New Humax foxsat-hdr satellite box

I've just bought a new Foxsat-HDR to replace a previous Foxsat-HD and more importantly free up my Digital Pioneer freeview PVR as we've just lost the analogue signal and my other Panasonic PVR/DVD player in another room is analogue.

I've had the Foxsat-HD since November 2008 and have been quite happy with it. It is hooked up to my wireless network via a Belkin Wireless G Gaming Adaptor as I ran out of ports on the back of my Cisco router so wireless was an easy choice. We occasionally use BBC Iplayer and more recently the ITV player too. As my television only has a single HDMI input (penalty of being an early adopter of LCD screens) I have an HDMI switcher and a Yamaha YSP 900 for sound (wife didn't want speakers all over the place) - all under control of a Logitech 885 universal hand controller.

Switching to the Foxsat-HDR was fairly painless with one exception; I only had one LNB in my satellite connected even though it was a quad LNB. A local installer fixed that for me and whilst he was here I got him to wire up all the other 3 LNBs (I really don't like heights and the satellite is on the gable end). After this change I could effectively unplug my pioneer PVR and move into another room and was still able to record 2 programs or record 1 program and watch another (but see later). Also, since I was moving the panasonic DVD recorder into this room just to watch DVDs (which does not have HDMI) I no longer needed the HDMI switcher.

The first thing I spotted was the HUGE boot time; it takes 32s to boot from switching on - why? I thought the Foxsat-HDR was Linux based and my Linux PC boots in a around 15s (with a much larger number of services to start) and similarly for a Windows 7 PC run off an SSD drive. So why such a long boot time? It is a relatively minor thing but still annoying when these days everyone is looking to keep things switched off when not in use.

Problem 1 was getting it to talk to my wireless router as I use MAC address access control (yes, I know it is flawed but it does not hurt). A quick look into the settings on the Foxsat-HDR and I had the MAC address and could update the access control on my wireless router. With that sorted out I was eager to try BBC Iplayer and ITV Player and was pleasently surprised to see there is a new menu option off the guide (On Demand) for those now. Both worked fine.

Problem 2 was getting my Logitech Harmony 885 to control it. No problem, Logitech knew the device and so most of the infra red controls were already in their database and I only had to learn a few. The first ones I added to my "Watch TV" menu on the remote were Media (so you can see what is on the hard disk or attached USB device), Schedule (what you've scheduled to record), List (channel list), Options (the harmony does not have an options button) and Slow (rewind live TV etc).

So now I'm up and running what can I do which I couldn't do before with the Foxsat HD and my Pioneer PVR. First things first, I can record HD content \o/. I've got BBC One HD, BBC HD, ITV1 HD, Channel 4 HD and NHK World HD (the channel list even has a new tab for HD channels). And I do appreciate this as anyone watching something like frozen planet on HD will know.

It's slightly easier to use the various on demand services - but only slightly; doesn't really make much difference to select the channel and hit the red button then pick Iplayer versus guide and select an on demand service.

I can pause live TV and even rewind 15 minutes or so.

I've done away with another 2 devices (although not really because of DVDs) - the pioneer PVR (which could also play DVDs) which was only freeview anyway (and since five US etc came to freesat there is a complete overlap in channels between freeview and freesat now) and an HDMI switcher. And I've released the pioneer to use next door. OK, I've not got a way to play DVDs now but I can swap the pioneer PVR with my combined analogue Panasonic PVR with DVD player so I've not lost out there either.

Compared with my previous setup I feel I've lost out a little. Firstly, try as I might, I cannot find a way to easily see if I'm running out of disk space. Secondly, the way the system is setup for deleting recordings could be a lot easier. Then there is the fact that programs being recorded don't show in the media menu. Lastly, and very importantly to us, the pioneer used to be able to skip adverts (something to do with the volume in adverts and it worked really reliably) whereas the Foxsat-HDR skips a defined time (which you can set in the menu, one minute by default).

Lastly, from a negative point, the infra red repeat interval seems too short. If you try and tap in 101 for BBC One you inevitably end up with 1001 or 1110 but this may be the Logitech remote as it is not as sensitive with the original remote.

On the plus side:

I can plug in a USB device and view pictures on my television.

I can copy content (pictures etc onto the foxsat box) and copy videos off the humax box onto a USB device.

Now I've used this setup for a week or so I've hit a few other problems.

The first is that the Guide sometimes freezes the foxsat box and it has to be turned off and on (it has happened around 3 times in the last week).

The second problem (which I think is now solved) was that whenever I elected to record an HD channel in the future but was watching another channel when the record time was hit a box popped up saying something like the watched program or recorded program needed to be cancelled. It appears this was solved by resetting the foxsat box and restarting the installation (which the guys which installed my new LNB connections did not do). I found various posts on the net saying the foxsat needs to be reset when a new LNB is added.

The final problem (which I cannot be precise about) is that watching the on demand stuff like BBC Iplayer seems to display that silly moving circle icon and pause the playback a lot more than with the previous foxsat box. I say I cannot be precise about it because I use Virgin broadband and for all I know all our neighbours have increased their broadband usage. I thought about using the Iplayer on a netbook so the whole program can be downloaded before watching it but the netbook I have does not have an audio out so all I get is pictures.

In summary, I am pretty happy with the new foxsat hdr box - the only really annoying problem is the occasional freeze in the guide.