It hasn't been an easy birth for Freesat HD. Billed as the non-subscription high-def alternative to the satellite offerings from Sky and Virgin Media, the service has proved something of a slow-burner due to some average tuner boxes and a dearth of HD content.
What we’d like is a level of functionality to match Sky+ HD and, if the Foxsat HDR’s specs list is anything to go by, it might just be the affordable rival we’ve been hoping for.
Three days of HD
For your £300, you get a 320GB HDD, an HDMI output, and twin Freesat tuners – allowing you to record two channels at once. Humax claims you can save 80 hours of HD content or 200 hours of standard-definition TV.
The Foxsat HDR can output a maximum resolution of 720p/1080i via the HDMI connection, and there are also two Scart outputs, a USB input and an Ethernet connection.
As well as the ability to pause, rewind and record Freesat channels, you have an eight-day EPG, series recording, schedule rackings and split recordings.
HD takes priority
There are a couple of standout features too. Should you try to record a programme that's available in SD and HD – like BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing – the box will prompt you to choose, ensuring you won't miss any HD content.
Also, if you try to record three channels at once (one too many) the Humax will helpfully inform you of any repeat showings.
This is all very promising in theory, and we're happy to report the practice is just as satisfying. The interface is clean and clear, and navigation is fast and intuitive.
Picture quality? Brilliant: it's the best Freesat tuner we've seen. Standard-definition channels reveal plenty of detail, a balanced colour palette and a punchy image.
Recordings are faithful, too, delivering nigh-on identical versions of HD and SD content.
Where’s our hi-def?
Talking of HD, the BBC HD image looks every bit the step up in quality that we'd expect – making the limited amount of content currently available even more disappointing. We’re currently building our placards so we can campaign to get this changed soon.
Luckily, you also get decent sound quality. Standard-definition broadcasts are a little lightweight but detailed and balanced, while Dolby Digital surround soundtracks via the digital optical output or sent over HDMI, such as on Later with Jools Holland, sound full-bodied and musical. You can record these 5.1 soundtracks to the PVR's HDD, too.
Should you be smitten with Freesat HD (if you don't want to pay a monthly subscription, it's your only HD option), then this is a great way to get it.