Like its sibling -- the-- the Humax HDR-FOX T2 is an HD Ready receiver for accessing the latest high-definition channels via Freeview. The difference, however, is that the HDR-FOX T2 adds a 500GB hard drive and twin tuners, turning it into a fully featured personal video recorder. While the non-recording HD-FOX T2 is £150, this machine is just nudging £300.
Externally, the HDR-FOX is a very different beast to its PVR-less brother. It's bigger and has a shiny case -- and it's amazing how much this improves the look. While there is nothing wrong with the design of the HD-FOX T2, this newer model brings a much more pleasant style.
In addition to a different look, there's also an all-new front panel. Placed in the centre is a round button, which is surrounded by a ring of LEDs. This button enables you to turn the recorder on and off, and the LED gives you an idea of what's happening. When the box is in standby, the ring is orange. When it's on, the light is blue, and a red ring is better news than with most devices, because it means the machine is recording.
The remote control remains the same as with Humax's other machines. It's a decent size, has reasonably good button placement and is generally a pleasure to use. It's not perfect, though. We did find ourselves struggling to track down the menu button, as it's not in the place you'd expect! This is only a minor gripe, and not enough to tarnish our opinion of the styling Humax has invested in this machine.
The great Dolby Digital fiasco
When people think of surround sound, they generally associate it with the name 'Dolby'. This is fair enough, since most DVDs and Blu-ray movies use Dolby Digtial of various flavours. When you hear that Freeview HD has surround sound, you might also assume that the channels use the same system as Sky and disc-based movies. However, that is not always the case. With Freeview HD, broadcasters have opted to use a slightly different format for delivering 5.1 audio. Known as AAC, or in future iterations HE-AAC, the surround-sound format isn't always accepted by surround-sound receivers. This means that equipment capable of decoding Dolby Digital from your DVDs might not cope with Dolby Digital delivered via AAC on Freeview HD.
The good news is, firstly, that the previous paragraph is now over, and secondly, that the Humax HDR can transcode AAC sound to the more AV-receiver-friendly AC3 audio. That means all AV receivers that accept Dolby Digital will be able to present full 5.1 channel surround sound on Freeview HD channels.
Catch-up TV ready
With Sky Player, iPlayer and 4oD-type services springing up for every broadcaster in the UK, it's no surprise that Humax has included support for these services. Sadly, there won't be anything available on any of Humax's current devices at launch. The company does, however, promise it will add on-demand services via the Humax Portal in due course.
While we're pleased to hear these services might appear in the future, we are slightly disappointed Humax hasn't included them here. After all, other set-top box manufacturers are offering them, and that's going to put Humax at a huge disadvantage.