CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Topfield TFP20 review: Topfield TFP20

As a portable media player, the Topfield TFP20 is one of the most fully featured and best-performing units currently out in Australia.

Randolph Ramsay
Randolph was previously a member of the CNET Australia team and now works for Gamespot.
Randolph Ramsay
5 min read

The Topfield TFP20 is the Johnny Cash of portable video players. Completely clad in a cool reflective black, the TFP20 manages to look stylish despite having a fairly utilitarian rectangular design. A few bits of silver are the only things that break up the monotone, which can mostly be found on the unit's navigation keys. The keys are arrayed logically on the TFP20's right side, with the four-inch widescreen taking up the majority of the real estate on the unit's front.


Topfield TFP20

The Good

Excellent list of features. Can play a wide variety of media in a host of formats. Bright and impressive looking LCD screen. Decent battery life. Easy navigation and file transfer process.

The Bad

Shiny design a smudge magnet. Screen not flush with edges of unit. No way to set recording quality.

The Bottom Line

As a portable media player, the Topfield TFP20 is one of the most fully featured and best-performing units currently out in Australia.

The top edge of the TFP20 (nearest the edge of the screen) houses all of the unit's various inputs and outputs. The other end of the device has a curved edge -- which is the TFP20's only real acknowledgment to form or style. The TFP20 feels quite good in the hand -- its weight of 270g gives it a solid heft without being too heavy, while its dimensions of 139mm by 73mm by 23mm means it fits well in the hand. It's obviously a little big to be jammed into pockets, but that's a sacrifice we're sure most users will be willing to make in exchange for a larger screen.

As an overall package the TFP20 scores high on looks, although we do have a couple of concerns. Firstly, the shiny plastic casing is fingerprint nirvana -- there'll be smudges galore on the unit within minutes of taking it out of its case. Secondly, the screen is sunk into the unit by a couple of millimetres. This may not initially seem like a big deal, but we found that after prolonged use dust started to gather right at the edges -- dust that wasn't particularly easy to get rid of.

Thankfully, the TFP20 comes with a drawstring case, which should help keep dirt off the video player -- at least for the first few days. Also included in the box is a small remote control, pair of black headphones, an AV Out cable, Line Out cable, charger and USB cable.

The TFP20 is about as full featured a portable media player as you're likely to get. This little device can play a wide variety of video and music formats, display digital images and text , as well as directly record audio/video straight from source devices such as televisions, CD players or DVD players.

On the video side of the equation, this Topfield unit can play AVI, MPG, ASF and WMV file formats, and supports MPEG1, MPEG2, DivX3.1/4.xx/5xx, Xvid, ISO MPEG4 SP/ASP and WMV9 codecs. Missing are QuickTime or Real formats, but the list is comprehensive enough to be compatible with the majority of video you probably have stored on your PC. Music is equally format-friendly -- MP3, WMA, WAV, AC3, AAC and even OGG are supported, which means the TFP20 will be able to play almost any music file you can throw at it. For images, the Topfield is compatible with JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF and PNG files.

All of this multimedia goodness is displayed on a bright four-inch 16:9 screen. The screen itself has a resolution of 480x272 pixels and can display 16 million colours. The unit features 10 levels of adjustable brightness, with the brightest setting good enough for viewing in relatively well lit rooms.

As well as playing media, the TFP20 also has plenty of recording functionality. The unit has a built-in microphone which allows it to be used as a voice recorder. Better still is an AV-In port which can be used to transfer songs directly from an external source, such as a television or DVD player. Audio files taken from external sources are recorded in MP3 format, while videos are saved as AVI files using DivX 5.0 codec.

The TFP20 unit we tested came with a 20GB hard drive, which Topfield claims is beefy enough for 400 hours of movies, 10,000 MP3s and 100,000 photos. Topfield also says the unit is good enough for six hours worth of video playback on a full charge, although we had a bit less than that in our testing (we're guessing mainly due to the high brightness we had the screen on at most times).

Navigation is almost always where portable media players fail to impress, but thankfully the Topfield TFP20 is an exception. The menu system is kept simple and relatively clutter free. Similar to a PSP's horizontal menu, the TFP20's main screen features its list of functions broken down into movies, music, photos, text, options and record. Users simply press left or right on the unit's circular navigation pad to choose an option. The pad's middle button acts as the confirmation key. Once within a sub-menu, users once again navigate using the control pad until they find the appropriate media file they want to play. The TFP20's Menu button acts as a context-sensitive options key. Press it while in music playback and a menu with equalizer and shuffle settings will appear -- press it while watching a video and settings for screen brightness and captions will appear.

Transferring files to and from the TFP20 is easy, although the process is done manually as opposed to having any sort of auto-synching facility built-in. Plug in the TFP20 via USB into your PC and the unit will appear as another attached device. To transfer files, users simply need to drag them into pre-made folders on the TFP20 (videos into the movie folder, music into the music one, and so on). Once placed in the TFP20, the files will automatically appear under their respective menu headings -- incompatible files will simply not show up. The same drag-and-drop principle also works for any media you may have recorded using the TFP20 and you now want to transfer onto your PC.

So that's pluses for navigation and file transfer -- how does it stack up when it comes to the most important factor, playback quality? Make that three out of three for the Topfield -- videos, music and images simply look and sound great when played on the TFP20. Videos look sharp when played back on the TFP20's impressive screen -- it shows up plenty of detail even in dark scenes, and handles fast moving images with aplomb. Images ripped from DVDs or TV look especially good -- we tested the unit with some scenes from the film Constantine, and it replayed them with no problems. The dark, fast moving images in the nigh time bug creature attack sequence was handled well, as were the bright colours of the Papa Midnight club scene.

Audio was similarly pleasing. The TFP20 can pump out a decent amount of volume through its headphones (and surprisingly through its built-in speaker as well), and while music sometimes sounded a little hollow, the unit has comprehensive individual equaliser settings for users to tweak to their preferences.

We do have one minor concern, however, and it's to do with the TFP20's record settings. There doesn't seem to be any way of setting quality settings when recording onto the unit -- you're stuck with one default, which is unfortunate if you're willing to sacrifice a little sound or image quality in order to squeeze more media onto the Topfield.

As a portable media player, the Topfield TFP20 is one of the most fully-featured and best performing units currently out in Australia. Its price tag of AU$799 may be a barrier to some though, as products like Creative's Zen Vision M has similar functionality for a much lower price.