Pocket-lint has managed to get its hands on a pre-release (beta) version of the forthcoming firmware update for the Humax HD-Fox T2 (which will also arrive for the HDR-Fox T2) and has had a play with the company's brand spanking new TV Portal feature. Through it, the Freeview HD set-top-box gains access to Internet content, such as BBC iPlayer, Sky Player and Wikipedia.
The patch essentially allows the Humax STB to convert any regular set to a Smart TV, as long as the box is connected to the Internet via an Ethernet cable or an external, Humax-branded Wi-Fi dongle - support for which also comes with this patch. It's highly probable that owners will have done this already though, as it has doubled as a DLNA-friendly multi-media streamer for some time.
A recent over-the-air official update already brought recording functionality to the box, when connected to a USB memory stick or external hard drive (obviously the PVR version, HDR-Fox T2 didn't need this upgrade) but it was the 'net content portal that customers have been yearning for since the release of the box back in the summer of 2010.
The beta version of 1.02.03 should in no way be considered the final build, but it does offer five different applications at this time. A press of the previously-unused TV Portal button on the remote control brings up a menu screen featuring access to BBC iPlayer, Sky Player, Internet Radio (which we suspect was built by Humax itself) Wikipededia via the Wiki@TV app, and Flickr. More are on their way, and Humax has plans to expand as agreements are struck. Perhaps even before the new firmware is made public.
Anybody who's used BBC iPlayer on TV equivalent services, such as Samsung's Internet@TV, will recognise the app here instantly. It's identical to the front end used by the corporation on a swathe of different devices, and it's welcome to see HD content sit alongside standard definition video in this instance.
On Ethernet, everything starts and streams nigh-on instantly, high-def or no, but we didn't have a dongle to hand (oo-er missus) to check out the Wi-Fi option.
Sky Player is similar, and runs in much the same way as it does on numerous other platforms. Of course, there's no HD content, and it can cost a fair penny if you don't already subscribe to Sky. But those who do will be pleased to get the service in another format and room.
Wiki@TV is fairly basic, to be honest. While it gives the raw information from Wikipedia on a subject you've searched for, there's not much else to it. And, on the beta version of the software at least, it looks a bit clunky.
Flickr is better presented and is, again, in much the same format as on connected TVs and other devices. You can search and look at pictures - handy if you keep your holiday snaps on the online service.
But it's the Internet Radio portal that we're, strangely, most impressed by. Simple, clean design and an extensive list of stations is all we really need, and we can see that this might get more use that any of the rest of the initial TV Portal apps, even though it's not actually TV as such.
As well as access to Internet content, the 1.02.03 brings with it a few fixes, including a resolution for an issue with audio drop out on HD programmes, and HDMI to DVI improvements. An auto delete feature is added to the recording capabilities, and multiple folders can now be selected for copy/move/delete.
Trailer Booking is added (both the BBC and Channel 4 currently broadcast info for Trailer Booking) and SMS input is now supported. And finally, an option has been added to the installation wizard to allow for power saving in standby.
Naturally, as a pre-release beta, it's craggy and temperamental, but that won't be the case with the final build (which is due "very soon", Pocket-lint understands) and what 1.02.03 brings to the table is such a veritable feast that it elevates the Humax HD-Fox T2 some way above its Freeview HD set-top-box roots.
Are you a HD-Fox T2 owner who has been waiting for this firmware upgrade? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments below...