Back in August last year I posted about which DVR to buy when your TiVo dies, well my TiVo died. So as I suggested in the article the best alternative is a Humax. Back in February 2013, I reviewed the previous model, the Humax 7500T and in many ways the latest edition feels like the same box. With a new look, new App Market and remote control, it’s time to let you know if the new model is an improvement.
Visually the 7510T got a nice upgrade with the overdone standard black façade replaced with a brushed silver front, paired with a glossy back top which combine for a sophisticated appearance. The LED display delivers all your standard information, but does it in an interesting way. Instead of the lazy glass window cut out interrupting the design, with power, the illuminated characters emerge like magic, shining through the brushed steel exterior. Sadly, like most DVRs, it’s located behind a tinted glass door, so this design effort is quickly forgotten about, in favour of a focus on functionality.
In terms of performance, there are definitely times where the Humax feels sluggish, perhaps we’re now spoilt by the speed of the latest consoles, but when the prices are similar, I expect great performance. The sad reality of almost every set top box is that they are all underpowered. General day-to-day use is acceptable and are definitely an improvement on TiVo, that’s not a difficult task given that hardware was 3-4 years old. The biggest showcase of the performance issues is when you launch the Humax Portal which we’ll discuss further in the software sections.
While the 7510T doesn’t come with built-in Wi-Fi but makes up for it by including a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Thanks to a USB port at the rear, the adapter can be tucked away and since installing it, I haven’t given it a second thought. If you’ve ever opened the case of a DVR, you’ll know that they have plenty of room to dissipate heat. There’s easily enough room for an internal WiFi card on better still on-board WiFi, so this sadly feels like an after thought. Of course there’s always direct connection, but most lounge room configurations don’t have a router positioned close or a wall port.
The remote control has had a redesign, so severe from the previous model that its basically inverted. The channel numbers are now located at the bottom, while the playback controls are switched to the top. There’s a nice ridge in the back of the remote which hugs nicely against your curled middle finger, leaving you thumb in the perfect position to access common controls like channels, volume, and especially the circular d-pad. While there are improvements here, I don’t agree with some of the decisions with the new remote. Being a long remove, even with big hands I find myself having to walk up and down the remote frequently, the most common example is the playback controls.
The biggest issue is there’s no night time guidance, which means your guessing in the dark. The last thing I want to be doing during a movie session is turning on the light to find the pause button. Back lighting would certainly fix this issue and Humax should seriously consider it for the next release. There’s also annoying click sounds when you press the buttons on the new remote, this is not appreciated and feels like the designer never actually used the final product, if they did, they’d know that after the first 5 presses, it’s annoying as hell.
HUMAX TV Portal is the biggest differentiator from the previous model and gives users access to apps, yep, Humax like everyone other manufacturer is jumping on the apps bandwagon. The idea here is to give you access popular online content from the comfort of your living room. Featured apps include ABC iView, SBS OnDEMAND, Quickflix and SMH.TV while other popular services like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Picasa are also available. The problem is, that’s pretty much it, there’s just 14 apps in the App Market, the best of which is probably YouTube, but the bigger problem is that between your phone, tablet, laptop and smart TV, these apps aren’t necessary and are slow in performance compared to their counterparts on other devices. With my Xbox One just a HDMI input away, the YouTube app there is exactly one million times better.
My advice to Humax is to back away from the Portal, instead add support for Miracast and/or Airplay and allow users to stream their desktops to the big screen.
Any good DVR allows you to simply select the shows you like and have them be recorded automatically even if the time changes. The Humax 7510T supports season recording but does have some quirks. The functionality is effected by your guide provider. If you switch from the in-build Humax guide to IceTV instead, you then get access to subscribe via the web or mobile apps (iOS and Android). After using the device both with and without IceTV, I’d definitely recommend you pony up and pay the once off lifetime subscription (fine print: lifetime is actually 5 years).
When both tuners are busy recording, you can definitely watch a recorded program. The strange thing is if both tuners are tied up and you attempt to change the channel, you can’t. On the TiVo, it’d prompt you to stop recording and pressing the go button took you to the new channel. On the Humax things aren’t so easy, a notification will tell you that your tuners are busy, but there’s no actionable items. This bad example of UX forces the user to manually press the stop button and confirm that prompt, before then returning to your channel change attempt – clumsy. It’s surprising just how often this problem occurs, something that 4 tuners could easy resolve.
Xbox One support
The timeline of TiVo’s end overlapped just long enough to compare the HDMI pass through experience on the Xbox One. What Xbox attempted to do was to overlay the DVR to leverage it’s dual-tuners and OTA capabilities that the Xbox lacked. While TiVo was alive, this worked great, switching out of the Game or Entertainment experiences to live TV. The best experience was running live TV snapped while playing a game or browsing the web, this helped kill time through the ads.
This experience was very different with the Humax. With the HDMI cable running out of the Humax, into the Xbox One, out to the TV, there’s an issue. The HDMI output of the Humax can not be found by the Xbox after the TV is turned off. I’ve talked to Humax support about the issue, but as yet there is no update that fixes the issue. At first it was thought to be a power saving issue, but with everything green disabled, the issue remains.
The Humax 7510T comes in two storage sizes, 500GB and 1TB. Given the catch up apps available, you cheap out and get the 500GB model. 10-12 seconds to launch the Humax Portal reflects just where Humax are at with their smart interface. This is their first run at it and while it’d be easy to give them a pass, it’s really not good enough by today’s standards. There’s a couple of really important things to consider here. First is the fact that Apps are really the big marketing angle of this device over it’s predecessor, so it should be good and something they can be proud of. The second is that the DVR market is being attacked by smart TVs which offer their own app ecosystems.
I’ve used many DVR’s and despite its issues, the Humax T7510T is the best OTA DVR on the market.
More information at http://www.humaxdigital.com/au/