Nick’s Blog

Humax 5050

by Nick on Sep.08, 2010, under Blogging

This device is a digital PVR with a fair sized hard disk capable of recording from digital channels. I would like to write a full review but really there is enough information out there to let you know what the machine is technically capable of. So really I’m only going to summarise the things I like and the things I dislike about the device.

Overall the device is an improvement on the Panasonic device that I’ve owned for years. For a start you can schedule two digital channels for recording at the same time and watch a third. However the Panasonic device was never intended for digital recording and is already 8 years old.

Given the intervening years I would have expected some major improvements but ignoring the three tuners for a moment and that it picks up programme information over the air there is little to recommend the device. Let’s start with setting the device up.

My living room is arranged so that the hi-fi components are not directly facing me but rather they are off to the left. For most equipment (and I’ve used tuners from JVC, a PVR from Panasonic, and a VCR and DVD player whose manufacturers I cannot remember) this has not been a problem. However the Humax device has a lovely closing panel that covers the front. This has a small window and then about a 5mm gap before the true front panel of the device. Unless this front panel is lowered you need to sit almost directly in front of the device. Even with the panel open I have to lean forwards and aim the control at the device otherwise nothing. This is poor design by anyone’s standards.

I am prepared to admit that my next gripe might just be user error. However there does not appear to be a simple way to build a list of channels that are relevant. There is a list of favourites but so far no obvious way to make this the default list. This means that I have to wade through German, Italian, French, Arabic, and porn channels to get to the channel I want. There is a great age lock to prevent the porn or violent channels being viewed by children but entering the code with every channel change becomes a pain in the backside. The result is that you have to learn the channel number and type that in.

This leads to another problem. The leaning forwards action while typing 301 for cartoons or 122 for sci-fi does not always go well because the unit gives you about a second between button presses and otherwise assumes you have finished. So 301 often becomes 3 or 30 and 112 becomes 1 or 11.

There there is the programme guide. The guide stores about 5 days of programmes, perhaps this is the networks limit. It does not retain old programme guide information. The moment the show is over it is gone. Now you might not see this as a problem. But let’s say you walk in just at the end of Stargate Atlantis and as the credits end you think, “Damn I wish I’d recorded that, well never mind I’ll record next weeks.” well you had better get a wiggle on because next weeks episode will not yet be in the guide and this weeks will be cleared from the guide any second now and once it is gone you cannot reserve the series.

That leads to yet another grip, this time mostly with Dutch TV broadcasters. Get your programme guides straight. Half the time the times are wrong. With the old Panasonic I could instruct it to add extra time as a standard at the beginning and end but not on the Humax. Comedy Central is the worst channel, half the time they are not even sending out the programme advertised, this is no use to anyone. I am fairly convinced this is to fool those of us with PVR’s as it means we either miss the start or end or record something we did not want. Logical really because, being honest, I’ve not watch an advert in months.

Now I realise that Tivo have some patents around PVR’s but why can’t the Humax at least warn me that a series I’m recording has come to an end. If I want to record every episode of Monk then I really do not want to record whatever programme replaces it when the series ends. It would be all too easy for the system to warn me that Monk has been replaced by some god awful show featuring someone from Miami Vice. But instead it merrily records it and names it Monk in the media list and it is only when you play it back you find Don Johnson with his sleeves finally rolled down.

And I am fairly sure that Tivo did not patent the responsive user interface.  Why in name of all that is holy did they base this thing on a ZX Spectrum? When  press the power button I would like the system to be there, not have to wait 60 tediously long seconds because it has to boot up. Even when I have booted the machine up and carefully lined the remote control with the sensor, half the time it ignore the button presses.

So imagine that I come in for a moment half way through A town called Eureka, I’ve set the machine to record it but I want to watch it now. I go to the media list and select the file. It politely asks me if I want to play from the start, play from the last played position (I’ve only just now for the first time watched it so what does this option mean?), or delete the file. I choose to play but when the programme being recorded ends so does play back. Very annoying, so you go to the media guide, select the file and you might think play from the last played position would now be ideal. But no, that plays from the beginning and you have to hunt for the moment the recording broke off.

So your hard disk is now full of Monk, Stargate Atlantis, Eureka, and episodes of some crap with Don Johnson you recorded by mistake. You might think OK select a load of files and delete them all. No such option exists. You have to select a file, choose delete, confirm delete and then wait while it is deleted before moving on to the next file. Luckily there is a network port on the back. Now you might think they would equip this with a web server so you can schedule programmes via the PC. Sadly no, this is FTP only and deleting a show is not just select a file and delete or select a folder and delete but select a folder and three files for each show and delete. Still it’s a lot less painful than doing the same job manually with a remote. That said I have had times when deleting has left the hard drive in some kind of mess. Programmes that you can neither watch nor delete from the remote. They did eventually go away but I really do not remember what I did.

My final gripe is the fact that there is no way to edit a show. With the Panasonic you could record your favourite move, strip out adverts and save the results to a DVD. I understand why that last step would not be possible but still it would have been great to have cleaned up a movie and kept it for later.

All in all the thing is much better than the Panasonic but much worse than I’d expect for eight extra years of development time.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Albert

    Hi nick
    we managed to make a recording list in favourites and from there we make all the recording with the humax 5050.! We selected from the general list of channels and works quite alright.

    The problem that we have is that we want to record 2 channels at the same time while watching a 3rd channel. Do you know how could we do this?

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