FOGEY 5 PVR set-top TV tuners

Jan 30, 2011 No Comments by

The Fogey 5 are the best five products in their class by virtue of expert and consumer review from at least 10 respected and authoritative websites.

Sky+ HD 1TB

Now there is a box that any one of Sky’s 10 million+ subscribers would hanker after: the 1TB HD monster.  It actually has 1.5TB of storage but 500GB is taken up by expanding the Sky Anytime service leaving you with a ‘mere’ 1TB for your own televisual jewels.  As discussed, recording in HD eats up hard drive capacity so a terabyte of storage is very handy indeed.  Sky+ (the + is the recording element) is one of the wonders of modern technology, making recording programmes easy for even the most egregious techno-muppet.  And ‘series link’ – I mean, the joy of it!  You know the score; want to record a series, set whatever box you have to record at the same time, same day for the requisite period only for the broadcaster to change the timings without telling you to make way for snooker or darts, or the Horse of the bleedin’ Year Show.  And so you miss the crucial plot twist or denouement and want to throw things at the TV and strangle the schedulers for cocking around with your life.  But Sky+ protects you from these bastards because it just seems to know about any changes, so you don’t miss anything, unless the box has decided to throw a wobbly (which mine does about three times a week) so that ‘no satellite signal is being received’ and it records sweet FA.

Box: £249. Subscription: loadsamoney.  More info and to buy click here.

Virgin Media V+ HD

At time of writing there is a new 1TB HD TiVo box on the way from Beardy and Co but it’s all a bit of a tease in terms of what it will do and what it will cost.  TiVo is the US-spawned precursor to Sky+.  But even though you can’t have the one without the other, this is about the box, not the service.  The current V+ HD model is made by Samsung and is, by all accounts, perfectly respectable in terms of performance.  The HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable doesn’t carry sound, so if you have the box hooked in to an AV receiver/amp the Dolby 5:1 surround sound travels via a separate optical audio cable.  Some commentators think this is pretty poor but if you have an older AV amp that doesn’t support HDMI (as I do) you’d be slightly stuffed without it.

The V+ HD box is ‘free’ if you subscribe to at least the following: £3.25 a month for 6 months, then £6.50 a month, plus a £49 one-off  HD activation fee.  More info here.


Freesat HD:          Humax Foxsat HDR

A bit long in the tooth now – it was launched Q1 2009 – but a very capable machine nonetheless.  It was the dog’s nob when it was new and nobody knew any better because there wasn’t any better (and hasn’t really been ever since…).  It will also ‘upscale’ standard def TV to sort-of HD.  FYI: Freesat HD requires a satellite dish with two LNBs (Low Noise Block-downconverter).  Dish and installation typically costs around £70.  Freesat comes off the Astra 28.2°E and Eurobird 1 satellites; same as Sky.  If you have a Sky+ HD box and decide to cancel your subscription you will still receive many channels (4HD, 5HD, Fiver, 5USA etc) that you wouldn’t receive with Freesat.  However, if you cancel, Sky will also disable the ‘+’ function meaning your box will no longer record.  If it does continue to record check your bank statements.  Sky+ is £10 a month.  So unless there’s been a happy (for you) mistake (by Sky) you have a choice to make:  More channels/no recording (Sky) or fewer channels all told (and certainly fewer HD channels) but record functionality (Freesat).  Humax doesn’t make a standard def Freesat tuner.  If you’re going to go to the trouble and expense of installing a Freesat dish you might as well make it a Freesat HD dish.  And if you don’t have an HD Ready TV, well, get one.

Around £250. More info here.  Buy Humax Foxsat HDR 500GB


Freeview HD:       Humax HDR Fox T2

HDR = hard disc/drive recorder.  Fox = barking, bin raiding, baby-biter.  T2 = twin (2) tuners.  Twin tuners mean you can record two programmes at once on a 500GB hard drive.  This is a good size – the standard Thomson-made Sky+ HD box is only 160GB and fills up pretty quickly if you like TV as much as most Fogies tend to.  And for a few extra shekels there is now a 1TB HDR Fox T2.  If you own an HD Ready TV and are fundamentally impecunious this is the box for you.  NB the ‘buy’ links will take you to whereas the ‘more info’ link goes to Humax’s own on-line store where their products are often cheapest.

500GB: £299.  1TB: £349.  More info here.  Buy Humax HDR-FoxT2 with 500GB Hard Drive or Humax HDR-Fox T2 with 1TB Hard Drive




Humax 9300T, 9200T and 9150T

If you don’t care about HD you’re mad.  It’s lovely.  But so is good food and plenty of people eat dripping and tripe and KFC so there’s no accounting for taste.  All these boxes were well-received by the tech-media but therein lies a tale because there have been problems that obviously weren’t apparent on first impressions.  Online forums reported that the integral cooling fan was noisy (an automatic upgrade took care of it) and the electronic programme guide (EPG) could be slow to load.  But most issues are usually resolved by ‘over the air’ (OTA) software upgrades courtesy of Humax, who do listen when issues are reported and sort them out.  The 9300T with a 500GB hard drive is the current model.  The other two are available second hand and ex-demo.  All have twin-tuners so you can watch one programme while recording another.

More info here.  Buy Humax 9300T 500GB or Humax 9200T or Humax 9150T

Fogey Find

TVonics DTR-HD500

Some people (eg Mrs Fogey) aren’t keen on anonymous slabs of matt black metal and plastic cluttering up their living rooms and even this Fogey is slightly underwhelmed by the utilitarian design of so many audio-visual components.  So chapeau to TVonics for stepping outside the box and fashioning a twin-tuner Freeview HD device with 500GB hard drive that is more sculptural than one could have any reason to expect.  Pickers of nits will wail that Samsung have done this too but, whatever.  One nifty feature the DTR-HD500 has that others don’t is two HDMI inputs so you can run your DVD/Blu-ray player and a games console through it and then only have one lead going to the TV.  But all is not sweetness and light.  Trusted Reviews thought that standard definition pictures (ie most of them) weren’t rendered particularly well on a big 60″ TV, especially when compared with the same via a Sky HD box. TF contacted TVonics to find out whether the criticism was justified and was told “We are unable to comment about reviews online, however there have been several software updates released and we are not aware of any issues with the unit.”  This suggests TVonics doesn’t read the tech press, which is highly unlikely, and that if they do, they ignore what it has to say.  Hardly a ringing endorsement.

More info here.