A couple of weeks before Christmas, my wife expressed an interest in getting “on of those video recorder things” (and she didn’t mean a VHS recorder) as only I could work the Mac hooked up to the TV with BBC iPlayer on it (and anyway, iPlayer can be a little unreliable at times).Â Realising that this was effectively a green light to purchase a gadget, I suggested that, if we were to get a personal video recorder (PVR), then Christmas would be the time when we would get a lot of use from it and I began to research the options.
We use digital terrestrial TV (Freeview) after an earlier attempt to use FreeSat became unreliable, and I knew that the Humax PVRs boxes were the ones to go for so, after a little crowdsourcing on Twitter, some Googling for reviews (like the one from Radio and Telly) and a shufti at the Which reviews, I decided to purchase a Humax PVR-9300T (the 320GB modelÂ was Â£169 at John LewisÂ although the price has since risen – other retailers may have been less expensive but I called the store to check/reserve stock and collected it within an hour or so of purchase).Â Basically, this gives me two Freeview tuners so I can record on two channels and watch a third (as long as it’s on the same multiplex as one of the two that are recording) or play back something from the hard drive.
After two weeks of using it, I have to say that the 9300T has been great and I can’t believe we waited so long with a broken VCR and iPlayer.Â Sure, the UI could be spruced up, but it seems to be functional and, most importantly, it’s easy for consumers to navigate (my wife is no technophobe but complexity is not good when you’re rushed off your feet with two small children and you just want to record/watch something on the telly); however I was disappointed to find that it locked up occasionally, requiring a power reset and sometimes resulting in missed recordings.
Checking the software version in the system status, I found that my PVR was running an old release (UPTTF 1.00.15 Dec 17 2008) and that Humax had released an update (UPTTF 1.00.18 Nov 12 2009) which includes a resolution to an intermittent lockup issue.Â Over the air (OTA) updates didn’t work for me – as the Digital TV Group’s engineering channelÂ was not playing the Humax updates at the time so I downloaded the update from the Humax website, along with Humax’s download tool (WDN4OAK+).Â I also needed to find an RS232C (9 pin female-female)Â null modem cable to transfer the software to the PVRÂ and a laptop computer with a serial port (I could have purchased a USB to RS232 converter) as well as an operating system that would run the Humax download tool (the installer is a 16-bit application so it failed on Windows 7 but ran OK on XP).Â Armed with the necessary hardware and software I then:
- Connected the RS232C cable to the PVR and the serial port (normally COM1) on the PC
- Installed and ran the Humax download tool (WDN4OAK+)
- Selected the software update – in this case it was apps(UPTTF_10018)_LDR(a4_37).hdf
- Clicked Download
- At this point, nothing happened (except that the downloader will wait for a request!) until I powered on/off the PVR to start the update process.Â I didn’t think this was particularly clear in Humax’s instructions, which is why I’m repeating the steps here).
- Waited for the PVR to update (it’s important not to interrupt power at this point – to either the PC or the PVR) – a progress bar is displayed on the PC, and the PVR display will show END when it is complete.
- Power cycled the PVR once the update had completed and closed the download tool on the PC.
Ever since I applied the update (which was over a week ago now) the PVR-9300T has seemed to be more reliable (no more lock-ups) although I have to say that this process is probably far from simple for less tech-savvy users (but full marks to Humax for making the necessary software available for download).