Unicable and the Foxsat HDR

Originally posted as an update to the PCW Blog

After a little more playing around – the full review of the HDR will appear in the March 2009 issue, out next month – it’s time for some more comments on the Unicable side of things, which is one of the more interesting technical aspects of the Humax.

Unfortunately, we have to report that we didn’t have a lot of success; while the box proved quite stable when testing with a standard dual-LNB and twin cable setup, we had many more problems with the Unicable. This included poor performance, problems with dual recording, and complete lock-ups requiring a power off to recover. Now, this could be a problem with the LNB – we only had one available to test – but our gut feeling is that the Unicable support in the box isn’t fully working.

Perhaps that shouldn’t be a massive surprise, as it’s not a mode of operation that the standard setup procedure will even allow, but it will be disappointing to anyone who wants to avoid running extra cables. Humax tells us that they may revisit this area of the firmware in future.

If you’ve tried Unicable, please let us know; it is, unfortunately, a bit fiddly; as well as having to access a hidden menu to activate it on the HDR, most satellite finders – especially cheap ones – don’t support Unicable LNBs either, so you need to line up the dish with a standard one, and make sure there’s no accidental movement when you swap LNBs.

It’s also worth pointing out that one frustrating aspect of the Humax in this regard is that the diagnostic screen makes it very hard to check that you have a good signal on both tuners. Although it shows the tuned transponder on each tuner, with strength and quality, it shows the same one for both. You can’t access the menu while recording, so you can’t force each one onto a different channel and then check, which would have been helpful in trying to troubleshoot our Unicable setup.

So, a regretful thumbs down for Unicable support at the moment – but do remember that that’s just one part of the HDR, and not something that the vast majority of users will have any issues with.

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