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The Humax HD-FOX T2

December 16th, 2011 16 comments

Here are three things you might not know about this box:

  1. Did you know that this Freeview HD (PVR ready – add a USB hard disk and record) receiver is coming up to its 3rd Birthday?
  2. You can get this box from Humax Direct for £65 (‘grade A’ with 1 year warranty)? (Or for £105 brand new with 2 years warranty?)
  3. You can stream all (SD and HD) recordings from your HDR-FOX T2 PVR (or any other media servers) onto this box?

Yes, this is amazing! and in this post I will be taking you from unboxing and setting this box up for recording, streaming and using its TV Portal!

Three years old next February

Well, this little gem of a box was released in February 2009 as the BBC started broadcasting Freeview HD on some UK terrestial transmitters. Now there are many manufacturers with Freeview HD receivers and at cheaper prices, but none can beat this box for features and picture quality.

£65 from Humax Direct

You can get a ‘graded’ HD-FOX T2 from Humax Direct for just £65 now. A graded box is a returned box that’s tested, checked and readied for re-sale, but Humax Direct will put a 1 year warranty on it. (There’s £6 for delivery, but you can choose which day for it to get delivered.)

My HD-FOX T2, itself, came in perfect condition – the only sign that it was a graded box was the containing box – it was a bit battered.

Unboxing the HD-FOX T2

As you would expect all the items you need is in the package. A quick start guide and user manual, remote and batteries, HDMI and SCART leads, as well as the HD receiver. The receiver is the same small and compact size as the other Humax HD receiver – mainly the FOXSAT-HD. It has an internal power supply, and looks exactly like the picture!

One thing to notice straight away is the LEDs on the front – they are very bright!

Setting Up

After connecting the right cable to the right connections, e.g. HDMI to HDMI, or SCART to SCART, on the TV, and connect your aerial to the aerial in – you are ready to power up the box. The graded box should have been sold to you set with a factory reset start up. So when you power up the box connected to the TV you should be start the installation screen. Follow this through, from choosing language and screen options to channel tuning.

Weak Signals

The setup takes you through an auto channel tune. If you live in an area with multiple transmitters, you are better off cancelling this auto process, and perform a manual channel tune. I live in such an area, and went through the autotune to my confusion, I got really bad reception on the channels discovered and thought the box was faulty! A call to Humax Support, sorted this out, and I got an email of instructions to manual tune.

You can always check transmitter via digital uk website: http://www.digitaluk.co.uk/. On the right – enter postcode and house number and tick ‘I am in the aerial installation trade’. This should give you a list of transmitters for your locale. Then you can look up the channels to use to manual tune.

I had to use channel 57 in my manual tune to get the HD channels. Once manual tuning was done, all my channels were 75%+ power and 100% quality and there were no drop outs due to weak signals.

Attaching a USB Hard Drive

The HD-FOX T2 was able to record to an attached USB drive since the v1.01.12 firmware update (see updates here). My box came with version 16 of its firmware and could record on to a USB drive if it was the right size and formated to EXT3.

Attach any USB drive and you are able to read and playback supported media files, but attach the right size and formatted drive you are able to set timers or make an instant recording of the channel you are watching.

Initially, I attached a 4GB USB stick, but that did not work (although it attempted to assign it as a recording disk after formatting, it refused to record on to it.) The mystery was revealled when I attached a bigger drive to the USB port and proceeded to format it and set it up as the recording HDD.

To record, the HD-FOX T2 needs a disk big enough to reserve 20GB of it for recording/buffering purposes. So an external USB HDD that is double that – say at least 40GB should work. I attached an 80GB HDD in place of my 4GB USB stick and it formats and records just fine.

Test the newly formatted and assigned HDD by performing an instant record – press the record button.

After a minute or so you can go into Media, and see the recording appearing there:

Half a HDR-FOX T2

Now with an attached USB drive to the HD-FOX T2, you’ve got yourself a single tuner Humax PVR! It has all the recording and tricks as the HDR, but with a single tuner, it will have some dual tuner facilities missing.

So now you can go to the EPG and schedules some timers – manual or series linked reservations:

If there’s a clash of recording timers, because the HD has only one tuner, then reserving timers the box will inform you so. If you start a manual recording, this will always override any timers and if you have have clash the scheduled timer will fail. You will notice this in the Media listing:

Media Streaming Client

Before I go on to watching recordings from another device on the HD-FOX T2, I want to mention that the box can playback external media files such as AVI, VOB, and some MKV containers via an attached USB drive. So if you have such video files lying around on a USB drive, you can connect it up and play them directly. The HD has only one USB port, but you can attach a USB hub and connect a number of USB drives to it and it will see them all.

In the coming months, I will make a list of compatible media files that the HD-FOX T2 can play, but in the meantime, I suspect that those formats that can be played by the HDR-FOX T2 (as detailed here) can also be handled by the HD.

DLNA Client and Media Servers

The HD-FOX T2 is a DLNA Client, which means that if you have other devices on the network are DLNA servers, then the HD will be able to access the media that is served out.

Windows 7 can be set up as a media server that the HD can see. I have a NAS  (a D-Link DNS-320) that is a UPnP server. Most importantly, I have the Humax HDR-FOX T2, which is a DLNA server.

I can now, instead of accessing a USB device, access the network (attaching a network lead and attaching it to my home network switch, or using Humax’s own wireless dongle) and playback the files served out by the three media servers.

Windows 7 serving Music. (You need to using the Media button to change to see Music mdeia.)

My NAS device serving Video.

Using the HDR-FOX T2 DLNA Server with the HD

To be able to see the the files served by the HDR, you need to upgrade your HD box with the latest firmware – v1.02.20. My box came with v1.02.16, so at first I could not see any content on the HDR. But after the update, I was able to see all content including HD recordings.

However, I have discovered two bugs that is spoiling the HD Client to HDR Server set up. Firstly there’s a power saving issue on the HDR that turns off the box after 3 hours of continuous use, if the power saving feature is on. So if I was to watching content off my HDR using the HD, it will suddenly turn off after 3 hours. The second bug is with the HD, and as a client, it can’t playback a recording file that is bigger than 4GB completely. For example, with the Harry Potter recordings in the Media list of my HDR, I can start watching and it plays back OK. But if I skip to somewhere pass the middle of the movie, it stops playing, because the HD client code falls over at a file size of greater than 4GB in size – oops!
Humax TV Portal
With network access, there is no excuss not to be able to access online services such as iPlayer, internet radio, and YouTube. On this little box you can do so with Humax’s TV Portal. I believe SkyPlayer is coming soon along with a ‘Movies on Demand’ service…
Conclusion
This quality little box does everything, from receiving HD channels, recording like a PVR, and can access your media servers as well as iPlayer and YouTube, for a measely £65 (graded) or £105 brand new.
Hopefully, Humax will get the two niggling issues solved with the next firmware releases for both HD and HDR. I wait for that day to proclaim the HD-FOX T2 the best Freeview HD box ever!