So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Topfield TF5000PVRt Masterpiece
- USB port, well designed interface
- No HD support
Topfield has done nearly everything right with the TF5000PVRt. It's beautifully designed, can talk to PCs and is only lacking when it comes to HDTV.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
A dual-tuner SDTV PVR, the Topfield TF5000PVRt is, in fact, a Masterpiece. It's an outstanding product, extremely well engineered and thought out. It has a few gremlins, but is certainly one of the best PVRs on the market today. It even looks good, with sleek black styling and a useful digital display.
The on-screen display is top-notch, both intuitive and effective, and channel changes while viewing television are smooth and fast. We were most impressed by the recording timer. You have to go through a couple of menus to find it, but setting a time to record was quick--and it supported daily or weekly scheduling. Unlike most other PVRs, it also recognises weekends and weekdays. In addition, because it has two tuners, you can watch one show while recording another (or watch two shows at once using picture-in-picture).
The Topfield keeps all EPG information with recorded television shows, and gives files sensible names, based on the information contained within the show. Getting a list of your library of recorded shows is a one-touch operation on the remote, and browsing and managing files is breezy.
Timeshifting in the Topfield is implemented near-perfectly. It's always active, so if you decide on a whim to rewind the TV, you can do so. There is some slight stuttering on the rewind, but it's barely noticeable.
The Topfield contains a huge 160GB hard disk, capable of storing 80 hours or more of video. We're not entirely sure about the choice of hard disk model, however, since the acoustics of the hard disk in the PVR are not quite up to scratch. There was a discernable track-change clicking, especially when rewinding video. It's not terrible by any means, and would usually be drowned out by other ambient noises, but it's the only PVR we've looked at that wasn't almost totally silent.
Videophiles would not be disappointed by the output options provided by the Topfield either. It has two SCART outputs, dual antenna loop-through, composite output, S-Video and S/PDIF for digital audio output.
The feature that will put it over the edge for many PC users, however, is the Topfield's support for USB 2.0. By linking the TF5000PVRt to your PC, you can use your PC to archive recorded MPEG-2 videos, or even upload MP3s and MPEG-2 video to the hard disk of the PVR, which the PVR can then play in jukebox style. You need to download file management software, called Altair, from the vendor's Web site to do so, but this is nonetheless a major advantage for an already excellent product.
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