Written on: 06/02/2007 by scarborian (32 reviews written)
Good Picture and Sound Quality, Twin Tuner Recording, Reliable and Very Quiet, Up-Gradeable and Good Connectivety.
Poor Remote Control, Poor User Interface and EPG.
Every now and then something comes along that isn't really that good, but it generates such a following from those that do like it, that it developes a kind of 'cult status'. The Citroen 2CV and Daniel O'Donnell both spring to mind!
The Topfield TF5800 PVR is in that category. In its basic form it is a very well specified twin tuner PVR wth a choice of colours and 80 or 160Gb hard drives AND it has a reputation for being a rock solid performer. BUT..when you look at the native 'Toppy' ( as the Topfield tifosi call them ) it's equipped with a poor user interface, an awful remote control and an all but useless EPG system. So why do so many people buy them and some spend many hours of their time writing software and firmware to make this little box better? I suspect that like the 2CV, they love the way you can personalise this PVR and its internal gubbins to make it 'your' Toppy.
There is also a great website and dedicated forum of knowledgable users ever present to help you with your Toppy troubles at www.toppy.org.uk. I have used many PVR's and the Topfield is certainly not one of the most user friendly machines I've tried and you do have to read the ( comprehensive ) handbook to get the best out of your machine. Even then, the 7 day EPG is one of the worst I've seen and the remote control, although functional, is fiddly and poorly laid out. Recordings though are good quality and you can use both the twin tuners to record different programmes at the same time whilst still watching another channel. And one of the regular complaints aimed at PVR's is the noise which usually eminates from the internal cooling fan. The good news for this machine is that it doesn't have a cooling fan so is very quiet BUT does get very hot so make sure there is adequate ventilation.
So, out of the box the Toppy failed to impress and didn't measure up to the competition such as the excellent Humax 9200 which is much more user friendly as my wife will testify. However, where the Topfield scores over the Hummy is its ability to be up-dated and improved with the use of some excellent software known as 'Taps' which can be downloaded free from the Toppy website. Most things can be changed or improved and once you start installing these 'Taps' you begin to see why so many people are prepared to spend around £250-£270 on this PVR. I changed the user interface on my 'Toppy' to an edition called 'MyStuff' which almost completely changes the way the machine behaves and vastly improves the appearance of the EPG and other on-screen menu's. The 5800 has a picture-in-picture feature which allows the user to overlay a small second screen in one corner of the main screen but after installing the 'Super PiP' Tap I was able to view in full split screen with lots of other options. These are just two 'Taps' available to down load from dozens on the 'Toppy' website and they also offer complete firmware up-dates too for those more adventurous users. So, its the ability to personalise your Topfield that makes this PVR worth a look if you are in the market for a VCR replacement. I would call it a 'techy' PVR which is worth the investment if you are handy with a USB cable and a home PC. If the thought of that leaves you cold then buy yourself a Humax 9200 for the easy life.
As for me...I've parked up the 2CV and I'm just going to watch a Daniel O'Donnell concert I recorded on my 'Toppy'. Well...if you can't beat em!