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A tale of a two Freesat boxes

I must admit from the start that I have got a new Freesat box for all the wrong reasons. The existing box I bought only when the last one overheated a few summers ago.

Two Freesat Boxes  Photograph: Brian Butterworth
Two Freesat Boxes Photograph: Brian Butterworth
published on UK Free TV

 That one was a first-generation box that had been replaced twice by Richer Sounds because of their excellent customer services!

The wrong reasons are mainly that the existing box has a bug when using Netflix.   For the first two minutes the box insists showing you in low resolution.   You can press the “i” button on the remote and it shows you that you are in various low resolutions, and then when whatever you are watching hits the 2:00 mark, it flips up to 1080p.

The other problem with the box is that it has become very, very slow.  I have a wonderful broadband, one of the Olympic Legacy features of where I live is gigabit broadband.  Whilst every other device in the house runs on fast Wi-Fi and even faster gigabit Ethernet, the Freesat box takes ages and ages to load anything.

Compared with a modern Windows PC, which can boot up in five seconds (thank you SSD M.2 drives, rather than Microsoft) the old Freesat box takes 25 seconds to a minute to respond to being powered up.

And whilst the Freesat TV Guide is still quite zippy, the interface for the BBC iPlayer has slowed to a snail’s pace. 

Of course a lot of the problem here is that Freesat – like digital satellite TV in general  - is no longer an exiting new frontier as it was turn of the century.   Whilst it does have some good points – three of the five main channels are in HD, sadly two of the missing ones are Channel 4 HD and BBC One HD.    You can’t access any of the Channel 4 on line services on it either, which is a great shame because All4 and Channel 4 HD used to be there.

So, my usage of the Freesat box is mainly to record non-BBC shows for viewing without adverts, and for when I’m so lazy that I can’t be bothered to switch over to the Chromecast to watch Netflix!

I suspect that I’m also missing the chance to use BBC Sounds.

It’s the £199 box

I bought the £199 version of the box because, even though I record a lot of HD shows, I don’t really need to keep them.      I tend to record a show because it sounds good, and then binge it or delete it depending on how it does.   

So, I will record ITV’s “Des” because it got David Tennant in it, and it turns out to be OK, so I watch it and then delete it.   

The vast majority of TV then turns out to be things from Channel 5 HD because I like shows about “Lost Railways”, “New Puppies Shown From Their Point Of View” or “Paddington Station”, but there’s not something so good you would want to re-watch them.   And if you did they can we watch on the relevant channel’s catch-up service.

Anything from the BBC it easier to just use iPlayer because you can watch all their content there.   But the BBC spends most of it’s money on radio stations I don’t listen to and regional news I don’t watch, what’s left on iPlayer is great when it’s great (“I May Destroy You”) but the corporation seems to only put out  “The Sky At Night” as a regular science show these days.   OK, “Repair Shop” is both nice and highly watchable.

 

So, let’s open the box


Swapping the old box for the new one only really required one big change and that was removing the Humax power supply and replacing it with the new one.  The lead is much shorter, which is great because the old one was far too long and so was coiled up in a drawer.

So, turn it on and it is showing a Freesat Welcome page.

Select OK and then we are asked about the Wireless Network

And then have a second go at the password in the terrible input keyboard thing.   Damn you multi-cased password!   I also note that it’s connecting only to the 2.4GHz network, not the 5GHz ones.

Ah yes, the input-via-remote is something oddly difficuly.

And try again!

So, onward to a Signal Test which seems good on Strength and Quality.   I’m happy to see I have a Standard LNB because I’m sure that what the signal distribution thing claims to be.

Input the postcode….

And it searches for channels for a minute…

And now for the even worse bit, getting your Freesat details in.   Clearly it’s just entering your existinig ones.   Trying to enter my password took ages, as switching better upper and lower case and digital and symbols wasn’t very easy at all.

Several minutes later, the next screen is reached asking about Parental Controls, which I don’t need

Then a Privacy Notice which I read carefully, dear reader. 

And now, we’re done.  Time to “Start Watching Telly”.

But!   Not quite!    There is still the small matter of a system update to do.   The software wasn’t showing Netflix when I pressed the remote control button, so it took about 5 minutes doing this kind of thing…

Just need to log back into iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5 and Netflix.  Some were very easy – Youtube – some just required “go to this web address any type in these letters” except Netflix which required ANOTHER password to be entered into remote, this time with a little Qwerty keyboard.

 

Missing Accomplished

The whole point of the exercise was to see if I could now access BBC Sounds, which was a yes.

And BBC iPlayer was again usable.  It’s a shame there’s nothing new in the BBC Science section these days but I can quickly find out I’m going to be disappointed, rather than very slowly.

The final test, switch to Netflix, choose an episode of Star Trek Discovery, press “info” and yes, it’s 1080 all the way!



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Comments
Sunday, 28 March 2021
C
ChrisG
10:11 AM

I don't know if Humax has changed their remotes on their later models, but the remotes were programmable to avoid conflicts with other devices.

Press 0 and OK on the Genuine remote control, until the Red PVR led lights (if it has one) and a message appears on the screen.
Press button 1-6 to change the address code (Default is 1).

Remember, that if the units are in the same room to make sure they are all unpowered apart from the one you are trying to change.


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ChrisG's 2 posts GB
Tuesday, 30 March 2021
M
michael scott
7:19 PM

Hello Brian,
A great review:fair and very correct.
I bought a second hand French set top box and it had a fibre connection built in,
a lot of 'recent' British set top boxes still have legacy sockets:scart,old type 802.11n wifi
etc etc.
So I bought a new hdmi 2.1 Humax Aura freeview box to be forward compatible:I have to
switch it on and then switch it off and on again. The first time I switch it on I either get a
blank screen or no sound! I haven't bothered to try contacting Humax because I am so
disappointed!
I am so unimpressed with the E.P.G.,it is clever but not in the right way!
Sky Q E.P.G.was a joy whilst I paid for it.
Having a lot of Panasonic equipment I am a real fan of D.L.N.A. enabling me to watch in
a different room in full HD with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound where present originally.
Ah well I've taken ALL my 'recent' set top boxes to the tip today.Such is life.
It is so frustrating that even the latest 'freesat' boxes are still so dated.
Kind regards.


link to this comment
michael scott's 5 posts GB
Wednesday, 31 March 2021
M
Mike C
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

8:22 AM

Mike C
I have had not one single problem with my old Foxsatat HDR since I bought it some years ago.
I spotted another in a charity shop, and quickly bought it.t it just in case my new one broke down.
I DID buy an updated box, but it would not show me
Anything except FREESAT broadcasts, unlike the Foxsat, which
not only found all FTA stations, including adult but let me record them
That new box I bought ended up in the bin because it gave so much trouble with Freesat?
A noisy clicking remote was one irritation. Sky boxes have no problem, so why not Freesat
receivers! s work well, so why do much trouble with Freesat? This message box needs attention; it's all over the place.

link to this comment
Mike C's 22 posts GB
Monday, 5 April 2021
B
Brian Gregory
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

2:28 AM

@Mike C
I think maybe Freesat no longer allow boxes that can receive channels that are not part of Freesat to use the Freesat name.

world-of-satellite.co.uk sell lots of cheap boxes that use open source software to allow you to do interesting things that Freesat and Sky would rather you couldn't do. I'm not sure I recommend them for non-technical types though.

link to this comment
Brian Gregory's 22 posts GB
Thursday, 8 April 2021
R
Richard Miller
4:07 PM

This Freesat box featured does not allow for users wishing to connect up to video senders or DVD recorders via scart connectors which have been eliminated from this box. My original Humax HDR 1000 is eight years old and still working well. However I bought a reconditioned HDR 1000 as a backup and hopefully will have at least another eight years of use.
I bought a fire stick for streaming -far more convenient than anything else and can be moved from room to room, TV to TV with ease.
I continue to make DVD copies of programs although most of my 15year library can now be found in various streaming sites re-runs of rugby and some football matches cannot.

link to this comment
Richard Miller's 8 posts GB
Tuesday, 13 April 2021
M
Mike Chenery
sentiment_satisfiedBronze

5:04 PM

A note for anyone that has lost their Scart Socket from New equipment.
There are Scart to HDMI & HDMI to Scart sockets available on. EBay.
Both need a power supply.

link to this comment
Mike Chenery's 22 posts GB
Friday, 18 June 2021
J
John
11:38 PM

I understand that Humax no longer make Freesat boxes as a contract or whatever has been given to another company.
I had a Panasonic machine without problem until he hard drive gave up and as they had given up making Freesat boxes I purchased a Humax model but am having to reboot it quite often so I am looking to change it.
Anyone got any of the new versions.

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John's 3 posts GB
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