Topfield TF5800PVR Impressions

Another day, another new gadget. This time it’s a PVR funded, as always, by my good old student loan. Hooray!

Topfield TF5800PVR

Say hello to the Topfield TF5800PVR, known to its friends as the Toppy. By day it’s a mild-manned Freeview PVR with a 160GB hard drive to record 80 hours of material, which by my calculations is how much TV I watch in about three months. It also has component output which is a great boon for an LCD TV user. This thing has some real tricks inside that bland little case, however.

First up is the USB port on the back. It’s used not only for the obvious firmware upgrades, but also to pull the recorded video off the hard drive to the computer where it can be edited, burnt to DVD, stuck on the PSP/iPod, or whatever. Obviously this in no way encourages piracy and putting copyrighted material on YouTube. Never. Not even all the weekend’s goals like they show on Match of the Day 2 in a handy two-minute package.

It’s real killer app here, though, is that it can run its own little applications known as TAPs (Topfield APplications). With some judicious tapping mine now pulls EPG data for the next two weeks from the Radio Times site instead of the basic 7-day EPG that Freeview has (this means much more extensive information including mini reviews of every film that’s on) and has a number of searches running that record anything that matches them (e.g. it searches BBC1 and BBC2 at the weekend for names beginning with “Match of the Day” that are on after 10pm, catching both versions). It also allows me to browse the listings by genre, name, and even content summaries. And that pair is just the beginning. There are tons of the things.

I only got it last Thursday (from Superfi, who were pretty good and the cheapest on Pricerunner) so I’m still learning the ropes and doing that perpetual tweaking that I do – I’ve only just become happy with the setup of my Harmony remote that I bought in March – but I’ve been well impressed with this thing. It’s a decent box on its own merits, and when you factor in the ton of extra functionality that you can download for nothing, it’s brilliant.

4 thoughts on “Topfield TF5800PVR Impressions

  1. Poor student loan! On a side note, you cost me some money!! I bought two Harmony remote controls on your recommendation (the 525 and the 555) – very happy with them (after several hours configuring!).

    I had considered getting a Toppy little over a year ago but settled for a custom built (super quiet) Media Center with hifi-look-alike chassis.

    In theory dedicated hardware like the Toppy sounds good, but in the end I was sold on the flexibility of a Media Center PC e.g. HDTV/XViD playback, networked with Xbox 360 support, etc. (and the integrated EPG is *very* nice).

  2. I forgot to mention, I also bought a Samsung HD-950 on your recommendation – smart piece of kit, its sleek black form blends in nicely with the Media Center PC and AV receiver sitting on top of it :o)

  3. So how long before you pick up a Toppy? ;)

    I have considered a Media Center PC but, to be honest, all the functionality that I’ve wanted is available from the PVR and although it couldn’t really be considered cheap, it’s significantly less than a HTPC.

    Good call on the Harmony, though. I can’t live without mine :D

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