Design and interface
It's safe to say that judges for design awards can skip right past this product, for the 7170 is a pleasant-looking device, but no more. The anonymous black shell is dressed up, slightly, by a faux-glass front complete with chromed buttons, and an electric-blue light encircling the power button when the unit's in standby mode. Hiding underneath a rubber flap is a USB port.
Out the back, there's a decent suite of inputs and outputs accompanying the antenna in and out jacks. On the input ledger, there's a port each for eSATA, USB and Ethernet connections. Outbound, there's composite, component, digital audio, coaxial and HDMI ports.
If you've used an older Topfield PVR or set-top box and were left underwhelmed by the interface, the TRF-7170 sports a more modern iteration that's recognisably Topfield, but substantially better. There are, however, a lot of advanced functions that are buried around the place. For instance, the coloured function buttons at the bottom of the remote allow for bookmarking and editing of recordings, but quite how these things are achieved are impossible to decipher without the aid of the manual.
The main menu is split up into Recording, Entertainment, Settings, Installation and Information. In Recording, you'll naturally find everything that you've recorded, as well as a link to the electronic program guide (EPG) and anything that you've programmed.
Unfortunately, loading the list of recorded programs takes a little longer than it should, especially for large collections, as the unit crunches away at its hard disk every single time you jump into the list. Also, it's impossible to select multiple files to delete, which can be a pain if you're trying to free up space in a hurry, or attempting to rid yourself of a series that's failed to live up to expectations.
Blessed with two tuners, the 7170 is able to record two networks at once. Indeed, it's able to record up to four separate streams at once while you watch a fifth. So, for example, you can record 7Two, 7mate, Gem and Nine simultaneously, while watching Seven or Go live. As this Topfield can handle MPEG4, you can also get your fix of Psychic TV on TV4.