On the rear you’ll find a healthy array of connections, including the aforementioned HDMI socket and two SCARTs, which let you connect to a TV and external recorder simultaneously, or loop a signal through the unit (useful if your TV only has one SCART input). Only one of these offers RGB output so some cable swapping could be in order if you want to copy recordings on your DVD recorder.
S-video, composite, stereo audio and optical digital audio outputs are also included, and two sets of RF inputs serve the twin digital tuners. You need to loop the signal from one set of inputs to the other in order to get the full twin-tuner functionality. The lack of an RF modulator means that neither of the RF outputs carry digital TV, which could cause a problem if you want to pipe the signal round the home, or need to connect to a SCART-free TV.
But the most intriguing rear connection (apart from HDMI) is the USB 2.0 port. Using this you can transfer MP3 files from a PC to the hard-disk using downloadable PC software, and use the unit as a jukebox. You can also use the USB to transfer downloadable TAPs (Topfield Applications) to the hard-disk, which make changes to the unit’s software, altering the menu design or the way features work, for instance. One of these TAPs allows the unit to handle JPEG picture files.
Looks-wise the TF5810PVRt is no oil painting but is still one of the better looking models on the market, spruced up by a huge silver disc that’s not just a cosmetic quirk – it also lets you change channels and alter the volume. The black finish is also fetching and the information panel is a vast improvement over the TF5800, which could only display a simple four-digit number – the 5810 displays the name of the channel or the recording being played, as well as a bar showing roughly how much hard-disk space has been used.
The onscreen design is superb, particularly the EPG that sensibly adopts the horizontal timeline overview favoured by Sky+, but you can switch to a vertical channel-specific list if you prefer. Surrounding the list is a programme synopsis and a small box playing live TV, plus a handy legend that tells you which button to press for each function. We’re also hugely impressed by the elaborate menu system which dazzled us with flashy text and graphics that make a refreshing change from the usual dour displays found on some other PVRs.