Hands-on with the Humax 4tune, a Freeview DVR, Media server and Slingbox in one

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

  • NoRelationToNed

    Great work, sounds like the way to go when the TiVo stops working – or maybe even beforehand!

  • Nick

    Can you comment on the reliability and accuracy of scheduled/season recordings? This is something IceTV did very well so would like to know how good a job Humax have done replicating this functionality

  • Rockets

    Comparing the sticker price of a PVR that has no after sales revenue stream to Xbox One & PS4, hardware that is sold at a loss but has revenue streams from game sales & Internet services to make up that initial loss is a poor comparison.

    On the EPG, does it have Repeat flags? 4tune has series recording support but that’s not very good if 4tune is recording repeats as well in the series recording. This is especially true for heavily repeated shows like Big Bang Theory or The Simpsons which have 14 repeats in a single week.

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    Ok firstly I disagree that either console maker are loosing money per console, that’s simply not true. The sale price is far in excess of the hardware components, which leaves the R&D development costs which are not accounted for in the hardware sale alone, but rather the overall ecosystem of games, Xbox Live etc and over the total consoles they estimate to sell for the lifespan of the product. Ideally they recoup these costs in a couple of years and the subsequent years are profit.

    On the second part of your comment, regarding repeats, I definitely need to spend more time before understanding the full capabilities and restrictions regarding recording. With the right hardware, the question is now a software one and that’s something that can be improved over time. The best companies will listen to feedback and implement requests quickly, so whatever it can’t do yet, may not be the case in the future.

    This was a hands-on post, I plan on publishing a full review after spending a few weeks with it.

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    Definitely need some more time to confirm this, but everything I’ve recorded (manually or scheduled) has recorded so far and have definitely had 4 recordings happening at the same time. Thankfully accessing the recordings gives you plenty of options for filtering, either an A-Z style program list or by channel or by date and of course you have search.

  • Nick

    Thanks TechAU, I look forward to reading a more in depth review in due course. I also read your other comment re restricting recordings (e.g. First run only/no repeats). This is also something I’d like to know about before I commit to purchasing the unit. Thanks for the tip re haggling at HN too, massive discount on the RRP!

  • Nick

    Does the instruction manual provide much of an insight into this sort of thing?

  • Rockets

    Nope. It’s very light on details. It just says “press this button for series recording”. Email ausupport@humaxdigital.com and ask them for a copy of the manual which they will send you. It wasn’t that informative and I wouldn’t make a buying decision from it at all. It’s going to be a hands on play first for me or a very in depth from Jason.

  • MishMash

    Thanks for such a great review. I’m in rural Queensland, so apparently no chance of laying my hands on one until around mid July…
    Just wondering if there are any ongoing subscriptions/costs like with icetv?
    And also, what level of functionality there is without an Internet connection – specifically re epg and recording.
    Thanks again

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    Absolutely no ongoing subscription costs with this guy. The one thing I have found is that there is no way to configure recordings to avoid repeat programs. This is key functionality I’ll be asking Humax to add. With great hardware, the software is easy to update.

  • Nick

    Hi techau, i noticed today that SBS has turned on its HbbTV app (albeit in beta). I have been told by Humax that the 4tune is HbbTV compatible… are you able to confirm whether you can use the new SBS services??

  • Ozroscoe

    Hi there, just installed my new 1000t. What a great install wizard! However my Home button seems to be disabled. I have downloaded remote control software on my iPad and iPhone, works great, but again the Home button does not work. Any help? Cannot find much on the web, maybe because it is so new?

    Thanks, Ross

  • Nick

    Hi can you let me know what the specs are? I just need to know if component HD out is included with HDMI any other outputs?

  • dRdoS7

    How many lines (channels) does the TV guide (EPG) show?
    We have about 15, mostly watchable, channels. Can you see what’s on all of them at once or, do you need to scroll around a lot?
    Many PVRs on have 6-7 lines, in the grid display. At least the Topfields can be increased to 11 from 7 with SmartEPG.
    We have large TV screen, lets use some of that real estate.

  • Gadget

    I am in Townsville and just ordered through Harvey Norman.

  • frosty toobz

    I was told the 4tuner was the latest wizzbang best of the best.
    Took it home only to find out that it has no slow motion capability.
    It seems that when I bought my TIVO 5 years ago and have enjoyed this brilliant feature everyday since,.,.,.,I was just lucky I chose TIVO. I only did so because there was no subscription fee.
    So I just assumed for the last 5 years that all PVR’s would have this slow mo capability.
    I now want to get another PVR to add extra recording channels along with my TIVO’s 2 HD tuners.
    I took the HUMAX 4Tuner back and grabbed meself a refund on the grounds that it didn’t do what I expected from the so called “best of the best”.
    If any one can find a PVR being sold with SLOW MOTION features then please let me know by ringing me on 0435577549.
    I can use TIVO slow motion to watch bullets and missiles in full hd exiting a barrel or finding there mark.
    Plus instant slow mo replays of all kinds of sport is something I thought all PVR’s would be capable of.
    It’s a no brainer innit.
    Watching the over the air slow motion replays of the blokes laying their elbows and knees on the ground in MOTO GP in full HD slow motion and then slowing it down even more with TIVO is real treat.
    Obviously the knuckle scrapers building substandard featured PVR’s need to lift their game.

  • Rosco_patsy

    My unit arrived today without a HDD, is this normal or should the HDD be included?

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    If you’re talking about the drive bay at the front, that’s an expansion drive. There will be a hard drive inside the Humax.

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    Wow, you really like you’re slow mo, I guess I hadn’t really considered it. Will be sure to include that in future DVR reviews.

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    There’s a couple of screens to scroll through, at times I use the up-down buttons to scroll through (which is improving with software updates), other times I’ll use the channel up / down which skips an entire screen at a time.

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    Sorry Ross, not sure why your home button isn’t working.. I have an iPad Air I use for the humax remote and it works great. Have also tried the Android apps which work correctly. It takes longer than I would like to initially connect.

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    Yep, can use the new SBS features and ABC is also now supporting HbbTV, over time we’ll see most channels adopt it. There’s some work to be done with the interface to avoid the HbbTV mini guide at the bottom of the screen, layering the full guide. As a user I’m sure you’d settle into using one or the other.

  • http://techAU.tv techau

    Hi MishiMash, thanks, glad you liked it. There absolutely are no subscriptions on the 4tune. You definitely need a connection to get guide updates. Like you’re phone, it works offline, but not useful for long. Plan on having it connected. Thankfully WiFi is included in this model.

  • aga

    HI, sorry if my question will be silly but I hope you can help me with that. Our Panasonic SA BTT 350 (with blue ray) surround sound device just died. I am looking for a good device to record tv like this Humax – question is: in my situation, do I have to buy Humax and new surround system or will Humax 4Tune act as surround system? I read a few reviews of different dual tuner recorders today but there is no word about surround sound ability. How would you say this Humax compares to Strong SRT 6500(includes Blueray).. Thank you

  • Thesiger

    Very sorry to say that I bought the 1000T based on this review. Would I buy a car based on a review by someone who drove it around the block? My bad. I would describe the 1000T as a SINGLE tuner PVR that can record 4 channels simultaneously. It has only one video buffer unlike the Tivo which has 3 – one for each of the two tuners and one for playback of recorded material. With the 1000T you cannot switch to another tuner so see if there is anything more interesting on another channel and then switch back and pick up where you left off as the buffer is destroyed. Likewise when you go to recorded material you lose the buffer of the channel you were watching before you left it. You CANNOT setup a series recording of a program that has already started. I often come across an interesting program as I am channel surfing and the best you can do is record the current episode and write yourself a reminder to setup a series recording the following day (at least). The reason for that is there is only 7 days of guide data so the next episode, if weekly, won’t be visible for at least 24 hours. The Tivo accepts series recording of a program in progress and accuretly stores it in its catalog. Never missed in the 6 years I have owner a Tivo. Under the “Home > Settingswat > PVR Settings > Recording Options” you can the the 1000T to start each recording xx minutes early and end yy minutes late. In reality this function does NOTHING! dosen’t work. I have it setup to start 3 minutes early and end 20 minutes late (with reference to the published guide data obviously) but I have missed the end of almost every program I have recorded on this machine. I often get interrupted with work related phone calls so I often elect to record a program even though I watch it “pseudo live” as I often have to pause it to answer the phone. The problem is when the time arrives for the next scheduled program to start the 1000T dumps you in to “Live TV” and you have to go to “Home > Recordings” find the recording and pick up from where you were unceremoniously evicted – NEVER happens on a Tivo. There are at least a dozen other faults with the 1000T which I will document at a later time. I feel very strongly that the 1000T fails to live up to what is expected from a PVR and under the Trade Practices Act it is not “fit for purpose” and I will be seeking a refund on return of the product to the vendor.

  • Thesiger

    One of the many features I really miss. I have a Tivo and the 1000T. Crashes in the Tour de France require slow-mo. The commentators often miss what actually happened. With the slow motion on the Tivo you get to analyze it for yourself.

  • Thesiger

    No Component out. Only VGA and HDMI. If you have a TV which supports Component but not HDMI then you will have to put up with down scaled video.