After TiVo’s recent demise in Australia, consumers are now looking for a replacement DVR. One such device on offer is the Humax HDR-7500T and we took a look.
While the brand name Humax may not be familiar to you, they are currently the best selling brand in the UK and Germany. One of the challenges with most DVRs is where to source the electronic program guide data from. The Humax HDR-7500T not only supports, but has a great deal with IceTV, one of the most popular EPG sources.
The current Humax / IceTV deal that is only available for a limited time is to get a ‘lifetime’ IceTV subscription for just $99, which normally gets you just 12 months of service. When you read the fine print, this really lasts for 5 years, but you’re likely to be on to another DVR by then. In terms of overall cost, this certainly puts the Humax HDR-7500T ahead of competitors like Topfield.
The external casing and design of the Humax HDR-7500T features a pretty familiar glossy black finish we’ve come to know and love on entertainment hardware. At home amongst devices under the big screen, the display is simple, showing just the channel name. Just like a modern DVD or Blu-ray player, there’s a USB port up front for easy access to insert a thumb drive full of content.
Inside the unit we find a 1TB Hard Drive and dual HD tuners in the version we reviewed. There is also a 500GB version for those on a strict budget. For the extreme couch potatoes, it is worth noting, there isn’t a quad-tuner option. With most houses not hardwired with networking cables, it means you’ll likely need to connect via WiFi. The bonus WiFi Dongle (valued at $49) is included.
Moving to the back of the device, there’s a very standard array of connectors. While there’s no surprises, lets run through them. 1 Optical and stereo RCA audio Output, 1x HDMI (1.3a), 1x (USB 2.0), Ethernet, Composite and Component video.
While Humax don’t provide any detail on the processor speeds, they do tell us how much (or how little) RAM is inside the box. There’s just 256MB (128MB x 2 chips) on offer, that said the interface speed definitely falls in the acceptable category without setting any speed records.
While it’s likely to end up inside a low-line unit, some may still care about the size and weight. The dimensions are 380 x 55 x 246mm (Width x Height x Depth) and weighs 2.75kg.
The interface of the Humax HDR-7500T varies from a transparent overlay to a full screen display in the guide and Humax Portal. Let’s talk about that portal, this is Humax’s response to the demand for ‘smarter’, internet connected services on devices.
On offer in Australia is ABC iView, SBS On-Demand, YouTube, Quickflix, and Picasa apps. Most are fine and work fine, but nothing about this experience moves the industry forward. This is quickly becoming the default set of apps available on set top boxes, while it is better than nothing, it doesn’t move the catch-up and online service movement forward. My biggest criticism of the very usable TV Portal is the startup time, for something that gets a dedicated button on the remove, it should be better than 4-5 seconds.
Another advantage of the IceTV integration is the ability to remote scheduling of shows from supported devices. While we’re on the topic, IceTV say a Windows 8 app isn’t far away. Those that love season pass functionality of the TiVo will enjoy the same feature here, but it does have some limitations.
To configure a season pass on the Humax, you’ll need to find the program in the guide, then hit record and select ‘Record the whole series’. The missing part is the inability to search for a program or actor title and set any program that meets that criteria to record.
As expected with a DVR, you can have both tuners recording while watching a recorded program. I did find that when browsing saved videos, the thumbnails wouldn’t load until playback was started, this seems like a bug that should be fixed in an update.
When time shifting programs, it was annoying to not have an efficient way to skip to the start of the recording, instead you’re forced to rewind. This is always risky particularly when it comes to sporting events that may be spoiled by knowing the result.
Streaming photos, video and music from around the home network is pretty straight forward with support for DLNA. If you have content sitting on computers or even a NAS box, it’s pretty straight forward to share it on the big screen, although that’s a must have feature these days.
One excellent feature of the Humax DVR-7500T is it’s ability to connected an AVCHD camcorder and copy the movies to the hard drive. This means you can deliver 1080p video that you shot, easily transferred to the HDD of the Humax, while not for everyone, not many STB have this feature.
It’s time to discuss the remote, oh the remote. For a such a solid device, the remote is a let down. The button placement simply isn’t logical and while it allows the control of other devices like TV, DVD Player and Audio Systems, setup is not intuitive and will leave you diving through for the manual.
Price & Availability
You can pickup the Humax DVR-7500T 1TB version from IceTV for A$479. There’s also the 500GB edition, with half the storage it costs just A$389, remember when TiVo first came out, it had a 160GB HDD, so this is still valid option for most. For what you get the price is competitive against other DVRs like Topfield.
Overall the Humax DVR-7500T is a really solid DVR and a great replacement for TiVo owners when they inevitably die. The IceTV functionality is technically optional, but the device would be uncompetitive without it. If you can get in quick and score that lifetime subscription for $99, I’d recommend it. Paying annually for an EPG is never going to be easy to stomach.
While the remote is a disaster that is near unusable at night, there are plenty of positives if you can look past that. There’s some really nice touches like the ability to precisely configure the time of the on screen display remains when changing channels. The ability to skip through the guide in lower 3rd overlay whilst still watching the current channel just makes sense.
Design wise this hardware is really well built and looks the part at home amongst any home entertainment system. The Humax HDR-7500T should be on your short list when shopping for a new Freeview DVR.