The Topfield TRF-2470 is the latest and greatest set top box in the company’s arsenal. This machine is a beast: it’s got two digital TV tuners, a terabyte of hard drive space, and it’s the first Topfield ‘box to include Web access to ABC iView.
Topfield TRF-2470: Design, specifications and setup
This is a pretty stark-looking PVR. On the glossy black front panel, the TRF-2470 has a Topfield logo, power button, single-line liquid-crystal display, and a shiny metal ring that acts as a six-way button — up and down for channel, left and right for volume control, and the top and bottom halves of the centre of the ring for menu and selection.
Flip down the panel to the left of the control ring, and you’ll find two USB 2.0 host ports. There’s a lot of space behind the panel, and USB ports aren’t exactly bulky, so we’re a little confused as to why the space hasn’t been used to hide more ports or controls. We would have liked a front eSATA port to complement the rear one, or maybe a headphone jack.
The power button is one of only a few on the front of the TRF-2470.
Beyond those elements, the rest of the front and top of the TRF-2470 is blank, finished in either gloss or satin black. The rear panel is where all the action happens; it’s here you’ll find the PVR’s antenna connector (with throughput for connecting another device with the one antenna), composite and component A/V, HDMI, optical and coaxial digital audio, eSATA, third USB port, and Ethernet LAN port. There’s no Wi-Fi built-in, unfortunately. A secondary power switch (completely cutting off power, not just for standby) is a nice touch.
The TRF-2470 only lacks for Wi-Fi; everything else is covered.
This is a pretty comprehensive set of connectivity options. Whether you’ve got an older TV or a newer one, whether you want to connect an external hard drive with downloaded media files, whether you want to use a home theatre system or A/V receiver, the TRF-2470 caters for all of these scenarios. If Wi-Fi was included, we’d be ecstatic, because apart from that little omission the TRF-2470 equals or beats almost any other PVR we’ve seen in the amount of connection options it’s got.
Setting up the Topfield TRF-2470 is simple enough: hook up the antenna, choose an A/V connector — we used HDMI, as usual — and add a network cable if you want to access the Internet or play media files from your home network. When you first switch on the TRF-2470, you’re presented with a simple setup process, only prompting you to scan for digital or analog TV. You’re left to set up any networking options yourself, and the Installation menu is the place to find them.
The slightly complex six-way button on the front of the TRF-2470.
Unless you’re especially fond of the buttons on the PVR itself, you’ll be using Topfield’s bundled remote control for the TRF-2470. It’s a candy-bar with a central five-way navigational pad, large volume and channel buttons, and a swathe of smaller, less-distinguishable, identical buttons in an extended grid layout. It can also apparently be customised and programmed to other devices (it has buttons for TV, DVD, and auxiliary devices).
We have to mention the exhaust fan at the rear of the TRF-2470, which keeps everything inside running cool. It does a good job — the device never gets more than warm — but it’s audible if you’re anywhere within a metre from the front of the PVR. We think that in an otherwise entirely silent, standard-sized living room, you would hear the TRF-2470’s fan running quietly. We’d appreciate an option to adjust the fan’s speed in the Topfield menu system.
Topfield TRF-2470: Menus and performance
The Topfield TRF-2470’s menu systems are, in a word, basic. When you turn on the TRF-2470 and enter the main menu, you’re presented with five options: Recording, Entertainment, Settings, Installation, and Information. It’s hardly what you’d call an attractive menu, with low-resolution graphics and a white-on-black design, but it’s functional enough.
As you’d expect, Recording handles the electronic program guide and any scheduled reminders or program recordings that you’ve created. It’s a relatively easy process to create and delete schedules, and the information is presented clearly.
Entertainment is the next most important menu — it contains quick links to ABC iView, YouTube, the TRF-2470’s built-in video, photo, and music players, as well as Flickr, Weather, SHOUTcast, and a Scorched Earth-esque tank game played with the remote control. iView is the most attractive Web service, and it uses the familiar 10-foot interface that any Smart TV user will already know. Youtube is similarly well laid out and intuitive.
The inclusion of iView and YouTube is a boon for Topfield, bringing the TRF-2470 into contention with established players like Panasonic, LG and Samsung — whose Smart features are unarguably better, but we’ve always maintained that at the moment ABC iView is the most desirable video-on-demand service in the country.
Settings is for generic options like setting the time and changing the brightness of the TRF-2470’s display, while Installation is for re-scanning TV channels and setting up network connections. The TRF-2470 uses a more-complicated-than-necessary profile system for networking, where separate profiles can be configured for wired and wireless networks with different settings — in reality, most users will use a single connection and single profile. Topfield sells a wireless networking dongle for the TRF-2470 separately to the device itself.
What’s best about the Topfield TRF-2470’s menu system and Entertainment options is the speed at which everything happens. Remote control presses respond near-instantly, there’s no wait when you select a sub-menu, and even loading a show on iView only takes a second before buffering starts. This is excellent, and it makes the TRF-2470 enjoyable to use.
Over both its network connection and the three USB ports, the TRF-2470 supports a range of compressed media file types. We tested standard definition and high definition MPEG4 and MKV video, MP3 and WAV audio, and JPEG image files successfully.
Topfield TRF-2470: Recording and EPG
Using the same white-on-black design as the TRF-2470’s menu system, its electronic program guide is basic, easy to read, and easy to navigate. Shortcut buttons allow skipping forward to the 7-day forecasting maximum in 24-hour chunks, and the EPG can be displayed in left-to-right and top-to-bottom layouts. The left-to-right mode allows for three hours of info and seven channels simultaneously. Recordings, ‘intelligent’ recordings and reminders can be left easily with shortcut buttons.
With two internal DVB-T digital TV tuners, the TRF-2470 can record two channels simultaneously, but can record a maximum of four services across those two channels. You could be recording channels Nine and Seven simultaneously, and if you wanted to you could also record GEM and 7TWO (each main channel’s secondary channel) at the same time. You can also watch recorded content or content from an external hard drive or network source while you’re recording live TV.
With a terabyte of internal storage, you should be able to record around 250 hours of high definition TV, and more than double that if it’s standard definition programming. This is plenty, even if you’re recording using the maximum of all four tuners. The 1TB hard drive inside the TRF-2470 means you can time-shift TV over a maximum of five hours — if you want to pause Seven, you can go away for five hours, and start watching where you left off, without having to set a recording.
It’s worth noting that the TRF-2470 does not support the IceTV electronic program guide that previous Topfield set-top boxes do. We’re not especially concerned about this — while the IceTV subscription-based Guide is far more versatile than the TRF-2470’s inbuilt one (it offers remote setting of recordings, for example), it comes at an additional cost.
Topfield TRF-2470: Conclusion
Topfield’s latest and best PVR may have a Spartan menu system, but it’s fast, has good hardware, and includes access to the best video-on-demand service currently available. It’s a worthy competitor to all-in-one PVRs from Samsung, LG and Panasonic and comes at a price that’s a few hundred dollars cheaper.