Humax FVP-5000T Freeview Play PVR Review
Getting close to a one-box solution
What is the Humax FVP-5000T?This is Humax’s follow up to the impressive FVP-4000T which, in turn, was the manufacturer’s first personal video recorder based on the Freeview Play platform. Freeview Play, for the uninitiated, is a subscription free, hybrid service encompassing live TV, catch-up and on-demand apps which launched in 2015 and is backed by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, among others, and billed as a simple but effective way to make your TV smarter. Unlike YouView, Freeview Play isn’t a fixed software platform which gives the manufacturer some leeway in their offerings and since Humax has been in the Freeview recorder business almost since its inception, we have high hopes that the FVP-5000T won’t disappoint. The Humax FVP-5000T is the first Freeview Play Recorder to incorporate three digital tuners, allowing up to four (five with some timer trickery – more later) programmes to be recorded simultaneously and ships in three versions offering storage capacities of 500GB, 1TB and 2TB with prices suggested at £229, £259 and £299, respectively, which aren’t the cheapest but if it can live up to the promise, they should be worth the cost.
Design & ConnectionsThe FVP-5000T presents a fairly unusual design with rounded edges, a micro-dotted glossy black finish and some basic operational buttons on the top. It’s a fan-less design so, other than some disc noise, very quiet in operation and it’s well ventilated, too, so excessive operational heat shouldn’t be a concern. Most of the connections are located at the rear of the FVP-5000T and comprise an HDMI port, an Ethernet connection, built-in Wi-Fi, a Toslink digital audio out, and a pair of stereo outs to be used in conjunction with the composite video output but you really want to avoid composite in favour of HDMI, as you won’t get High Definition from this legacy connection. Of course, there’s also a terminal for your aerial connection and an RF out to loop-through the signal to another device – usually your TV. There’s also a couple of USB ports, with one located at the rear, above the HDMI out, and another on the right-hand side of the TV.The supplied remote control, in all honesty, is a bit of a let-down for a device in this price bracket although it is an improvement over that of the 4000T. You would really be expecting something a little more premium feeling than this lightweight offering, however, with less cheap plastic-feeling navigational buttons. On the plus side, the button map is well arranged – although we feel the remote is a little longer than it really needed to be – and the buttons, themselves, are a good size. There are also some coloured buttons that stand-out from the rest that will take you directly to some of the stand-out features of the FVP-5000T; namely Netflix, the Freeview Play homepage and a page with collated highlights from the major catch-up services. Just as an aside, if you happen to have a Humax YouView remote knocking about, it will work with the 5000T although you’ll be missing the shortcut buttons.
Menus & User InterfaceThere have been noticeable improvements made in the speed of loading channel logos for the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) to the point where it’s as near to instantaneous as required, which has made the user experience much slicker than when we reviewed the FVP-4000T. The EPG provides a seven channel/ two-hour view with clear and easy to read text with background which is an eye-comforting shade of grey. The Option button on the remote allows you to alter the view of the EPG to show just TV or Radio or just the HD channels, which is good, as well as view by genre with options including Children, Drama, Entertainment, Movies, News and Sport. The Option button also lets you jump to a specific date in the Guide with up to eight days available.
The FVP-5000T also includes what they call a Surf & Scan Banner. When watching Live TV, you can press the ‘OK’ button on the remote to display a banner at the bottom of the screen showing the current programme information. With a press of the surrounding arrows, you can then scroll up, down, left or right on the banner to see details of content from other channels. Another press of the OK button displays a full screen with detailed programme information. This then provides the option to record the programme or series, or set a reminder to watch later on catch-up. Alternatively, when watching Live TV, you can press the up or down arrows to display a channel list on the left hand side of the screen, as well as a thumbnail and title of the current live programme.
Features & AppsThe Freeview (F) button on the remote provides an overarching access to all the features and apps present on the FVP-5000T and there are a fair number of them. In terms of catch-up apps, the FVP-5000T has BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5 and the UK TV Play app which gives you access to programming from Dave, Really, Yesterday and Drama. There’s also BBC News and Sport and something called Freeview Explore which provides highlights from all the catch-up players on one, attractive looking and Netflix-esque, content discovery page. The Top Picks section is a similar deal to the Freeview Explore page in that it provides a thumbnail based content selection page, only it covers Live TV and Recordings, in addition to the On-Demand programming. The really good thing here it that the Humax tracks your most used channels and presents them in the Live TV section, which provides a handy shortcut – I, for one, doubt I use more than the 9 channels available for the slots regularly.
The Scroll-back EPG which is one of YouView’s major marketing points is replicated in Freeview Play and it works nicely on the 5000-T. The idea is simple enough, you can go up to seven days back through the programme guide to look for programming you may have missed and/or forgotten to record and, provided it’s available on one of the catch-up players, you can then hit a button and watch it. We’re not sure how many people actually use this feature, however, as to us it seems a slightly clunky method of content discovery but it is undeniably clever and, if you do like it, it’s certainly well implemented here.
Try as we might, we couldn’t get the Humax LIVE TV app to work on our Android tablet (Galaxy Tab S2, for the record) as we kept getting the message that it and the FVP-5000T need to be connected to the same wireless router. They, of course, were but for whatever reason they were unable to communicate happily which is a shame as the app promises some good features including allowing content and live TV from the box to be streamed to the device, an on-screen remote and recordings management.
Media PlaybackThe FVP-5000T also offers a media player that operates from content stored on the hard drive, connected by USB or even over your network but it’s of limited use. The output of the Humax FVP-5000T is locked at 50Hz but most movies and international blockbuster TV series are 24 frames per second, or 23.976 if you want to be more precise, so there’s a mismatch between refresh rate and frame rate that leads to a slight stuttering in playback that becomes ever more noticeable, the longer you watch it. The player is perfectly good if you only want to watch video encoded at either 25 or 50 frames per second, which is good for UK, European and a few other territories’ produced programming but you can’t consider the Humax as a serious candidate to replace a more dedicated streamer. Speaking of which, the FVP-5000T can also be paired with the HUMAX H3 Smart Media Player as a ‘buddy box’, for multi-room TV. You can, in fact, use any DLNA capable device to view contents from the internal hard drive but this needs to be configured in the Advanced Settings Menu.
The fact that the box is locked at 50Hz is also to the detriment of the built-in streaming apps from YouTube and Netflix, for the reasons noted above – virtually all of Netflix’s Originals are 23.976 frames per second and YouTube tends to be 30 or 60 FPS, that are even worse mismatches to the output player, in terms of smooth video playback.
RecordingAs we would expect from a Humax, the FVP-5000T is extremely solid in its core competency of actually recording programmes very reliably. It also sports a few bells and whistles that others in the sector lack including the ability to set manual timers, edit existing timers and, importantly for us, the option of setting global ‘padding’ on recordings – i.e. you can initiate events to begin up to 20 minutes before they are due to start and add twenty minutes to the end, in the event a programme over-runs – or even begins too early – and the broadcaster hasn’t kept the EPG data right up to date, which does sometimes happen.
The three tuner architecture of the FVP-5000T is another plus point over the opposition that, according to Humax, lets you record up to four channels – depending on which multiplex they are on – while watching another. In fact, it is actually possible to record five if you set a timer reservation for one of the programmes and then hit the manual record button on that but we can’t think of many (any?) instances where there will be that number of programmes you want to see being broadcast on Freeview simultaneously. As a very brief explanation, the Freeview channels are grouped in to what are known as multiplexes (mux) and there are seven, in all, to cover each of them. When you switch to a channel on a particular mux, all the data for all of the channels on it are sent to the box but you only see the one you select; but the FVP-5000T is capable of recording the data for two channels per multiplex. So, with three tuners at its disposal, the Humax can record two channels on each of the first two tuners while displaying/recording another channel on the third.
There are a number ways to initiate recordings although we guess most will stick to the tried and trusted method of using the ‘old school’ programme guide but it can also be done following a search, using the Surf & Scan Banner brought on-screen using the OK button or simply when watching something live. It can also now be done form the Top Picks page too, so you’re not short of options – the rule of thumb would be that if you can see the programme name/info displayed on-screen you can set a recording from it. Another feature we really like – labelled Instant Replay and Skip Forward Time in the Menu – is that when playing back recordings or catching up with paused ‘live’ TV, you can configure the right and left directional buttons to skip forwards and backwards in pre-defined steps of 30-, 60-, 120- and 240-seconds forwards and 7-, 15- and 30-seconds backwards which is particularly useful when trying to avoid watching the ads.
All the other more usual Freeview PVR features are also present, including the ability to ‘chase play,’ i.e. to begin watching something you are recording before it ends. There’s also full Series Record functionality and even the ability to binge watch your accumulated boxsets with a Series Play option, which is on by default. We also like the fact that the software will prompt you to record in HD (when available) if you’ve only selected a standard definition channel – it also does so for Live TV which can be slightly irritating around the time when local news is being broadcast. In terms of things we’d like to see, there’s no capability for creating your own folders to organise recordings but then the Recordings Menu can be viewed by programme name, channel or date so it’s reasonably easy to find what you’re looking for fairly quickly.
- Modern UI that's easy to use
- All the major UK catch-up services
- Super reliable recording
- Up to 5 simultaneous recordings
- Impressive content discovery features
- Android app is flakey
- 50Hz output for everything, including Netflix & YouTube
Humax FVP-5000T Freeview Play PVR Review
Should I buy one?The Humax FVP-5000T is a feature packed, modern take on the Freeview recorder. Not only does it allow you to record up to five channels simultaneously but also provides a slick, content discovery rich interface that combines being (mostly) easy to use with being slick and attractive. The build quality is decent, although the remote could be better while connectivity options are plentiful and include built-in Wi-Fi. The Humax FVP-5000T also delivers catch-up services from the BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5, plus the suite of UK TV channels that can be accessed from various parts of the interface, including a seven-day scroll back programme guide. Humax has always been strong in terms of delivering recorders with extremely solid recording capabilities and the rock-solid FVP-5000T proved no exception with faultless performance during testing. If there is an area where the Humax is lacking it’s that video output is locked at 50Hz, which is not ideal for the likes of the built-in YouTube and Netflix apps. In the final analysis, however, the Humax FVP-5000T is probably the best Freeview Recorder we’ve seen so comes Highly Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £229.00
Ease of Use Menus/GUI8
Picture Quality HD8
Picture Quality SD8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.