Topfield TF5000PVRt Masterpiece (Black)

A PVR with a dash of style, Topfield's Masterpiece allows you to store up to 80 hours worth of TV on its hard disk. It features USB connectivity, dual-tuners and support for third-party applications called TAPs.


7.6
CNET Rating
7.5
User Rating

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Measuring 430 x 60 x 265mm, the Topfield slots into regular home entertainment units without any trouble. Its black panelling and symmetrical design gives it a low-key and somewhat stylish look. On the front is a vacuum fluorescent display that shows channel information, playback or recording status and sound configuration. Five slimline silver buttons under the display control power, volume and channels.

We must say that the remote control for the TF5000PVRt is very well designed. It has a kind of silky-feeling matte black finish and the most commonly used buttons are large and well laid out in the centre of the remote.

All connections are housed at the rear of the Masterpiece but the options are sparse for a AU$1,199 piece of home entertainment equipment. They include composite video, S-Video and two SCART ports. The only digital connection is optical audio -- sorry, no HDMI or DVI here. Unlike the Humax PVR Smart, which only requires a single antenna cable for its two tuners, you need to hook up a short loop through cord for the Topfield's second tuner. There is also a USB 2.0 port out the back of the unit to hook up to your PC or laptop. It can be tricky getting around the back of anything designed to sit in a living room cabinet; for ad-hoc connections, we would have prefered to see the USB port at the front of the PVR.

Features
With a 160GB hard disk built-in, the Masterpiece allows you to record up to 80 hours worth of digital television in standard definition resolution (DVD-like quality). With SD devices like this, you can plug the box into any television with an A/V input to get crystal clear pictures, crisp sound and a couple of extra free-to-air tv channels -- provided there is a strong enough signal in your area. The twin tuners inside the PVR work separately so you can simultaneously record two different channels, or watch one channel while recording another.

Dual-tuners also mean that Picture-in-Picture functionality is enhanced, as they can decode two different channels simultaneously for viewing (eg. Ten and SBS). Single tuner boxes with PiP generally only let you view channels broadcast within the same network (eg. ABC and ABC2).

USB file transfer and an extensive library of third-party applications called TAPs (Topfield application programs) put the Masterpiece in a class of its own. These add-on applications allow a great deal of expansion. For example, the IceTV TAP gives you a 7-day on-screen tv guide while this TAP lets you schedule recordings via a Web interface. TAPs that let you connect to the Topfield via USB are available for PC and Mac.

Performance
Topfield has done very well in making the Masterpiece a straight-forward, easy-to-use PVR. The on-screen menus are attractive and intuitive, even for newbies to digital recording, and timer recordings (with or without the electronic program guide from IceTV) are simple to set up. The Masterpiece also lets you choose whether scheduled recordings are one-off, weekly, weekdays only, weekends or every day, so you can easily set it up to record every episode of a television series.

When browsing your library of recorded shows, it's good to see the Topfield remembers the program information so there's no guess work involved when deciding what to watch. Menu operations and playback are quick, even when deleting content.

A minor flaw we found during playback was that the Masterpiece tended to be a bit jerky and uneven when we pressed rewind. The easiest workaround we found was to use the horizontal time bar at the top of the screen to go back to a specific point in the recording. Fast-forwarding at 6x wasn't as fast as we'd hoped -- the Humax PVR Smart performs better in this regard -- but we love the fact that pressing the yellow button in the middle of the remote control skips ahead 30 seconds. It's great for skipping ads.

Those who value the sound of absolute silence when the television is switched off might get frustrated by the constant scratching noise of the Topfield, continuously buffering live tv on its hard disk. It's not terribly loud, but we did find ourselves powering down the unit a couple of times for some peace and quiet.

While we found picture quality acceptable, no doubt the Masterpiece would have benefited with DVI, HDMI or even component connections.

Topfield Australia has an very active forum where users can post questions and discuss the range of PVRs and TAPs available.

Topfield also sells a 120GB, 60-hour TF5000PVRt, which doesn't look as smart as the Masterpiece, but shaves a couple of hundred dollars off the asking price.

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Dan the man
4
Rating
 

Dan the man posted a review   

The Good:Not much. Relatively user friendly when it works.

The Bad:Unstable and barely useable

Unfortunately most reviews for this product seem to stem from how good this TYPE of product is, not how good the product is. This PVR was meant to be the most reliable out there from all reviews but but was buggy from day 1. The unit continually freezes, usually leading to a loss of all saved programs. Had the hard drive replaced after 1 month - an ordeal that took over 1 month to see me getting the pvr back and ever since has contied to intermittently freeze and cause me to pull my hair out.

Overall it is relatively user friendly with good features such as scheduled recording, etc. Would be a fantastic unit if it were just more reliable.

Although I must say that after talking to friends in the industry PVRs in general are apparently very buggy sorts of equipment and have a tendency to have errors. In saying that I would probably go for a Strong over a Topfield - they have better tuners and seem to be a bit more reliable.

 

blis posted a comment   

The Good:Love em..

The Bad:No LAN or WIFI

This is my second PVR5000 and I run a thermo coupled Thermaltake fan atop the HDD to keep it cooler. The masterpiece trashed the file system after 12 months and I thought it was a dead HDD, re-formatted all good :)

The masterpiece I own will set a bookmark if time shifted on a recording if program recording ends. 30sec Yellow button skip :)

Component connection via scart means hunting down the correct cable and finding a good one can cost over $50, many scart cables in au are composite type beware:/

Remote control layout good but construction could be a little hardier, it's called the Steering Wheel in our living room

Visually seems better than built in HD tuner on Pana Viera. Looking forqard to a solid sate future..

love my Toppy.

 

Ade posted a comment   

The Good:dual tuner, easy interface etc - all good really

The Bad:need always buy extended warrantycos they DIE in the guts

bough one - went crazy trying to sort out many software glitches which Topfield denied - then made a comprehensive movie of each event and put that on DVD and slotted it into the rear end of Toppy management - who finally saw daylight and replaced machine - 18 months later the new machine has crashed its HD - lucky I paid for extended warranty.
The internal management at Topfield FAILS the customer - but IF you can manage them (cos they can;t) you CAN get a fair go out of the service department - costs a bit in STD calls and time and effort etc - and you must buy extended warranty with Toppy cos they die in about 2 - 3 years (hardware) and software is always an issue (subject to luck).
I actually was instrumental in proving to Topfield that one firmware upgrade they did as standard to the 5000 model was INCOMPATIBLE with that model - so they then issued advice across their service departments to cease installing.

I mean it is a bit weird that a customer has to be the one to identify this to a company!!!!!

I will buy another when HD comes out - but will do a lot of homework because I think the Topfield NO LONGER rules - is just another PVR and not necessarily the best in later models (7000 series HD has many issues)

thems my views

Avid TV fan
8
Rating
 

Avid TV fan posted a review   

The Good:Timeshift, dual tuners and lots of space for recording. PIP for sports.

The Bad:Preloaded firmware did not allow dual recording from programmes using the timer. However Topfield support solved this with updated firmware. HDD noisy in playback and time shift mode.
Would like to have inputs (XBOX) able to use PIP function

Great Product. It has revolutionised the way I watch TV.

Anonymous
9
Rating
 

"Happy the VCR finally broke down"

Anonymous posted a review   

The Good:Very easy set up, quick to learn to use, spectacular quality viewing and recordings - who needs HD!

The Bad:Instruction manual suffers from poor translation.

When our old high end Sony VCR gave up the ghost, it was time to upgrade to a new technology. As most of our VCR tape recording were just to time shift for later viewing, we really didn't need a DVD/HDD recorder. This PVR frees us from needing to use external recording media forever and gives the bonus of viewing digital broadcasts.

Frankie Boy
9
Rating
 

"My Toppie has changed my life!"

Frankie Boy posted a review   

The Good:Love everything about it - it works beautifully and with the PBK TAP it is even better (one button press to go forward three minutes - you never use FF or Rew). It also has component as it is supplied via a SCART-to-component cord. Work's nicely. HDMI is not worth it because it is only SD.

The Bad:If you are chasing back a program and the program ends, you are taken back to 'live' viewing. Handy if the program you are recording goes over time, but annoying otherwise (PBK lets you jump back to where you were).

Can't wait for the HD version of this product - I think I would buy it even if it were $2,000.




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User Reviews / Comments  Topfield TF5000PVRt Masterpiece (Black)

  • Dan the man

    Dan the man

    Rating4

    "Unfortunately most reviews for this product seem to stem from how good this TYPE of product is, not how good the product is. This PVR was meant to be the most reliable out there from all reviews bu..."

  • blis

    blis

    "This is my second PVR5000 and I run a thermo coupled Thermaltake fan atop the HDD to keep it cooler. The masterpiece trashed the file system after 12 months and I thought it was a dead HDD, re-form..."

  • Ade

    Ade

    "bough one - went crazy trying to sort out many software glitches which Topfield denied - then made a comprehensive movie of each event and put that on DVD and slotted it into the rear end of Toppy ..."

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