Topfield TBF-7120 Pack

The Topfield TBF-7120 Pack is one of the cheapest PVRs we've seen yet, and while it lacks dual-tuner recording it's not bad for the price.


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Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury


So, if you're looking to replace your decrepit VCR you need to pay about AU$600 for a Personal Video Recorder right? Well, not any more. While Kogan has undercut everyone with its AU$99 model, Topfield has released its own budget PVR in the Topfield TBF-7120 pack. The TBF-7120 was a set-top box that enabled users to plug in their own hard drive and use it as a PVR, and now the company has bundled the machine with a hard drive for the same price.

Design and features

The TBF-7120 is a single-tuner set-top box, which usually means you can only watch or record one channel at a time, but thanks to some wizardry on Topfield's behalf you can now watch a different channel on the same "stream" as the one you are recording. For instance, if you're taping Nine HD you will be able to watch Go or Nine SD as well. While not as flexible as a dual-tuner set-up, it's not a bad stop-gap solution. You also have the option of turning Time Shift on or off — so you can pause and rewind live TV — though you will lose this ability if you're also recording something.

The TBF-7120 is a bare-bones set-top box (STB) and so perhaps not the most stylish unit around. It's a black oblong featuring a green, four-character LED readout and a bright blue power button on the front.

The hard drive itself is fairly nondescript with a small plastic stand and the Topfield logo printed on it. The drive has a 320GB capacity and links to the STB via the single USB on the backside of the unit. You'll also need a spare power point to power the drive.

The PVR is Freeview compliant, which means that there's no 30-second skip, and you're limited to 6x fast-forward and 3x rewind. However, there is also MPEG-4 compatibility for if and when Australia ever moves to a better broadcast standard.

For your AV needs the outputs include HDMI, component, composite and digital optical.

Performance

If you've ever used a Topfield PVR then you should be familiar with the way the TBF-7120 works. The EPG and main menu are identical to other models in the company's line, and while the EPG in particular is not the easiest to navigate it's still better than most. When we first started testing the device we came across an odd quirk, if you forward through the EPG and one of the stations doesn't have all of the data loaded it dumps you back to the start of the day. We found this quite annoying and confusing and noticed other hiccups too, such as giving you EPG data four hours in advance of the actual time by default.

So, the EPG isn't the best, but how's the recorder? Good actually. Pressing the record button automatically records two hours of the channel you're on and recording quality is the equal of "live" footage. Pressing record again lets you choose to record the current show instead and even add the one after it. However, the on-screen display when trying to cancel a current recording is a bit confusing. You have two options available when you press the "Stop" — naturally being "stop the current recording" or "continue" — but the highlighted and not highlighted icons look very similar, and there's no confirmation after you choose one of the options. You don't know if you've halted the recording or not unless you check.

The unit will upscale SD content up to 1080i, and we found no negative artefacts such as jaggies or ghosting when doing so. In fact, it cut down on having a one- to two-second lag when changing between stations with different resolutions.

Though the website says the box will only accept a 320GB hard drive, and hence why there's one bundled, we had no troubles attaching an external 500GB drive to the machine and recording to it.

While it's theoretically possible to view the recordings made by the STB on a computer, we found it didn't work. Unfortunately, the REC files made by the Topfield were unreadable by our PC.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a "cheap" set-top box that will also record the occasional program then the Topfield TBF-7120 isn't a bad option. It's fairly quirky, but as long as you can live with the compromises inherent with having a single tuner recorder then the Topfield should work fairly well.

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theot71
7
Rating
 

"Originally bought as Set Top Box, then used as PVR with new TV"

theot71 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Software menu easy to use. Go to Play position using percentage point.

The Bad:File move to folder freeze, recording list index fails when 50 items reached.

This unit was my first taste of digital recording and overall it has been positive. Have also purchased a Grundig due to recent sales. I think the Topfield menus are easier and the grundig does not have percentage point during playback. (while watching a recording you can enter a number which tells the unit to go to that point in the recording. It is a % point, so if you enter 25 it goes to quarter point of the recording). At one stage I thought the unit was faulty as recordings did not appear on the list. After deleting and moving programs to sub folders they magically appeared. It seems that having 50 recordings on the list is the point where this occurs.

The other issue I have is file transfers to folders, these tend to freeze the unit, power off/on fixes this.

I have checked on the web site for firmware upgrade but nothing newer than 8 July 2009. Not sure how to report these issues I have, I'll try calling them.

ABA
3
Rating
 

ABA posted a review   

The Good:Good HD STB

The Bad:Would not recognise HDD

After setting it up I made some short manual recordings. All worked well. Next I made a timer recording. That went well also. I set it up to record a program while I was out. When I went to view it I found I could not access the HDD. Power resetting the HDD allowed box to access it but there was no recording. After a few more hit and miss attempts at recording the box eventually would not access the HDD at all.

Pure0z
8
Rating
 

Pure0z posted a review   

The Good:Does everytihing it is suppose to do

The Bad:EPG

On the most I am very happy with the 7120, though my only real negative comment would be with the EPG. After turning it on it will not load by itself you will have to visit each group of channels to get it to load, only then can you view the guide.
Have not even thought of connecting the HDD to the computer to view the files, I guess that is what the TV was for.

tommo
8
Rating
 

tommo posted a review   

The Good:easy, stable, cheap

The Bad:slow fast forward times

I have been able to view file on my pc by downloading ext extention software on my pc via fs-driver.org with a .rec player.

great box for the price

RT
8
Rating
 

RT posted a review   

The Good:Realy fast, good pvr. Records well and the epg is pretty good

The Bad:Cannot transfer recorded programs to computer.

Its one of the most stable set top bxes out. Has not crashed on me once. A good all rounder. The only two downsides is it beging a single tuner and not being able to copy recorded programs to computer, other than that it is the best box iv ever had.




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User Reviews / Comments  Topfield TBF-7120 Pack

  • theot71

    theot71

    Rating7

    "This unit was my first taste of digital recording and overall it has been positive. Have also purchased a Grundig due to recent sales. I think the Topfield menus are easier and the grundig does not..."

  • ABA

    ABA

    Rating3

    "After setting it up I made some short manual recordings. All worked well. Next I made a timer recording. That went well also. I set it up to record a program while I was out. When I went to view it..."

  • Pure0z

    Pure0z

    Rating8

    "On the most I am very happy with the 7120, though my only real negative comment would be with the EPG. After turning it on it will not load by itself you will have to visit each group of channels t..."

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