It's not an exaggeration to say that Humax's 9200T was one of the best PVRs we've reviewed. It had all those little features that other manufacturers didn't bother to put in their machines. Sure, it had some quirks that weren't optimal, but as far as effort goes, we really had to give them credit.
Now it's time for the old machine to be retired, and a new model drafted in to replace it. And that new machine is the Humax PVR-9300T, which features a whole new look and some tweaks that should make it even better than before.
The most notable alteration to the front of the Humax is the display, which has been considerably improved to provide a more readable and aesthetic readout. The rest of the machine is sleek, well designed and quite pleasant to look at. The remote control -- always overlooked -- is the same ugly but functional unit you got with the previous model.
At the back of the box are the usual aerial sockets, a pair of Scarts and an HDMI output, and it is this that marks the most significant technical change to the box. You also get optical digital audio out and composite video. Unlike many dual-tuner boxes, the Humax doesn't have any of those ugly aerial loop-though connections at the back, keeping it nice and clear.
At the front, there are two flaps. One conceals the CAM slot for adding pay TV channels, and the other hides some controls, such as channel changing, menu navigation and even a record button.
One of our favourite features on this Humax is its ability to record two channels and watch a third. Of course, you don't have the choice of every Freeview channel using this mode, but you can watch any channel that resides on the same multiplex as either of the ones you are recording.
Using the 9300T is very simple, and all you need to do to schedule a recording is enter the EPG and press the OK button when you find the programme you want to record. If the programme is series linked you'll be offered the opportunity to record every episode, which is handy for shows you like to watch every week.
The machine is also Freeview+ compliant (Freeview+ is the new name for Freeview Playback, but nothing else has really changed). What this means is that you get other features like accurate recording -- which makes sure the programme is recorded fully, even if the broadcast time changes -- and chase play -- which means watching a programme while it's still being recorded. In common with all PVRs you can pause live TV and rewind if you missed a bit.
Because the Humax now comes with an HDMI output, it can now output Freeview upscaled to 720p. It's rather encouraging to see it hasn't gone and fitted a 1080p scaler to the unit, as doing so would only waste your money, simply because Freeview won't benefit from this.
The 9300T also has a picture-in-picture mode, which allows you to watch two TV programmes at once, should you so desire. Quite handy if you want to keep an eye on the sports scores while watching the Hollyoaks omnibus.
If you really want to receive channels like Setanta and TopUp TV there is a conditional access module slot available that can accommodate this. You'll need to get the module itself from TopUp TV -- or, they are often included in the company's starter packs.
The only significant problem with the 9300 is the noise level from the fan located on the inside of the machine, at the rear. Our first review sample was so loud that we couldn't believe it wasn't a fault, so we got a replacement sent out, which was better, but still a little overpowering for our liking. Some people online have suggested that loosening the fan screws can help alleviate the nose. We tried this, but it didn't have much of an effect.
The addition of an HDMI output has increased the quality and usefulness of the box immensely. Previously, the 9200 was an excellent PVR, but the lack of digital output -- HDMI -- for video really compromised the quality. With HDMI, there's no digital to analogue conversion, and thus, no severe picture quality reduction.
We set our 9300 to record a broad range of programmes and it did a great job as we expected it to. Setting the machine to record was child's play, and watching programmes back was just as easy, although the convenient button for bringing the list of recorded programmes hides under the pull-down cover at the bottom of the remote.
It's also worth mentioning that accurate recording works very well on channels that support the feature. We did notice on other channels -- such as Dave -- that we missed the start of Top Gear, which is, let's be honest, very traumatic.
If it wasn't for the appalling fan noise, we'd suggest this is the best PVR we've seen in a long time. The operation is simple, the picture quality is very good indeed and the new style is fantastic -- it looks much more modern than the previous generation.
If you're looking for an alternative, then we suggest thinking about the TopUp-TV-branded Thomson box, which offers many of the same features, but has a bargain basement price to increase interest in the pay services of TopUp.
Edited by Marian Smith