I'm after a new HD Set Top Box, and would like some recommendations. My main criteria are that it switches on fast, changes channels fast, and has a HDMI output. Low operating and standby power is nice too.
I have another HD STB (DigiCrystal) that takes forever to switch on, and changing channels is frustrating. I don't want to get stuck with that same problem again.
I have been discussing the Topfield TF7000HDPVRt in aus.tv.digital
which I purchased last week and had have - and still have to struggle with - especially the firmware updates as Topfield appear to have released this to the market with beta firmware (March 2007).
I have now upgraded the firmware to the October 15th. 2007 firmware.
It is a box that has had mixed reviews but I believe this is because it was released hastily with buggy firmware but this can be updated.
Switch on fast ? - not particularly fast but acceptable.
Changes channels fast ? - almost immediately - try entering 20 for channel 20 (ABC HD) and you won't have time to type the zero as the unit will have switched to Channel 2 the moment you type 2.
HDMI output ? Yes RGB output YES component output YES composite output YES plus all the other bells and whistles.
The attraction to me is that it will record to an external hard drive attached to the USB port - although as the unit runs Linux it formats drives in the EXT2 file system.
I have now made my first recording from TV using an external drive attached to the unit with the October 15th firmware. Yes it will record to the external hard drive BUT the files it records won't with THIS version of the firmware be displayed on the unit for playback via the TV (only the internal hard drive files show up).
Unplug the external hard drive from the unit however and plug it into a Linux box USB port (I'm using Ubuntu 7.10) and the recordings will be visible, and if you have Windows Operating Systems attached to the network you can copy the recorded files to the Windows OS (I've just done so with using Windows XP)... or install free software on Windows that recognises the EXT2/EXT3 file system.
What you end up with is a full High Definiton file on the PC - if you recorded it on a High Definition Channel.
In Ubuntu Linux it will play back via the VLC media player nad no doubt other media players (in full high definition).
In Windows it will play back in the Windows version of VLC, "Media Player Classic" (an open source alternative to the Windows media Player available from a number of sources (type "Media Player Classic" into google and it will almost certainly direct to you to where this program can be downloaded from.
It will also play back in Windows using the GOM Player
.. which has internal codecs that seemingly play almost anything including .flv files.
I note that I can edit the MPEG (Transport Stream) files in an MPEG editor (Womble MPEG2VCR) which is a fairly old program but still kept up to date with upgrades.
I like the unit as it does what I wanted from it - but there's obviously still some way to go with the firmware. If it records to an external hard drive attached to the USB port then it should (I would hope) display the files it has recorded but at this moment in time it (seemingly) doesn't. As I state this isn't a problem if you wish to transfer the files to a PC and store, edit and play them there - or via multimedia devices that recognise the codecs the unit records in.
Why did you choose this PVR over an Intel box running MythTV ? It seems more expensive and less expandable. It does not do the sensible things that you are entitled to expect from a PVR such as removing commercials, keeping only the most recent broadcast of your favourite news program, or recording anything with your favourite actors in the cast. I would not advocate MythTV for the OP because he is looking for an "appliance" but you seem to understand Linux and happy to spend time getting your PVR working.
Can you tell me if when you stop playing a file it bookmarks where you are up to so it will play back from that spot next time you play it, and you don't have to manualy bookmark you just press the stop button and then play & you are right back to where you where.
You can hit a button to bookmark a position within a file and indeed bookmark a number of positions. Having done this you can start playing the file and then hit a key to jump to the first bookmark and then to the next etc..
It isn't a problem at all. It seems they haven't updated the .pdf manual for this version of the firmware (15/10/2007). Topfield mention that the manuals have to be revised for the firmware on their international site
which is where I got the latest version of the firmware from.
In selecting the "view files" button it will default to the last accessed drive (for viewing) - which yesterday was the internal drive.
However move to to the remote and hit either the > buttons and it will swtich between whatever drive it finds - including the external drive attached to the USB port. There's also a menu item to copy from the internal drive to the external drive.. It's working faultlessly ! I'm assuming now it's possible to move files in the opposite directions as well.
The recordings are large as they are recorded in true high definition format and the resolution on a computer screen is magnificent (...even on Ubuntu Linux - especially on Ubuntu Linux).
I've upgraded my appraisal from 80% satisfaction to 97% satisfaction.
No make that 98.9% :-)
... and there's a little glitch in the ICE TV subscription which may have provided me with 15 months access to the text only ICE-TV guide (rather than the 3 months specified on the introductory card inside the box.)
hint: get twelve months free access via the Yahoo widget thingy and then enter the numbers inside the introductory offer inside the Topfield box. The free account was 12 months. The free trial subscription then adds 12 + 3 = 15.