Before we get stuck into the HD-FOX T2, a bit about Freeview HD. It's finally launched, but only in two areas of the UK – Manchester and central London. Don't fret, though: HD coverage should extend to around 50 per cent of the UK by the summer (see www.freeview.co.uk for more info).
Currently four terrestrial channels – BBC HD, ITV HD, Channel 4 HD and S4C – are available, while Five HD should be available later this year. So, enough of the background – what's the hardware like?
The first box out of the blocks is the Humax HD-FOX T2, designed to offer and HD upgrade path for less than £200. True, there's no hard drive, but the HD-FOX T2 compensates somewhat by offering an ethernet port and DLNA compatibility.
This means it can stream a range of music, video and photo content (DivX, Xvid, MP3 and JPEG files) over your network. Alternatively, you can use its rear-mounted USB input to replay the same file formats from a suitable memory stick.
It's clever stuff: the ethernet socket should also allow for iPlayer access later this year, as seen in the Humax's Freesat stablemates.
And free HD? In the main, it's very good: BBC HD has received some flak from an alleged drop in its HD picture quality in recent months, but even so, we think most viewers will be very happy with its HD broadcasts.
Review continues after the break…
Punchy, colourful and mercifully free of digital blocking, pictures are maybe a little softer than on Freesat, but this is a good start.
Also, unlike on Freesat, ITV HD is presented here as a simultaneous broadcast with the regular standard-def channel: it switches automatically to HD when a programme is being broadcast in hi-def.
Unusually, the Humax has a 1080p video mode that lets it deinterlace Freeview HD's 1080i picture signal. Setting to 1080p means you'll be using the video processing in the vHumax HD-FOX T2 rather than that of your TV or home-cinema amp, so it's with experimenting to see which mode performs better for you.
Otherwise, that's it. This is an excellent set-top box: if you're in an appropriate reception area and want to try Freeview HD for yourself, it's a no-brainer – especially with the World Cup just around the corner.