World's Best Media Centre Reviewed

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Written by David Richards and Mendelson Tiu     10/07/2009 | 01:28 | Category name i.e.MEDIA CENTRES

The words media centre were first coined by Microsoft. They promised the world, but delivered very little. Now Topfield has delivered a Masterpiece media centre that sets a new benchmark for content delivery, management and storage.

Packed with features, this media centre has one outstanding capability, with the inclusion of a simple easy to use menu that is easy to navigate, and above all, allows the device to be configured in minutes. It has 500GB of internal storage with the ability to attach an additional terrabyte.


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I believe that ease of use is critical in any family media centre, because not everybody is skilled in stepping down layer after layer, similar to what one has to do with a Microsoft PC based media centre.  

 Neither do I believe that in today's marketplace should a core media centre be part of a PC. It should be a standalone module or built into a TV because at the end of the day it's all about content management and access to great content and not bits and bytes. But above all I don't want my media centre to freeze because of a Windows based PC problem. 

The new slim the Topfield Masterpiece HD TRF -2400 device which will not be available in stores till the second week of August, has many key features including an excellent IceTV electronic program guide, something that Microsoft in five years failed to deliver, despite it being a critical part of any media centre experience.

The new Topfield media centre offering which goes on sale in Australia on the 18th July 2009 delivers YouTube content over a live IP feed, as well as providing access to Flikr for the management of visual images. 

A key feature of this media centre is the fluid way that one can configure the IceTV EPG. Once configured, this EPG can be accessed from a PC, and iPhone, or an iPod touch.

The Topfield Masterpiece was easy to set-up and it took us a total of about 10 minutes to set up the network, log into the ICE TV account, and obtain all the available free-to-air channels.

Pulling the right edge of the front panel reveals two USB ports used for connecting an external hard drive or memory stick, while the rear panel sports the Component and Composite video input/output, HDMI out, Coaxial and optical output, Ethernet, E-SATA, and USB ports. The unit also comes with twin tuners that will allow you to record two shows while playing back a recording.

The Masterpiece comes with a 500GB hard drive but can be expanded using an external drive connected via USB or eSATA.

The main interface is clean and organised, making it easy for anyone to browse though the box's offering. Like any PVR in the market, you can pre-set the shows you want to watch or record instantly with a press of a button. Having an ICE TV account would definitely help, as you can instantly set your box to record any show that you may have missed using your mobile or the Internet. Recorded files are stored on the unit's drive (unless specified by the user) and can be accessed from the Recorded Program menu.

The Masterpiece HD can also play audio (MP3), video (DivX, VOB, MKV, or MP4), and image (JPEG) files from the main drive or any connected external hard disk, and even access online content via its Entertainment section. We were able to go and view a couple of YouTube clips from the Masterpiece, with us sorting the content by most featured, view count, most discussed, and favourites. The clips can be viewed in full screen mode but don't expect HD-quality images from it.

Users can also access the image hosting website Flikr on the Masterpiece. You can use the service to search for photos and share saved files to others by logging on to your account. Users can also view the weather of your city or other cities with the Weather function.  The screen displays the current weather of the pre-set area as well as a four-day forecast. Children can also enjoy using this PVR as it comes with a Game mode that will let you play 'Battle Tank' with people at home or online.

Finally, the TFR-2400 also provides a web service that lets a user move content to and from the box anytime. This feature is more for the advanced users though as one would have to configure IP and FTP settings.

See: www.itopfield.com.au

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Easy to set-up; Clean interface; IceTV EPG; YouTube and Flickr access; MP3 and Video player built-in; Expandable memory via USB or eSATA; FTP and web server access

Cons:

IP and FTP functions more for the advanced users.