As times get tougher and money is harder to come by many of us are thinking that it might be a good idea to cut a few costs. One of the most likely candidates in our particular home is Sky TV. Yes it has all the best shows, and I know that the last season of Dexter is due to start in just over a month, but since we started a Netflix account recently we’ve spent a lot of time watching that instead. This means that with a decent PVR we could cut our increasingly expensive monthly TV bill by quite a margin. There’s one big problem though, we can’t use Freeview because our reception area is poor, and we’ve grown very used to being able to pause and rewind TV. Thankfully there is a solution – Freesat+.
A Freesat device plugs into your existing satellite dish and means you can receive the free-to-air channels such as BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 without the need for any other equipment. It seems a perfect fit for those moving away from Sky, but it does mean an initial investment that causes you to pause and consider whether you’re making the right decision. For a fully functioning Freesat+ unit you’re looking at paying somewhere in the region of £300, which is no small amount. Therefore you want to make sure you’re buying something reliable and hard wearing. This led me to the company that has built a strong reputation in both these areas, Humax.
The Humax HDR 1010s is a tidy unit that offers a good deal of options for the money. Alongside the normal Freesat features mentioned above it also has online capabilities when connected to your router. BBC iPlayer and ITV player are currently active, with 4OD and 5 on Demand due to appear soon. There’s also a Youtube app, and compatibility with Flickr. For the more hackery types it can also handle content from DNLA servers on your network. So, a useful set of functions there then.
Of course all of this would be useless if the interface was badly designed – after all you spend a lot of time using one of those. Well there’s good news here too. The HDR 1010s comes complete with the new Freetime interface, which is very easy to use, looks classy, and even allows you to move backwards through the EPG to find the shows you missed earlier. If the program in question if available on the catchup services then all you have to do is click on the show and you are given the option to watch it via streaming. Everything is laid out sensibly and where you would expect to find it. Programs feature a nice information pane, and recorded shows are stored with titles, running times, and the number of episodes you currently have on the 1TB hard disk.
Before this descends into some kind of sycophantic babble there is one unfortunate problem with the device. The remote control, while looking nice and coming complete with a considered placement of buttons that do their jobs without issue, has a central circular area for navigation and selection. The Sky controller bears something similar, but whereas its choice of material is rubber, Humax unfortunately have opted for hard plastic. This results in a nasty clicking sound every time you use it, which cheapens the overall feel of the machine. It’s a real shame that such a basic design choice be so badly implemented, after all the only part of the device that you physically interact with is the control itself, and that’s the weakest part of the whole package. It works fine, but feels and sounds compromised.
That being said, the HDR 1010s is still a very good choice for anyone wanting to cut their ties with Sky, while still retaining a well made and easy to use system. The Freetime menus are excellent, as are the many features that the device offers, all of which are executed with little fuss or drama. At £300 it isn’t cheap, but then it doesn’t behave like a cut-price option either.