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Topfield TF7000HDPVRt review: Topfield TF7000HDPVRt

It's taken a while for Topfield to actually release an HD model of its popular PVR line. The TF7000HDPVRt is finally here - but the lack of networking support seriously detracts from what is otherwise an excellent PVR.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
4 min read

The TF7000HDPVRt is available in either a black or silver body finish, although the front faceplate is black in either case. Our review sample was the black model and if there's one design implementation that Topfield's made that improves the overall Topfield experience, it's in the snappy slimline design of this particular PVR.


Topfield TF7000HDPVRt

The Good

Looks great. Smaller remote. Can update ICEGuide via USB flash drive. Faster channel switching time.

The Bad

Lacks WiFi connection for EPG updates. USB port is on the back of the system. No more TAP support.

The Bottom Line

It's taken a while for Topfield to actually release an HD model of its popular PVR line. The TF7000HDPVRt is finally here - but the lack of networking support seriously detracts from what is otherwise an excellent PVR.

Front controls on the TF7000HDPVRt comprise channel, volume and an oddly squishy power button. At the rear, you'll find audio and video connectors, covering the spectrum from simple composite up to HDMI, as well as a single USB port.

The TF7000HDPVRt's remote is short and has the same glossy black finish as the unit itself. It's noticeably smaller than Topfield remotes of the past have been, although it contains the same basic feature set, albeit with many of the buttons in different places.

Like the TF6000PVRt and TF5000PVRt, the TF7000HDPVRt is a Personal Video Recorder, designed to record free-to-air digital TV signals. Like its predecessors, the TF7000HDPVRt records directly to an internal hard disk; in the TF7000HDPVRt's case it's a 250GB model. Owing to the format that Topfield PVRs record in, that doesn't give you as many hours as you might expect from say, a hard disk equipped DVD-recorder; 250GB in Topfield's recording format gives you around 70 hours worth of SD recording or around 30 hours of HD.

Where the TF7000HDPVRt differs from its predecessors is in the inclusion of dual high definition tuners; previous models have been limited to standard definition watching and recording only. The practical upshot of this is that you can watch and record all the high definition content currently broadcast in Australia. The downside here is that current HD programming (outside of imported American shows) is thin on the ground, a fact highlighted by the fact that Kerri Anne's morning show is currently broadcast in HD. Does anyone need that?

As much as we like the addition of HD tuners, in several other respects the TF7000HDPVRt is a lesser PVR than its predecessors. The previous model, the TF6000PVRt featured wireless networking support, meaning you could set it to automatically update the EPG with no user intervention, and both the TF6000PVRt and TF5000PVRt offered direct connection to a PC via USB for program updates, as well as adding in new functionality via Topfield's TAP program system.

The TF7000HDPVRt has no network connection whatsoever; you can't program it to perform extra tasks, which has always been a big plus for Topfield's PVRs in the past, and you can't pull programming off the TF7000HDPVRt either. It also means that despite having dual HD support, the TF7000HDPVRt lags behind both the PVR and Media Centre pack in terms of streaming media and even updating the EPG. ICEGuide is supported, but the only way to upgrade it is via a USB flash stick. This does have an upside - the ICE TV guide files are just a text file, and as such you can download it easily from OS X or even Linux if you like, something that's not been easily accomplished in the past. There's a significant downside here, however, as the USB port on the TF7000HDPVRt is at the rear of the unit. If you've got it sitting in an entertainment unit, it's difficult to get to it.

In the PVR market, we've always liked Topfield's approach to TV watching, and in most respects the TF7000HDPVRt meets our expectations well. HD broadcast quality was excellent, and once we'd set up ICEGuide, it all worked smoothly during our test period.

Topfield boasts that the channel switching time has been drastically reduced - down to less than a second - and indeed the TF7000HDPVRt does surf channels that bit faster than many other solutions, including most of the media centres we've tested. If you're a compulsive channel flipper, you may find this a godsend. If you're the significant other of a compulsive channel flipper, the TF7000HDPVRt might just be grounds for a divorce.

Topfield PVRs have benefited from being ahead of the pack for some time, given that they've offered dual TV tuners in a world where most PVRs and Media Centres only offered single tuners. Those competitors - especially in the Media Centre space - have largely caught up to Topfield, and the delay in bringing an HD model to market means that Topfield is playing in a far more level playing ground this time round. There's plenty to like about the TF7000HDPVRt - the design style is pleasing to the eye, the smaller remote is easier to use and the fast channel switching works well.

It's just that the TF7000HDPVRt isn't the only PVR worth watching any more. In a world of AppleTVs, improved Media Centres and even a number of brand-name (and imported) PVRs offering more, the TF7000HDPVRt is something of an also-ran prospect.