Humax T2500 TiVo Series2 DVR
While the wife and I haven't quite reached a peace accord on the matter of our abundant remote controls, one source of marital friction has recently been downgraded to a non-issue: When once we clashed over dwindling recording space on our DVR, Humax has now given us 250 gigabytes, the most in any TiVo, which is frankly more capacity than we know what to do with. The T2500 TiVo Series2 digital video recorder is the Korean company's first consumer electronics product marketed in the United States, under their Humax USA brand. Although Humax is a major global manufacturer of satellite set-top boxes, this single-tuner recorder is not a DirecTV receiver, so you must provide it with a signal from either cable or a satellite box.
Blasting the Dish
Unless you're lucky enough to have a cable or satellite set-top box with an RS-232 serial connection, you'll need to use the included IR blaster to link the signal source and recorder. After connecting the T2500 to AC power and a phone line, followed by S-video and analog stereo inputs from my standalone Samsung DirecTV receiver and S-video and analog stereo outputs to my TV, I plugged the included blaster cable into the back of the unit, stringing both IR heads over and under my satellite receiver, straddling the point where it receives infrared remote commands.
Next, I followed the onscreen prompts to set up the IR blaster, trying each of the 10 preprogrammed codes for my Samsung box in turn, only one of which worked. One small issue that shouldn't have been a surprise: The lag time of changing channels through the TiVo was added to the lag time of the DirecTV receiver, which meant that even a simple channel-up or -down took as long as eight seconds.
From there, it was a matter of manually checking off which of the hundreds of available channels I actually received—a tedious, time-consuming process that requires a handy printout of DirecTV channels or a Rain Man–like knowledge of the same. DirecTV makes no secret of their lineups, so why doesn't TiVo just offer a Total Choice Premiere option for one-click setup? Rather than go through and mark every last one, I eventually took a leap of faith and just accepted all of the channels.
I also switched from dialup to a wireless broadband Internet connection—the principal benefit of TiVo Series2–complaint boxes such as this—for the necessary TiVo software updates. This not only freed up the phone line, but, more importantly, I noticed that related operations were much quicker this way, often completed in seconds instead of minutes. The Wi-Fi hardware I used—the tiny Linksys WUSB12 Wireless-B compact USB adapter, which is included in the short list of supported broadband adapters—was also quite stylish. After I quickly configured it on my PC so that my home network would recognize it, I plugged it neatly into the T2500 with the help of the included extension cable, due to the crowded rear-panel real estate.
The T2500 promptly informed me that I needed a system firmware upgrade as a final preparatory step, guiding me through the process onscreen while I did my part with just a few touches of the remote. I successfully made the always-on connection in a couple of minutes.
Dream A Little Stream
One extremely welcome bonus that has precisely nothing to do with traditional DVR operation is the Home Media feature set, which let me stream—not transfer, despite the T2500's awesome storage—my computer's MP3/WMA music and digital photos to this TiVo. I needed to download and install the free TiVo Publisher software on my PC. While locating and importing tracks and particularly images was somewhat inelegant in this new application, once properly loaded, it performed quite enjoyably.
I named my music and photo collections, and I could easily select individual files via onscreen menus. I could play photos as a slideshow, and all pertinent song info is presented as a screensaver, since all of the ID tags are carried over from the PC. In addition, TiVo proactively downloaded an assortment of recent pop-music tracks to my hard drive for free from TiVo partner BestBuy.com, and I was treated to a private exhibition of professional photographs courtesy of Nikon.
To the Net!
Users can schedule recordings online, as the TiVo Website offers the freedom to search TV listings (by title, description, or actor/director, plus an advanced search by category and genre), browse by channel, and set up a Season Pass, specifying recording quality and priority—all with the ease of your computer's mouse and keyboard interface. This is a good idea, since the process mostly involves clicking and dragging. You just need to set up a password-protected account at TiVo.com, and you can even request a confirmation e-mail of successful scheduling, including notification of potential conflicts. If you opt out of the e-mail, such messages still appear on the T2500.
It's certainly not necessary to connect the T2500 to the Internet to take advantage of TiVo's Online Scheduling, but it does improve the experience by providing much faster access to your changes as little as one hour before airtime, versus a 36-hour safety buffer if your TiVo still uses dialup. Scheduling directly via the unit itself is still considered the most reliable method. For example, TiVo Online Central sometimes listed programs not available as part of my selected channel lineup, which can lead to potential disappointment.
I poked around the online offerings, saw some new shows I liked, and grabbed them all, even setting up a Season Pass for another series while I was there. Sure enough, scant minutes later, I saw that my To Do List had been properly updated, with specific summaries in my Messages area; later, the T2500 recorded the programs without a hitch. One other major feature of TiVo Series2 is Multi-Room Viewing, the ability to watch content from one TiVo box on another box in a different room, if you have multiple TiVos connected to a wired or wireless home network. Alas, my insistent requests for a dozen T2500s, to properly test the networking, were met with polite stares.
After days of recording around the clock, which led to some embarrassed explanations to my wife as to a couple of my hasty "whatever's on" late-night selections (ah, Cinemax) and with TiVo Suggestions left on, I still felt as though I hadn't made so much as a dent in the 250 GB at my disposal. I was most assuredly never asked to delete anything for the sake of space.
I captured the majority of my recordings at the Best quality setting, although I can't say that I'm impressed with the image delivered by the T2500: Perhaps owing to the re-encoding of the previously digital satellite picture, compression artifacting was blatant on many soft textures, while blacks, in particular, revealed harsh geometric activity introduced by the encode/decode process. Bright scenes with little movement fared better, even at medium quality—often displaying the subtle filmlike traits of the original program—so the T2500's performance seems unfortunately tied to the characteristics of the content it records.
The Humax T2500's true strength surely resides in its roomy hard drive, coupled with its support of the latest TiVo networking features, although a sharper picture would be nice, and component video/digital audio outputs might be worthwhile additions. Perhaps the ideal consumer here might be someone looking to finally take the TiVo plunge for an affordable $699, with up to 302 recordable hours to help him or her celebrate their newfound TV independence. Hopefully, that consumer buys popcorn wholesale.
• A nigh-incredible 250-gigabyte hard drive inside
• TiVo Series2 hardware runs the latest software for advanced networking features