Humax DTR-T1000 YouView Personal Video Recorder Review

Two years late. Is it worth the wait?

by hodg100
Home AV Review

16

Recommended
Humax DTR-T1000 YouView Personal Video Recorder Review
SRP: £299.00

Introduction

There were times when we thought the YouView service would never see the light of day. Originally announced under the working title Project Canvas as a joint venture between the BBC, ITV and BT, who were then subsequently joined by Channel 5, Talk Talk, Channel 4 and transmission firm Arqiva, it seemed the project might collapse under the weight of the big hitters involved and the disparate interests and influences at play. The fact YouView was supposed to be available by the end of 2010 but has only just come to market probably tells its own story and it’s seemingly taken the intervention of Britain’s favourite entrepreneur, Alan Sugar, who took over as Chairman in March 2011, to make it a reality.

So what is YouView and why do you need it? On the face of it, one could easily mistake YouView as being a replica of the UK’s digital terrestrial, free to air platform, Freeview, as it largely carries the same TV channels and Radio services but YouView is different and is in fact an Internet Protocol television (IPTV) offering, meaning it can receive content via the internet as well as through an aerial, which should make it a far more future proof proposition. Indeed, Sugar himself has declared he wants to see ‘his’ brand completely replace Freeview boxes in our homes as he sees it as a bit long in the tooth. With an ever-growing number of Video on Demand (VoD) services available and the future of television delivery and viewing becoming ever more on demand, he may just be on to something, even if there’s a major undertaking ahead to convince the general public that it’s the future.

When Korean outfit Humax was announced as the first manufacturer of a YouView branded box, it came as no great surprise as they have been producing very competent Freeview personal video recorders (PVR’s) for a number of years and would at least have the basic hardware in place. Of course, more is expected from the Humax DTR-T1000 than just providing a competent dual tuner PVR and its success as much – if not more so – hinges on its integration of on-demand services, although it will need to prove a decent recorder to justify the £300 price-tag. It’s been years in the making, let’s see if it’s been worth the wait.

Design and Connections


Humax YouView DTR-T1000

The DTR-T1000 looks every inch a Humax product with its large circular standby button sitting plum in the middle of the fascia which, in a halo fashion, illuminates blue when on and orange when the box is in standby. To the top right of the fascia are Volume and Programme Up and Down buttons and just below that is a pull-down flap concealing a USB port. The unit itself is constructed of a black plastic casing – front and top – over a metal shell and feels reassuringly weighty. The remote control is hewn of similar gloss black plastic and is of a vaguely hourglass form, although not as concave in the middle. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the handset but it feels well constructed and the colour coding of the Record (red) and YouView (blue) buttons certainly help with the usability of the package. The fact it can also act as simple controller of most TVs – by means of entering dedicated manufacturer codes – is a definite plus.

. To the rear of the unit are Scart and Composite video connections; the RF in and ‘loop’ out terminals; a HDMI port; S/PDIF optical audio out; a power on/off button; stereo audio jacks and a further USB input. It’s worth noting here that the USB ports are currently inactive although we suspect that might change in the future to at least allow one to be used for a (yet unannounced) wireless dongle, as the Humax DTR-T1000 doesn’t currently offer any Wi-Fi capabilities out of the box; which we’d consider a bit of a major omission in this day and age and something requiring urgent attention.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000

Set Up and Menus

Initial start-up of the DTR-T1000 took a little longer than we expected but once we’d tuned in our channels and established our location and network status we were ready to go. The bread and butter of making a PVR rewarding to use comes from providing an intuitive and attractive Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and the box certainly delivers that. The EPG affords a 6 channel/1 and half hour view with a timeline running down the channels to show the current status, where programmes highlighted in light grey are currently on air and those in dark grey surroundings are upcoming. A date ticker runs across the top, making it simple to plan future timers and viewing by means of using the Fast Forward and Rewind Buttons of the remote control. Of course, one of the major selling points of the YouView spec is the ability to scroll back through the schedules in order to access bygone programming from the BBC, ITV, C4 and C5. We’ll comment on the efficacy of that feature later on but we’ve certainly no complaints about the presentation.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Humax YouView DTR-T1000

The Settings sub-menu is split in to eight categories – System Information/TV Signal & Quality/Parental Controls/Subtitles & Accessibility/Network & Internet/Language. System Information provides Device Information (Make, Model & Serial Number; Software Version; Number of Channels stored; TV Signal Quality information and Network Connection status. The TV & Signal option allows retuning as well as, again, displaying signal quality. Users can also set an audio delay to fix lip sync issues with connected equipment as well as the choice of instructing the box to always look for High definition versions of on-demand content. The Parental Controls include the Personal Identification Number (PIN) set up, the ability to restrict adult on-demand content and adult rated programmes. The Subtitle & Accessibility item houses, as you would expect, subtitle options as well as audio description and sign language choices.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Humax YouView DTR-T1000

The Your Info & Legal option contains the Terms of Use as well as the users Postcode, for some reason. The Language options allow for 4 choices for both Subtitle and Audio Descriptions, where available and might as well have been included in the Subtitles & Accessibility options. Device Management holds options for power saving, software update checking and On Demand Player update options. Users can also select whether to automatically delete recorded content from the hard drive to free up space as it becomes necessary as well as activating the RF loop to make channels available to watch from the TVs built in tuner.

Freeview PVR Functionality

Regardless of what else it does – or promises to do – the DTR-T1000 will be competing in the PVR space, where it is not short of rivals. As well as the likes of subscription based boxes from Sky, Virgin and BT, the YouView box is up against a host of other Freeview PVR’s and, notably, Humax’s own HDR-FOX T2 which it so closely resembles, cosmetically speaking. The major difference in the two Humax boxes lies in their operating software; where the T2 is run on in-house, Humax software, the DTR-1000 is reliant on the efforts developed under the auspices of the YouView organisation as the software needs to be transferrable to other hardware platforms.

Where the Fox T2 is a mature platform boasting all the features and niceties one would expect at the top end of the market, the DTR-T1000 feels a little incomplete. That’s not to say it is incompetent, just that we’d have expected more from a £300 unit. One of the most fundamental things the unit lacks is the ability to ‘pad’ timers, i.e. to set a buffer at the beginning and/or end of programmes to prevent the missing of any action owing to an early start or late finish. Most PVRs will allow the manual editing of record times, at least at an event level, and some even allow it is an option globally but the Humax YouView box allows neither; meaning users will be at the mercy of broadcasters to ensure they update EPG information so that owners don’t miss anything. It’s a particularly glaring omission for ‘live’ events, in particular, as they tend to frequently overrun. We’d have also liked the ability to create folders, search programmes in the EPG, set up favourite channel lists and delete unwanted channels too but it’s the missing padding option(s) that will cause most strife.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Humax YouView DTR-T1000

Other shortcomings we’ve noted, or been made aware of, include the inability to send 5.1 audio from the optical output and an incompatibility with older HDTVs that are unable to receive a 1080p signal. We would hope both issues can be fixed by YouView as they’re equally annoying for enthusiast with decent audio set-ups and superior video deinterlacing solutions. We did encounter a few lock-up problems too which seemed connected to MHEG (Red Button) services and necessitated a restart. The tuners also seem quite sensitive and we had to fiddle with our signal amplifier to get it to a spot where there was just the right amount of strength to get through; too little and we would get no reception, too much and we got frequent lock-ups. Finally, whilst we’re making suggestions, the DTR-1000 features no media playback abilities from external sources, whatsoever. In this day and age we’re used to streaming and USB media playback, almost as standard, from the boxes that sit under our TVs and at this end of the market, it’s almost a prerequisite.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Complaints aside, and we understand that the software is still in its infancy, the DTR-T1000 actually stood up very well to a barrage of recordings we threw at it. We even put it to the ultimate test of going on holiday for a week – every PVR owner will know this is the time they usually fail – and the box didn’t skip a beat with ‘series records’ or single event timers. Consecutive recordings all worked well, with no chopping of the beginnings or ends of timers; where we attempted to trip the unit up by scheduling clashes with three or more simultaneous recordings, we were immediately notified and asked whether a later event of the clashes should be recorded and the Humax DTR-1000 also helpfully asks you if you would like to record a high definition version of any SD programmes scheduled, where available.

The ability to view a currently recording programme before it ends, i.e. ‘Chase Play’ works very nicely by simply entering in to the MyView area of the Menus and selecting the event you wish to view. When the 500Gb hard drive space is starting to fill up, owners can elect to have the box automatically delete recordings that have been watched, or part watched, in date order (oldest to newest, thankfully) so, if enabled, may want to lock those cherished recordings (usually stuff the kids have scheduled) by means of the Yellow button.

Overall, the Humax DTR-1000 YouView Digital Recorder is a slightly disappointing PVR when the price is considered. We’re very impressed with the intuitive interface and some of the nice touches but the lack of others really needs to be addressed if it’s going to compete - feature for feature – against other PVRs around this price.

On-Demand Content

It’s in this area where the DTR-T1000 really shows the fruits of YouView’s endeavours and, in time, we‘d hope it excels as it currently shows enormous promise. What really sets the YouView box apart from the rest of the Freeview PVR pack is the ability to travel back through the EPG to access already broadcast content through the On-demand players. Think of it as noticing something you missed whilst browsing the Radio Times but now you get a second chance. Again, YouView is unique in being the only non-subscription based PVR to feature the VoD players from all the major free to air broadcasters and therefore, arguably, gives you access to 90% plus of the ‘worthwhile’ content on the Freeview platform. We found the feature to work very well from all the providers – after a small wait – but both ITV and Channel 5 could do with updating their VoD content more regularly and all but the BBC need to get their HD content available.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Humax YouView DTR-T1000

Users aren’t limited to using the EPG to access on-demand content either and the YouView software allows access to all the players independently as well as filtered content searches based on type of content – Films, TV, Radio or Adult - and then further within those categories – Childrens, Drama, Comedy etc. Because of the sheer amount of on-demand content the BBC provide, naturally theirs features most prominently but the others do get a look in. There’s a handy search facility too that works on a keyword basis and is very speedy indeed.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Humax YouView DTR-T1000

Newly added to the On-Demand players is Sky’s NOW TV and with both services only launching in July, it's good to see them getting their houses in order early on. Those that are currently subscribed to Now TV will be able to jump straight in with just their log-in details but anyone wishing to take up a new subscription will need to head over to the Now TV website to sign up. The Now TV service is currently only available for Sky Movies but other content, including Sky Sports, will be added later in the year. Disappointingly, yet unsurprisingly, Sky will only be offering Standard Definition content through NOW TV, via YouView, which makes the £15 monthly subscription quite a bit less enticing, in our eyes. Another frustration, as a result of an understandable implementation, is the users’ inability to fast forward through advertising from the ‘commercial’ channels’ VoD services.

Humax YouView DTR-T1000
Humax YouView DTR-T1000

As well as being available through retailers, the DTR-T1000 has also been made an optional part of the broadband packages of two of the partners, BT and TalkTalk, with each offering their own enticements for subscribing with them. Depending on the TalkTalk package, users will have the choice from the likes of Sky Sports and Movies, Lovefilm, MTV, Disney and Nickleodeon, whilst BT’s Vision service will work for their broadband customers. In fact a Lovefilm subscription currently comes free with the TalkTalk plus package but we sincerely hope these kind of exclusivity deals don’t become commonplace on the platform as they could sink it before it really gets going. We’d certainly like to see more on-demand content available, sooner rather than later, with the next two obvious candidates being Netflix and YouTube but for now we’d praise the way on-demand is integrated.

Verdict

6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent integration of on-demand content
  • All VoD players from Free to Air big hitters present
  • Presentation of menus and GUI is first class
  • Very dependable with recordings
  • Timer clashes handled very well
  • Suggests high definition where available
  • Shows great promise

The Bad

  • No padding options
  • Optical audio output 2.0 only
  • HDMI output 1080p only
  • Lack of 'finesse' PVR features
  • Some MHEG lock ups
  • No networking or media playback options
  • No WiFi

Humax DTR-T1000 YouView Personal Video Recorder Review

The first ever YouView box is styled in typical Humax fashion with its large circular standby button sitting right in the middle of the fascia. The remote control is hewn of similar gloss black plastic to the top and front of the unit and whilst there’s nothing particularly remarkable about it, it does feel well-built and the colour coding of the Record (red) and YouView (blue) buttons certainly helps the usability of the package. To the rear of the unit are the usual array of connections but both the digital audio and HDMI outputs don’t function as they should. The S/PDIF digital audio connection is unable to send out 5.1 audio whilst the HDMI signal is 1080p, like it or lump it, which will cause issues for those with older HD TVs and those with superior deinterlacing solutions. The lack of Wi-Fi capability is also a disappointment, especially as much of YouView’s worth is so heavily reliant on content delivered via the internet.

We were greatly impressed with the appearance and usability of the menu system, although we feel the Settings area could use a little streamlining. The Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is similarly impressive, easy to navigate and read, making the PVR functions that much more of a pleasure to use. Unfortunately the recording capabilities aren’t quite up to scratch for a top-tier product, which in relative terms the DTR-T1000 is, and we’d liked to see the ability to create folders, search for programmes in the EPG, set up favourite channel lists and delete unwanted channels amongst the features included. The most glaring omission, however, is the lack of padding options which will inevitably mean a lot of users will suffer by missing the ends of some programmes – particularly with live events. Undoubtedly this is the area YouView need to look at most pressingly or face being left behind by any number of PVRs offering superior base functionality.

The integration of the on-demand services is nothing short of class leading for a non-subscription based PVR, with the undoubted highlight being the ScrollBack TV function, allowing users to view most of the good programming, retrospectively, via the EPG. Think of it as noticing something you missed whilst browsing the Radio Times but now you get a second chance and it works very nicely indeed. Users aren’t limited to using the EPG to access on-demand content either and the YouView software allows access to all the players independently as well as filtered content searches based on type of content – Films, TV, Radio or Adult - and then further within those categories – Childrens, Drama, Comedy etc. There’s a handy search facility, too, that works on a keyword basis and is very speedy indeed but is sadly limited to on-demand content and doesn’t function within the EPG.

In addition to offering the on-demand players from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and C5, Sky’s new NOW TV service has also just become available but the lack of High Definition content through it may just be enough to put subscribers off the (current) £15 subscription fee. Broadband customers of two of the YouView partners – TalkTalk and BT – are able to access their respective ISPs' TV platforms, with the former offering the enticement of a free 12 month subscription to Lovefilm. We sincerely hope these kind of exclusivity deals don’t become commonplace on the platform as they could sink it before it really gets going. We’d also certainly like to see more on-demand content available, sooner rather than later, with the next two obvious candidates being Netflix and YouTube but for now we’d praise the way on-demand is integrated.

After all the waiting the Humax YouView DTR-T1000 is certainly not a let-down but it’s definitely not all it should be. The sense that it is somewhat incomplete as a PVR is almost inexorable and, for a product that will mostly be sold on the back of its recording abilities, that’s a fairly serious implication and one that YouView needs to attend to post-haste. It’s by no means a poor PVR, just not one that currently justifies the price-tag. Where the DTR-T1000 scores heavily is in the integration of the on-demand content, which is simply unrivalled for a non-subscription box. More thought certainly seems to have gone in to that side of the functionality and tips the scales just in favour of the first YouView branded product. It’s a Recommended, by the skin of its teeth, but we're expecting better - and soon.

Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Design

.
.
.
.
6

Connectivity Audio/Video

.
.
.
7

Remote Control

.
.
.
7

Ease of Use Menus/GUI

.
9

EPG

.
9

Recording Flexibility

.
.
.
.
6

Recording Reliability

.
.
8

Picture Quality HD

.
9

Picture Quality SD

.
.
8

Catch-up/VOD Services

.
.
8

Other Features

.
.
.
.
6

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
6

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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