Despite earning its technical launch last year, we're only just starting to see hardware that can decode Freeview HD signals: first past the post is Humax, with its HD Fox T2. It's a simple Freeview HD receiver with some smart little extras that will make it a tasty purchase indeed when it goes on sale later this month for around £170.
When you tear open your packaging, you'll notice the box is fairly petite. You get some basic controls on the front for navigating through menus, and there's a little drop-down flap that conceals a card slot. At the back, there's an HDMI output, and Humax kindly provides a cable in the box. An Ethernet socket is also provided, and is mandatory on all Freeview HD boxes, as it was with freesat hardware. Eventually we'll get access to iPlayer, 4oD and ITV Player through these connections, but not just yet.
USB is also provided, but this is potentially one of the most exciting developments. Via a firmware update later on this year, Humax will add the ability to record TV shows to USB drives on this machine. That means to get basic record functionality, you won't need to spend money on a hard drive-based recorder. Just splash out for some memory sticks. USB can also be used to listen to music, look at photos and watch video too, although for video the codec support is fairly limited.
At the moment, the only channels available are BBC HD and ITV1 HD. These are two different approaches to HD entirely, with the BBC cherry-picking the best of its shows and plonking them on BBC HD in high quality. ITV, on the other hand, just upscales shows that aren't in HD to give better picture quality even if there's no HD. Honestly, we prefer the ITV system, but BBC HD has so much more brilliant content we can't object.
What impresses us most with the T2 is the beautiful user interface, and the speed with which the machine operates. This is a really top-notch piece of hardware, and while it isn't all that cheap, you certainly get more than a bog-standard Freeview receiver here. So, have a look through our hands-on photos, and rest assured, a review is forthcoming...
HDMI is provided for the Humax to output HD at up to 1080p. Ethernet means iPlayer is a future possibility. The USB socket has exciting potential too, including video playback and recording TV shows to USB disks.