Some time ago when I got my Vantage HD6000T/NZ, I posted my walkthrough of the receiver as I was so impressed. It was one of the best receivers I saw and I believe it is still the best among its class. I now have a new receiver Homecast HT9200DTR which is an official Freeview receiver which fully supports the Freeview guide and series link. It can record two channels at once and will allow watching a recorded program at the same time. My Vantage is still used occasionally for recording when there are programme clashes. The HT9200DTR looks quite straight forward but is quite complex once I dug deeper. I have had it for a few months and I think I have mastered it enough to write about it.
Homecast HT9200DTR Walkthrough
The HT9200DTR attaches to a UHF antenna and includes a loop through connection to allow your antenna signal to pass through to other devices supporting analogue services. Internally, it has two tuners but you see only one UHF antenna input and one UHF antenna output.
It is simple to set up, plug in your UHF antenna and connect to your TV via HDMI cable supplied with the receiver. The initial menu will ask you what type of TV and connection you are using and will attempt to select the best video resolution on your TV. It is great to see that Homecast has put this extra bit of effort to make sure the customer is getting the best picture possible.
The HT9200DTR is a high definition receiver and high definition (720P or 1080i) is only available via HDMI. If your TV does not have HDMI, then connect it via Component (Red, Blue, Green). If your TV does not have HDMI and Component inputs, you can still get a good picture out of the Composite (Red, White, Yellow) output.
The HT9200DTR offers sound via analogue and digital outputs. For digital outputs, it offers Optical and HDMI. Dolby Digital is pass-through only so either your amplifier or your television is required to decode Dolby Digital audio. The default setup automatically selects the Dolby Digital track when it is available so if you change to TV3 which transmits a Dolby Digital track, the HT9200DTR will automatically select it. I believe this is done to ensure the best soundtrack is available by default. It works great for me as my amplifier does the switching seamlessly. I am using the optical output to my amplifier but if your amplifier supports HDMI then you can use HDMI to your amplifier and turn on Dolby Digital via HDMI in the settings.
The Homecast HT9200DTR will automatically tune in the channels during installation. Once you have selected your TV and connection type, the channels will be tuned in automatically. After this, there is no need to worry and any new channels will automatically be detected and tuned in. If you desire, you can also manually tune in your channels by entering the transmitter frequency or UHF channel the transmitter is transmitting on, or, by selecting which transmitter your antenna is pointing to (Region Search). The HT9200DTR will also automatically accept software updates available through transmission. It is called OTA software upgrade.
The front panel has a nice soft bluish white display, a fully functional click control knob and a magnetic flap that conceals one of the many USB ports. It looks like Homecast has paid quite a lot of attention to the appearance of the receiver. The click knob has many features from setting the volume to selecting items on the menu. I was surprised at how many functions the knob was assigned to. The blue light on the click knob blends well with soft bluish white display which shows the channel information, programme playback information and several other status indicator symbols indicating how much HDD space used, recording and time shifting. I thought the magnetic front panel flap was a great thought and shows how much attention Homecast paid to the development of this receiver.
The remote looks very elegant with nice silver coloured sides. The button layout I think can be improved. However, I like the two buttons which I mostly use, "REC LIST" to list what is planned to record and "PLAY LIST" to list what is recorded. I have found these two buttons very handy to have and allow easy access to my recordings. The remote is not a touch sensitive remote so requires buttons to be pressed firmly.
The Homecast HT9200DTR menu is quite simple and easy to navigate. There are two buttons on the remote OPT and A/V+ which allow selection of Video Format, Audio Tracks, Teletext and Subtitles. The HT9200DTR has a TV/Radio button which alternates between TV channels and Radio channels. There is a LIST button which lists all the channels tuned. The INFO button shows information on current TV programme and the EPG button brings up the Freeview EPG.
Recording via the Freeview EPG is very simple. Navigate to the programme you want to record and press the "Red" button. If the programme being recorded is part of a series, a question will be asked to record the series. If confirmed, then the programme will record as a series and an "S" will appear next to it. If it is not a series record, then, an "R" will appear next to the programme being recorded.
The "REC LIST" button can be used to view all programmes set to record. It is all neatly laid out and shows the type, date, time, channel and programme being recorded. A list of buttons shown below on this allows management of this list.
The "PLAY LIST" button brings up all the recorded programmes. There are a set of buttons shown below that allow management of this list. These include sort, rename, delete etc. Pressing the INFO button on the recorded programme shows further information including the synopsis.
The HT9200DTR allows two channels to be recording simultaneously. If there is a clash, a message is displayed. It also allows playback of a recorded programme while recording of channels. The live caching allows rewind, live pause and fast forward. All this, the HT9200DTR does with ease. However, at times when two recordings are active, I have found performance of the Freeview EPG is slower.
Playing back your recordings is simple. Press the "PLAY LIST" button and a list of all the recorded programs will appear. A status such as "Recorded" and "Viewed" is displayed against each recording. The HT9200DTR will also allow playing back of a currently recording program. This means that you do not have to wait for a recording to be completed before you can watch it. You can also stop in the middle of a playback and resume from where you left. The HT9200DTR also allows quick jumps into the program you want to watch. Press the 0 button and it moves to 0%, pressing the 1 button will move to 10% and so on to 9 which will move to 90%. The MARK button will allow you to set jumpmarks and the JUMP button will move between jumpmarks. The jumpmarks set will be saved for later use.
The Homecast HT9200DTR has 4 x USB ports and one Ethernet port. Unfortunately, for New Zealand customers, all these ports are restricted. The USB ports only allow firmware upgrades. The ethernet port is disabled. Homecast have marked these as future expansion. I have managed to create a workaround that will allow me to temporarily use these ports and transfer recordings I want to keep. My solution is posted in the Geekzone forum.
Inside the Homecast HT9200DTR is a 500GB SATA HDD and attached to the side of it is a fan which cools the unit. It is an extremely quiet fan and most of the noise is from the HDD. The hardware looks well built. The power supply, main board and front panel boards are separate units.
The HT9200DTR is a full sized component. It is the same width as my amplifier and sits nicely in my cabinet symmetrical with other units. The HT9200DTR can also be hidden inside a cabinet. It comes with a remote control extension cable which can be used to send signals back to the HT9200DTR. I experimented with this feature and found that the HT9200DTR really has to be hidden for the remote extension unit to work properly. It looks like the receiver tries to process two IR signals together if the receiver is in view of the remote control and response is very slow. Maybe Homecast should disable the front IR when the IR extension plug is connected.
Accessories supplied with the Homecast HT9200DTR include a user manual, fully functional remote with two batteries, HDMI cable, component cable, composite cable and external remote control sensor with cable.
Developed and manufactured in Korea, the HT9200DTR has been a very reliable performer for me. The plus point of this receiver is that it is very simple and easy to use. It is designed to record and playback HD TV programmes and it does it well with simplicity and ease.