catch-up and YouTube. It’s just really well executed and at this point I’m not missing IceTV at all.
The new remote has finally ditched the terrible clicking sound made by pressing any button on the 7510T remote. Those who read the site will know this was one of my biggest complaints in my review, thankfully it’s been addressed. The remote is long, but common functions are generally well positioned and of course if your phone is handy, you can use the Remote control app instead.
Fold down the champagne gold front panel on the 4tune and you’ll see a HDD caddy that is user-replaceable. There’s a 1TB HDD included which can easily be expanded. There’s also access to a USB port and SD card slot if you prefer to directly connect your media.
The Humax 4tune is out now, kind of. This week Humax has been teasing pieces of information on it’s Facebook page and has pushed devices to only a few stores in Australia. This feels like a supply constrained launch and I’d suggest they ramp up quickly as demand will likely be high. Today I drove 45 mins to Wangaratta to get one, while Albury (10 mins away) doesn’t yet have any.
If you want a lesson in how to manage the retail experience for the modern educated consumer, then the staff at HN Wangaratta are a great place to learn. Calling ahead and explaining the goal of the mission, the staff were asked to have a device connected to a TV, to get hands-on which they did. After a quick meet and greet, the staff quickly realised that my brother and I knew more about the product than they did and left us to get hands on with the device. To be confident that the reality lived up to the hype, we spent at least half an hour in-store going through settings and generally confirming our impending purchase was justified. Not once did the staff return to bother us, but made themselves available once we’d decided to pull the trigger.
There are / have been 4 tuner devices on the market, but I’ve not seen any that have this level of polish and features. Understanding the goals that have been kicked here, that gets you ready for the price tag. The sticker price was $649 which is expensive when you have high performance boxes like the Xbox One and PS4 for sub $500. Thankfully asking for the best price, immediately dropped the price to $520, so I highly recommend you do the same.
I have no doubt over the coming days and weeks I’ll learn more of the limitations of the device, but for now, it’s better in every way over its predecessors and competitors will have a hard time matching the functionality in a single box.
More info at Humax