Humax Aura 4K Freeview Play

The Humax Aura is a smart set-top box based on the Android TV platform (v9 aka Pie) with a Freeview Play tuner. It’s a combo we haven’t seen before from Humax, but it surely won’t be the last. Fast and feature-packed, the Aura represents something of a second coming for the humble PVR (Personal Video Recorder), effortlessly bridging the gap between classic time-shifter and contemporary media streamer.

Having Android on board means access to the Google Play store, as well as Chromecast built-in and Google Assistant voice control. The PVR’s voice-recognition is well executed, with reliable results.  

Beneath the lid are three digital tuners, which means you can record up to four programmes at once, while watching an additional live channel.  

Overall operation is slick, with speedy navigation and a responsive interface. Long story short? This is Humax’s best PVR to date.

Price and availability

The Aura is available in two hard drive configurations, either 1TB or 2TB. There are no plans for a 500GB version, so don’t hang fire for a cheaper edition. The two versions boast 250 and 500 hours of HD capacity respectively, and sell for £249 and £279. 

Humax Aura

(Image credit: Humax)

Design and features

  • HDMI 2.1 output
  • Compact, circular profile 
  • Freeview Play and Google Assistant

The Aura is compact, with rounded edges and a gloss-black plastic finish. It isn’t as wide as the Sky Q box, and it features everyday controls for power, volume and channel selection on top, if you misplace the zapper.

Connections include a single HDMI 2.1 port, optical digital audio output, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB ports (one v3.0), plus terrestrial aerial loop-through. The Wi-Fi is dual band (2.4/5 GHz).

There’s a media player baked in with support for h.265, VP8, VP9, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2  file formats, plus M-JPEG, MPEG-4 and WVM9/VC1 encodes.

The Bluetooth remote control comes with shortcut buttons for Freeview Play, Prime Video, Google Assistant – and the box’s dedicated Kids’ Zone, which is one of the box’s big USPs. A remote designed purely for younger viewers would have been a welcome inclusion, though.

Humax Aura specs

HDD sizes: 1TB or 2TB | Tuner: Freeview Play| 4K: Yes | HDR: Yes | Smart platform: Yes, Android|  Wi-Fi: Yes, dual band | Dimensions: 258(w) x 43(h) x 200(d)mm | Weight: 764g | Inputs: 1xHDMI 2.1, 2xUSB, Ethernet, optical audio

The Humax box benefits from all the usual Freeview Play functions, such as a retrospective TV guide with integrated mainstream catch-up players including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5, plus Freeview Play curated highlights. There’s also UKTV Play, CBS Catchup, Horror Bites, STV Player and BBC Sounds on board, along with a library of on-demand content from the Freeview archives.

Driving everything along is a quad core 1.8GHz Arm Cortex processor.

As we’re in the Android universe here, there’s also access to the Google Play store, which means plenty of options for streaming services. Amazon Prime Video is native to the box, as you might imagine given its presence on the remote, but you can also download Disney Plus, BT Sport, Google Play Movies and plenty more.

However, notable by its absence is Netflix. Humax is acutely aware of this hole in its streaming service armoury, and we’re told discussions are ongoing – but as yet there’s nothing to report.

One feature that will certainly be appreciated by parents with little ones to amuse is the aforementioned Kid’s Zone. This is a content-protected area with a cheerful UI that allows kids and parents to browse together for things to watch. Helpfully, thumbnails have clearly marked running times.

The Kid’s Zone offers live as well as on-demand content, and has its own age-appropriate search function.  

Overall usability is excellent. The main Freeview Play home page sports a banner with access to curated Top Picks, TV Guide, and recordings, while the Android TV home page is no different from what we’ve seen on Android TVs, and features rails with apps and channels.

The set-top box also supports the downloading of recorded shows to a mobile device, using the Humax Aura app. And the app can be used to schedule new recordings, as well as stream from one box when the two are on the same home network. 

Humax Aura

(Image credit: Humax)

Performance

  • 4K HDR streaming 
  • BBC iPlayer HLG support
  • Generous recording option

As you’d hope for with any PVR, recorded image quality is transparent to source. That means linear HD channels look crisp and detailed, with bit-starved SD channels a little more bleary around the edges. The recording accurately reflects both, for good or ill.

The Aura is 4K HDR10-enabled, but you won’t find any 4K content to watch or record on the Freeview platform. Thankfully, you will find it on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video – and it looks excellent. Prime Video’s The Grand Tour proves a fine showcase for superb detail and dynamic snap. The iPlayer app on-board is also 4K HDR HLG-compatible.

Hard drive provision is generous, but once you start series-linking, capacity will soon dwindle. The Aura has three digital tuners, which at best allows you to record up to four programmes simultaneously while watching an additional live channel (this might vary on a regional basis, depending on the channels being recorded).  

Humax Aura

(Image credit: Humax)

Sound

  • Dolby Audio with Dolby Atmos
  • DTS:X pass-through over HDMI

The Aura wouldn’t pass muster as a home cinema component if it didn’t offer audio commensurate with its 4K HDR performance. Thankfully, that’s what we get. The set-top box will pass through Dolby Atmos from supporting apps and content over HDMI.

Connect the Aura to either an Atmos-enabled soundbar or home cinema AV receiver via HDMI and you’ll hear the benefits of immersive audio from Prime Video shows with Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

Operating noise is whisper-quiet. There’s an internal fan but it’s barely audible, and it certainly isn’t noticeable when you’ve got Jack Ryan going full pelt.

Should I buy the Humax Aura set-top box?

Humax Aura

(Image credit: Humax)

Buy it if...

You want Freeview Play
If you’re upgrading from a non-smart Freeview PVR and want the benefits of Freeview Play catch-up TV, this is set-top box for you.

You want a safe, child-friendly streaming interface
With the Humax Aura's dedicated Kids Zone, you can leave your young'uns in front the television without fear.

You want premium recording features
The Humax Aura supports the downloading of recorded shows to a mobile device – and the Humax app can be used to schedule new recordings, as well as stream from one box when the two are on the same home network. 

Don’t buy it if…

You want to watch Netflix
The streaming giant isn’t yet available on the Humax Aura platform, marking quite a notable absence in its app support.

If a streaming media device without the overhead of a hard drive better suits your needs.

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