Why virtualise your NAS environment?
- Relatively inexpensive, always-on timeshifting, nice design
- No HDTV support, no archival support, could use a larger HD
The Humax PVR-8000T is unspectacular, but does a decent job as both PVR and digital set-top box.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
One of a new breed of digital PVRs, the Humax PVR-8000T acts as both a digital set-top box and video recorder, storing recorded movies on its internal 80GB hard disk. It's not the most extraordinary of PVRs, nor a particularly capable digital set-top box, but it is competent at both and relatively inexpensive.
With its sleek, silver design and VCR-like size, the Humax will fit well in most cabinets. It's not flashy--there aren't lights, sound-meters and program details flashing on the basic LCD (in fact, the only thing it shows in the current channel), but it is elegant. The large remote is equally well designed, with a comfortable and simple button arrangement and the capacity to act as a multi-device remote. In spite of the internal hard disk, the acoustics of the Humax are very good--you have to put your ear to the device to hear the hard disk in action, with only the occasional track change clicking sound emanating from the box. There is no fan noise.
We were uninspired by its capabilities as a digital tuner. It tunes well, has decent channel navigation (which is essential in Australian conditions, with so many unused "placeholder" channels to troll through), and very good picture quality through both composite and aerial connectors. It also supports rapid aspect ratio changes through the remote, which is nice, but almost unforgivably doesn't support HDTV. Its maximum support is MPEG-2 MP@ML--which is standard definition (720 x 576) digital television.
The PVR functions are well implemented, although like all PVRs in Australia (with the exception of the Foxtel iQ) it suffers from the lack of a proper long-range electronic program guide (EPG). Still, scheduling a program to record on the Humax is by no means a painful task, and you can readily set a weekly or daily recording schedule (although it lacks the intelligence to distinguish between weekends and weekdays if you set a daily recording time.) It keeps the full broadcast EPG information with the stored program, so the recorded program is properly named and the program description blurb can be viewed for recorded shows.
The internal hard disk stores roughly 40 hours of standard definition digital television (we would have been more impressed by 60 or 80, which would not have added significantly to the cost of the box). Recordings of digital television, being a straight rip off the airwaves (rather than undergoing the digitisation process used in analog PVRs) are always "perfect"; that is, whatever is broadcast off the airwaves is exactly what is stored on the hard disk, with no loss. The bit-rate of digital broadcasts is variable, but generally averages out to about 2GB per hour.
Management of recorded shows is a little unfriendly, however. To get to the list of recorded shows, you have to navigate through several menu levels, when it should be a one-button-press operation. It is rather annoying, and a little surprising, given the otherwise excellent interface of the Humax. You can lock shows, to prevent unscrupulous family members from deleting them beneath you.
Navigating through a recorded show is simple. You can jump directly to points in the show, or use the quick finder function. The latter is not well implemented; the fast forward and rewind stutter somewhat, which hurts the Humax when it comes to timeshifting.
The Humax's timeshifting function was generally impressive. It's always on, and starts recording as soon as you turn to a channel, which is nice if you suddenly decide to re-watch that last cricket shot. Again, because it is digital, the buffered video is identical to the broadcast video, so there's no loss in quality when you decide to pause or rewind the live television.
The Humax is not the device to get if you have a high-end home theatre system. The PVR-8000T has a standard 75 ohm aerial loop through, and can be tuned to channels 21 to 69 on your TV set. Obviously a European import, the Humax has two SCART connectors--one each for the TV and VCR--on the back. It also has three RCA output ports, for stereo audio and video. However, there is no integral component or S-video output, but there is S/PDIF output for digital audio. If you're a videophile and like to use the superior component or S-video connectors between devices, this is not the box for you. If you want to take recorded video and archive it to DVD, the Humax is also a poor choice, since it has no means of transferring recorded video to PC. If you want a simple, inexpensive set-top box and PVR that lacks frills but performs its tasks competently, the Humax might be a good option.
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