Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD PVR

Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD review: A great PVR set-top box with networking and streaming functions

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Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD
  • Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD
  • Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD
  • Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD

Pros

  • Good tuners, can record up to four programs at once, changes channels swiftly

Cons

  • Network streaming function isn't great, Web transfers unreliable, media playback interface could be better

Bottom Line

The Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD has plenty of features, but it excels at being a personal video recorder. It's a top product for TV junkies who want to record multiple shows at once (up to four) and then play them back easily or archive them on a computer.

Would you buy this?

The Topfield TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD PVR set-top box is almost identical to the Topfield TRF-2460 Masterpiece HD, except that it has a smaller capacity hard drive and it doesn't ship with a wireless dongle. All of the other features of the 2400 are the same as the 2460: it has two MPEG4 tuners, networking and streaming, and it can record up to four TV programs at once.

The key difference is the hard drive in the Topfield TRF-2400, which is only 500GB compared to the 1TB drive found in the TRF-2460, so it can't hold as many recordings. However, you can attach external hard drives to the either the front USB 2.0 ports or to the eSATA port at the rear, to record or transfer programs to them. You play Divx or Xvid that are stored on external hard drives, but the interface for this is unintuitive.

As with the TRF-2460, Internet features can be accessed through the PVR, so you can watch YouTube videos, listen to SHOUTcast streams and view Flickr images. Again, the interface for these features could be better. The TRF-2400 can be networked through its 10/100 Ethernet port on the rear, which means you'll either need to have your router near your home entertainment unit, or you'll need to use an Ethernet-to-wireless adapter or Ethernet-over-powerline adapters.

By hooking the TRF-2400 up to your home network, not only will you be able to use its online features, you'll also be able to take advantage of IceTV and you'll also be able to stream content from shared resources on your networked computers. It's not a great media streamer though, and it's limited to playing Divx or Xvid videos (as we expected, it wouldn't play anything else we threw at it, such as MKV files); it also can't forward or rewind streaming content.

Basically, the TRF-2400, much like the TRF-2460 has plenty of fancy features, but it only excels at one task: Being a PVR. It has two tuners that can change channels swiftly, it can capably time-shift, and it can record up to four programs simultaneously while playing back a recorded program. You can't record four programs from four different channels though — two or three of them have to be sub-channels of one main channel. For example, you can record channel Ten's Eleven and One HD channels, in addition to Seven's 7Mate and 7Two channels; you can't record SBS, ABC, Ten and Seven.

Viewing recorded programs is easy and you can transfer recorded programs onto external hard drives or onto other computers over your network. It has Web server and FTP server functions, so you can upload files to the device and download files from the device, but we found its Web interface to be an unreliable way of transferring files. Downloading and uploading files was often unsuccessful in our tests and caused our Firefox browser to slow down considerably during the process. Stick to hard drives if you want to get files on and off the Topfield. Like the TRF-2460, you'll have to convert the files before you can view them on your PC. See our review of the TRF-2460 for details on this.

Despite the annoyances we found with its extra features, we can't deny that the TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD is a great PVR for TV junkies. Between this and the TRF-2460, we'd probably go for the latter, just because it has a larger hard drive and it gives you the ability to connect to a wireless network straight out of the box, which is especially handy for IceTV. However, we think it's about time the interface for the Topfield PVRs was updated and its extra streaming and network functions improved. Once that happens, it will be a five-star product.

The TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD consumed around 24 Watts of electricity while it was running, and less than 1W in standby mode.

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Read more on these topics: PVR, home entertainment, Topfield, set-top boxes

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