There are various ways to watch TV on your iOS device, or Android phone or tablet but there aren’t any that match the simplicity or convenience of Freeview on a normal TV.
The Humax Tivizen aims to help with that, offering a DVB-T (read Freeview) receiver that collects TV signals and packages them up for transmission over Wi-Fi to your iPod, iPad, iPhone or certain Android phones and tablets.
It’s a good idea, but we’ve seen good ideas that haven’t been so great in practice before. So how does the Humax stack-up?
About the size of a credit card – but a fair bit thicker – the Humax Tivizen is compact enough to slip in a jacket or bag and take anywhere with you.
There’s a thin, and quite fragile-feeling antenna that slides out of the body. This is important, as the Humax isn’t the best at picking up weak Freeview signals, so you’ll need to have it deployed as far as possible. It’s very flexible though, so wherever you put the device won’t affect how you can point the aerial.
On the bottom of the tuner there’s a small flap, under which is a USB socket, to charge the receiver. You can do this via a PC, and it can continue to do its thing when it’s plugged in, which means you can extend the battery life by connecting it to a USB power pack or to a PC.
The battery is hidden inside and can be accesed via a sliding cover. It’s a bit tricky to get this off, but as you’ll never really need to do that, we don’t see it as being a big problem.
Freeview over Wi-Fi
The Tivizen is a simple enough device. It’s got a built-in DVB-T tuner – not the new DVB-T2, so don’t expect HD channels on your iPad 3! It decodes these TV signals, then pumps them back out to your iPod, iPhone, iPad or Android device. It’s simple, but clever.
To achieve this, connect to a Wi-Fi network broadcast from the Tivizen and start an app – free in both Apple and Android app stores. From there, a simple tune-in process takes place, and you’re up and running. It sounds simple, and it is.
To get up and running, turn the device on with the side-mounted power button. A couple of seconds later and it bursts in to life. There is some light flashing during this process, but soon enough it has created a Wi-Fi network to which you must connect.
And that’s where we reach our first minor grumble. To connect to the Tivizen’s Wi-Fi network means that you’ll lose access to the internet. Most phones aren’t smart enough to switch from a poor Wi-Fi network to a stronger mobile connection and you’ll lose phone updates from email and social media.
We also found that not all channels were tuned in. This is because only very strong signals are received. Not all Freeview multiplexes are broadcast on the same power, and that can mean some channels are unavailable. You can help this process by having the device in a good signal area when you tune it in.
Keeping us appy
Humax really sells this device as an iOS companion. With good reason, because it’s compatible with all the major Apple devices, all the way back to the iPhone 3G. Which is quite impressive. We tested it with an iPod Touch 4th-generation player, and it worked a treat.
The iOS app is very good indeed. Upon booting for the first time, you’ll be asked to scan for channels. It’s well worth getting yourself outside or somewhere with a good TV signal for this, as the channel list won’t include weak channels, and won’t be changed until you re-scan.
When you first load the app, TV will appear in a small window, with available channels listed below. Turn the device to landscape mode, and you’ll see the picture on the left, and channels listed on the right. It’s also possible to get programme information in this way.
The Android app is a little bit more messy. TV plays only in landscape mode for one, and there’s no preview while you’re scanning through the channel list. It’s not dreadful, though, and the app seems as fast and responsive as the iOS version. There’s EPG info too, if you tap the screen when the TV is playing, but again this works only in portrait mode. A bit silly, but not devastating.
The Android app doesn’t work on a huge number of devices either, at least not officially. The Samsung Galaxy S II is supported, as are the Galaxy Nexus and Note, but that’s it for the official Android devices.
Overall, we loved the picture quality we got from the Tivizen. The picture is sharp and has plenty of colour. In a decent signal it’s reasonably free of break-up, although noise from other electric devices can create a problem.
The Wi-Fi signal it transmits is strong too, so you can put the device in one room, and sit in another watching TV. This is handy if you’re able to get a signal only in one single spot in your house.
Of course, if you put too much distance between you and the receiver, then you’ll likely have signal problems with the Wi-Fi network too, and that could create extra break-up in images. We certainly found that a problem if we pushed our luck.
Overall though, the picture and sound were great, and on an iPad you’d have a really very nice viewing experience. On a phone or iPod, we have to say the image is a little small, but then we’re used to watching TV on a 50-inch plasma, so we would say that.
We like the Tivizen quite a bit. We’re not sure how useful it will be, but if you spend a lot of time out and about with nothing to do, or you’re a taxi driver in London who likes to watch TV while waiting for your next fare, then this is very likely to appeal.
We can see kids loving it when on holiday with their parents somewhere boring, but they’ll need to be in a good signal area before they’ll see very much of anything.
But if you can see yourself using it, we think the implementation here is good. The apps are simple and easy to use and the device is very straightforward, once you’ve connected to its little Wi-Fi network.
It is a little expensive, but not earth-shatteringly so. However you look at it, it does what it’s supposed to and it does it with a good-quality picture. A thumbs up from us.