When we reviewed the Humax DTR-T1000 YouView digital video recorder in August last year it was like discovering a fully stocked bar in the middle of a desert oasis. For the first time you could watch and record your favourite Freeview shows and get video on demand via broadband all in one package. And it only cost £299. Brilliant.
Now just eight months and a price drop later and its successor - the Humax DTR-T1010 - is here and we're at a bit of a loss to explain why. The only really new feature, if you can call it that, is a mirrored silver finish fascia which replaces the gloss black look of the old one. Ho-hum.
On the plus side, the Humax DTR-T1010 does look good in its new garb and it still has all the things we loved about its predecessor first time around, so why should you pick up the new one? Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Since the Humax DTR-T1010 is essentially a younger, better-looking version of its older brother, there's little here to surprise you from last year. You still get a choice of 500GB (£279, from Humax direct) or 1TB (£299, ditto) models for recording your favourite TV shows on to the built-in hard disk drive, and the unit still has the same complement of connections at the back with HDMI, scart and composite video outputs for TV pictures and a choice analogue or digital optical audio outputs for sound.
The DTR-T1010 also includes an RF aerial loop-through, of course, and there's an ethernet port so you can hookup the box to your internet router so you can access video-on-demand services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 as well as Sky's Now TV movie rental service. You'll also find two USB ports - one behind a fold-down flap on the front, and another on the rear although both can only be used for diagnostics and servicing, which is disappointing.
Unfortunately Humax has missed a trick (again) by still not including Wi-Fi, but at least the company has remained faithful to its predecessor's highly praised remote: it's wide, relatively flat and with well-spaced buttons, making it easy to find your way around. The YouView button, which gives you access to the DTR-T1010's settings and user menus, is sensibly located near the middle of the remote and is picked out in blue, making it very hard to miss.
And don't forget if you own an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch you can also download the free YouView app, which enables you to make recordings remotely just as you can with the Sky+ equivalent.
As for the new front silver finish front panel, we like it. It looks classy with a big white LED display on the left and an illuminated 4-way cursor control on the front. The lights can't be swiched off or dimmed, unfortunately. Humax has also ditched the four physical playback buttons that were on the front of the old model too, making you more reliant on the supplied remote control.
Usability and performance
It's very rare for any product to withstand the weight of expectation thrust upon it, but that's exactly what happened when YouView made its debut in the Humax DTR-T1000 last year. Right from the get-go, it proved simple and easy to setup and a pleasure to use - and nothing has changed for the DTR-T1010 version - and that's a good thing.
Once you've plugged the DTR-T1010 into your TV and Wi-Fi router, it runs through a pre-launch check to make sure everything is connected properly and from then on using the YouView system is a breeze. Press the blue YouView button and a black-and-blue pops up on the bottom of your TV screen to reveal your YouView options from simply watching live TV broadcasts to poring over the clear on-screen guide and even making or scheduling recordings.
The only bit that feels remotely clunky are the video-on-demand and catch-up TV services, which are stored under the On Demand menu tab. Fire up BBC iPlayer, for example, and you're taken out of UI environment and plopped straight into another, something that casual users may find a bit jarring. Luckily, the 4-way cursor controls on the remote still make it easy to find your way around, although sometimes you can find yourself accidentally exiting one of the players or selecting something you don't want - until you get used to at least.
Like its predecessor, the Humax DTR-T1010 comes into its own when making recordings. Not only is it easy to record what you're watching and schedule recordings using the built-in TV guide or the one in the iOS app, you can also make two recordings on two different channels simultaneously and then watch another programme either on catch-up TV or from a recording you made earlier. It's having exactly this kind of power - and choice - on YouView that makes it so rewarding to use.
Picture and sound
It's a similar story when it comes to the DTR-T1010's sound and picture quality. Standard definition broadcast television is never going to look brilliant when compared to proper HD, but the DTR-T-1010's does a good job of upscaling it so it's watchable, while the proper HD channels (BBC HD, BBC One HD, etc) look and sound great. The only real downer is lack of HD channel choices when compared to Sky - but at least you have the option of watching Sky movies and - eventually - Sky Sports on the Now TV portal.
Well, this is a weird one to be sure. Humax has launched a new version of the YouView box it only launched eight months ago - and scarcely anything about it has changed. If you own the original DTR-T1000, we can't think of a single reason why you would want to upgrade to this one, but at least Humax hasn't managed to break what was so brilliant about the original either.
YouView continues to be very good thing indeed for those of us who don't want a regular pay TV subscription - and that makes the Humax DTR-1010 still incredible value for money despite the £279 / £299 price tag.