PVRs are a hot item if you're into recording your favourite TV programs. Foxtel recently launched its iQ2 and TiVo's HD box is everywhere, so simply having to watch what's "on the box" just isn't good enough these days. Topfield has also been high on many a PVR shopping list in the past and it hopes to continue that reputation with its AU$899 TF7100HDPVRt. Let's keep it simple and call it the 7100.
Aesthetically, the 7100's a good-looker — relatively slim, its shiny fascia is devoid of superfluous controls with just a power on/off button, channel and volume controls and a single front USB port (there's another round the back). Fire it up and a pleasant blue display illuminates. But, before we hooked the 7100 up proper, a note in the box informed us that a firmware upgrade was available on the supplied USB key, so we dutifully installed it. A re-partition and format later, the Topfield was ready for action.
The Topfield is well equipped, with 320GB internal hard disk drive, twin HD tuners, wireless and Ethernet networking, plus USB 2.0 HDD support for up to a terabyte of external storage being the 7100's main features. IceTV support is also on the Topfield's agenda, and the aforementioned firmware upgrade allows the 7100 full access to IceTV's Remote Record, meaning the PVR can be set to record from an internet browser or any Web-enabled mobile phone. The technical bods at IceTV and Topfield have been working furiously on the firmware upgrade to iron out any software bugs, such as program names not showing in the timer list recording schedule. The firmware upgrade doesn't appear on the company's website, so if your box is missing a key it has already been updated, say the company.
The 7100 replaces the popular 7000 and many of the features its predecessor lacked are now included on the new model. It's nice to see Topfield has brought back the Wi-Fi and Ethernet network support, which was sorely missed on the 7000. The larger hard disk storage equates to around 172 hours worth of SD recording, or 43 hours of HD content. The twin HD tuners mean you can record one program, while watching another and the 7100 has a new "trick mode" up its sleeve — which gives you one-touch recording, timed recording and touch shifting. Useful features for the more "involved" TV watcher.
Connectivity is also well represented with all the usual types. Video is catered for all the way through from composite to HDMI and there are both coaxial and optical digital audio outs.
Even if you're a PVR "greenie", Topfield's usual ease of use makes the 7100 a doddle to find your way around. Set-up's a breeze — including IceTV subscription — and in just a few minutes you've a nice, crisp, HD image on your screen. Thankfully, HD broadcasts are on the increase, so you no longer have to endure Kerri-Anne in the mornings just to see (and hear) what high-def is all about.
The 7100 does a fine decoding job with both images and sound. Resolution maxes out at 720p or 1080i, which are currently the two highest standards that free-to-air broadcasters have adopted, and when set at 1080i the picture quality is impressive. The one-touch record works … well … with a single button press and, much like Foxtel's iQ2, recording, pausing and viewing live TV are plain sailing. The EPG is easy to navigate and user-friendly. Channel changing is fast, much like analog TV of old, and it would seem that Topfield has finally combined all that is good about PVRs in a single, affordable package.
Aside from initial IceTV listing hiccups, the 7100 (with the firmware upgrade) is the sort of PVR package that does it all, for now. During our time with it, we did notice a bit of a lip-sync problem with a locally broadcast channel, NBN, but upon switching to the Sydney-sourced channel (Nine) there was no such lag.
Topfield has certainly returned to form with the 7100. It's convenient with a capital "C" to use and the expandable USB storage feature will future-proof it for a while — something that definitely gives this PVR a distinct edge in the current marketplace.