Topfield TRF-7160
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Price (RRP): $699 Manufacturer: Topfield

 

Have PVRs become just another necessary brick in your wall of AV gear? Topfield certainly seems to think so with the TRF-7160. It’s a quality unit, so it would be unfair to call it “no frills”, and if your main priority is reliable and dependable recording of your shows, this might not be a bad thing.

Features

This is a PVR that ticks all the boxes… even if it doesn’t raise any eyebrows. A 500GB hard drive will hold hundreds of hours of recording, and you can add a further terabyte via an external drive if you’re keen. While you can transfer recordings between the Topfield’s internal drive and the external HDD, recordings stored on the HDD are encoded so that they cannot be accessed by another device, such as a PC or USB-equipped TV.
Meanwhile, dual receivers mean you can record two channels at once – and a firmware upgrade will let you record four (but with a catch – see below).
The included remote isn’t exactly premium grade, and its grid of tiny buttons can be confusing, especially when it comes to basic commands like playing and fast-forwarding.
There’s HDMI output of course, and the maximum supported resolution is 1080i. Don’t be alarmed that it’s not 1080p – none of the networks broadcast in this standard and, if you have a good quality recent-model television, it will upconvert video from the Topfield to the higher quality 1080p anyway.
Network connectivity allows you to enable remote recording via the Internet, play an forgettable game online and manage some very basic media serving capabilities that are so arcane to set up it’s barely worth the trouble. The unit will also playback MP3, JPEG and Divx HD files from devices connected via its USB port.

Setup

Straightforward installation is a blessing these days. Plug your PVR into the antenna, attach to your TV or AV receiver via HDMI, and the system will automatically select the highest resolution your TV can support – although, only up to 1080i.
Scanning for stations is standard, and you can then arrange the list into favourites or drop unwanted stations entirely.
The seven-day EPG is sucked down off the air as well, so there’s no set-up required. As soon as your stations are scanned and locked in, you’re ready to record!
That said, there is a new firmware available from the Topfield website, that enables Quad Recording. You need to download the firmware to a USB stick, stick that in the back of the PVR, and then select ‘firmware upgrade’ from the setup menu.

Performance

Again, the TRF-7160 is a decent, standard, no-fuss PVR. Seven-day EPG lets you schedule your recordings: you simply highlight the desired program and push the okay button.
Two physical HD tuners means you can either record two channels at once, or record and watch, or record one channel while pausing another. The firmware update mentioned above enables Quad recording (this is promoted heavily on the box) but there’s a bit of a trick here.
In the whacky world of digital TV, services (ABC, Seven, Nine etc) are split into sub-channels: ABC2, ABC3, 7TWO et al. When you enable Quad Recording, you can record two sub-channels at the same time from one service, and then another two sub-channels from another.
So you could record ABC HD, ABC2, 7HD, and then be watching 7TWO. Sounds confusing? The remote helpfully blacks out all channels that can’t be viewed because of current recording.
Even without the firmware upgrade, you can record two channels and watch a third as long as its on one of the services being recorded.

Conclusion

Quad Recording is a handy feature for the person who really can’t stand to miss a single moment on their favourite network, though we’ll resist the urge to make some crack about whether or not there’s actually that much worth recording on TV these days… The ability to record four channels is also, to our knowledge (and with the exception of Foxtel’s IQ Pay-TV box) unique in the marketplace at the time of writing.
Also in the TRF-7160’s favour is the lack of Freeview certification. This means it has a skip function, for, well, skipping all those ads you’ve recorded.

Topfield TRF-7160
Price (RRP): $699 Manufacturer: Topfield
Quad Recording expands recording options ; Ad skipping; Expandable capacity
Quad Recording doesn’t allow recording of four channels from separate networks; Ho-hum networking and media serving features
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