While you might not have heard the name before, Humax has earned quite a following in Europe, where it sells both digital set-top-boxes and flat panel TVs. Humax’s PVR-Smart is one of a growing number of hard disk equipped personal video recorders (PVR) that allow you to both tune-in and record digital TV.
The PVR-Smart comes equipped with a roomy 160GB hard disk drive, which provides up to 100 hours of recorded standard definition TV. The hard disk is also designed to store MP3 music as well as digital photos, so you can use the unit as a sort of media centre should you wish it. A USB 2.0 connector is mounted behind a flap on the PVR-Smart’s mirrored front, and this connects to your PC or notebook for transferring music and photos.
When watching television, the PVR-Smart’s hard disk and dual TV tuners makes it possible to record two different shows simultaneously. No more missing one programme because another favourite is on. Also, you can pause live TV and resume it later, which is a feature you’ll never want to be without. If you need to step away from the TV to answer the phone for example, simply pause the action and resume it when you?re ready.
Set-up and remote control
The on-screen information and menu interface is fairly easy to use, and storing channels during set-up is a snap with the Region Search facility. Normally a tuner would slowly search all frequencies to lock in TV channels, but these are loaded already and stored per region, such as Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
The remote control is quite robust and feels like it could take a fairly good beating from a two-year old. The buttons are well laid-out and a sliding panel reveals the PVR controls, plus options like Commercial Skip and Instant Replay. These two functions are very handy – Commercial Skip jumps 30 seconds ahead when watching recorded TV while Instant Replay goes back about 10 seconds so you can see that winning goal one more time. You can also adjust the amount of skip or replay time if the presets don’t suit you.
Picture quality and editing facility
In terms of signal quality, the PVR-Smart has a signal booster option, which provides more power to the antennal for better reception. I enjoyed perfect reception from both Bondi Beach and Brookvale in Sydney’s north. Changing channels could be a little faster, however, with about a two second delay from when you press the button.
The PVR-Smart helps you manage your list of recorded TV programs with a special AV editing tool. This lets you copy, cut and split recordings, so it’s easy to get rid of the bits before and after the show you’ve recorded.
To make use of the dual tuners inside the Humax, there’s a Picture In Picture option for watching two shows at the same time, or browsing one while watching another. You can change the position of the smaller second channel window, select split-screen and even change the channel of the smaller window independently of the main station you’re watching.
And if watching live or recorded TV, browsing photos or listening to digital music isn’t enough to keep you entertained, there are four puzzle games thrown in. While not the type that you’d typically find on an X-Box or PlayStation, the games are cute and quite addictive.
In terms of connectivity, the Humax comes with two SCART connectors and a single RCA audio and composite video cluster. An optical S/PDIF connector is included for running a Dolby Digital bit stream to a surround sound amp and speakers. Otherwise, HDMI and DVI video are not included.
Overall, the Humax PVR-Smart is a well-designed unit with plenty of capacity, features and an intuitive interface. It also looks quite stylish with its large white LED display. What could make a good product even better is support for an electronic program guide, such as ICE TV. I’m told that Humax is looking into this and support could become available soon.