As long-time users of the Humax HDR-1000S set-top box, we've been awaiting the time when a smaller, snazzier model comes to market. That wait is over, with the introduction of the Humax Freesat HDR-1100S with Freetime set-top box, complete with Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity (Ethernet is still available for wired connection).
If you're new in the market for a set-top box without the contractual ties then Freesat - which utilises a satellite dish, assuming your home has one - is a great option for stacks of content.
There are plenty of options on the market, but what the HDR-1100S offers is a built-in hard drive (500GB / 1TB / 2TB options) to record content and, compared to its 1000S predecessor, it's a full £90 cheaper too (the 500GB costs £190). That makes it a far more attractive option than before.
With sockets for two satellite feeds to the rear it's possible to record one channel (possibly two, depending on your dish) while watching another at the same time. Freetime enables easy "scroll back" through shows that have played earlier that day, or you can pause a channel mid-show should you need to nip out and make a cup of tea.
If you're more into your media, then a USB port means you can stream video content in most file formats (MKV and MP4 are both compatible). Compatibility with a NAS drive means content can be sourced from around the home, although as the Wi-Fi is not the fastest 802.11ac standard we're not sure how well that'll hold up for really large files.
However, the decision to move the USB socket from the front of the unit to the side might be a negative (there's a second to the rear), if your home cinema setup doesn't have space to insert a stick to the side. It's a small change, but won't suit all. We would also like to see USB 3.0 to ensure smooth streaming of larger files.
At the same time, hiding that socket out of view makes the HDR-1100S look far sleeker than the 1000S appeared. That's true of the whole unit too: available in white or black, with a silver lip around its edge, there are new on/off, volume and channel up/down controls on top of the box itself.
In addition there's an LED to the front base of the unit, which glows blue when the unit is on, and changes to red when recording is in process. It's a subtle change, but another good looking and logical addition to the series. The 280 x 200mm footprint and 48mm height is around a third smaller than its predecessor too, making for an altogether smaller unit.
In terms of operation the HDR-1100S doesn't add new features, but there's the promise of a redesign to its on-demand page coming next month. Freesat would not comment further at this time, but in addition to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Demand5 and more, which are already available, we would anticipate additional pay-for service access from Netflix. Watch this space.
The Humax Freesat HDR-1100S with Freetime set-top box is available right now, priced £190 for the 500GB option, £220 for the 1TB option, and £270 for the 2TB option.
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