Hard disc drives connected to TV's

These can be Personal Video Recorders (PVR’s) or Hard Disc Drives (HDD) connected to Smart TV’s to give recording and Time Slip functions.
But what are the criteria to select the correct HDD from the many types available? And do they work well?
My experience with a Topfield TRF-2100 PVR has been poor. In fact this has been the worst gadget I have ever bought. I has too many problems and quirks to list but the worst is freezing at any time and for no apparent reason. Then you have to reboot and hence loose the recording or time-slipped programme.
I have tried re-setting and downloading new firmware to no avail. And because it hasn’t failed completely Topfields distributor doesn’t want to know.

Are you querying the PVR itself? Or an HD fitted externally to the PVR (which is possible with most Topfields, for extra storage space)? I’m assuming the PVR itself.
Topfields are quirky (I’ve just set up my fourth - I run two at a time) but I don’t think they’re any worse than other brands of PVR, and they do offer quite a few features. I can’t remember much about the first one. Nos 2 (TRF7160) & 3 (TRF 2400) have run pretty well for a few years until the hard drive in 3 failed recently.
So I now have a TRF7160 and a TRF7260 and a problem in that both the remotes can partially access both machines. But I’m working out ways around that.
I agree about Topfield’s after-sales service - it’s terrible. You’re more likely to get help in their user forums (if they’re still around).
Another common problem is the remotes. The button contacts seem to wear out, so you can be left with a remote with some buttons working, some working occasionally and some not working at all.

I have had various PVRs over the last 15 years. My latest is a Topfield TRF 7170 that is the most user friendly PVR I have ever used and has been trouble free except for occasional missed recordings - possibly due to power hits or storm affected signal strength. I previously had a Philips PVR (with a very quirky user i terface) for several years. It is still in use, on its third HDD.

HDD manufacturers such as Seagate and Western Digital make a range of HDDs for different applications. The HDDs installed in most computers, laptops, external hard drives and PVRs are general purpose units (e.g. WD’s “Blue” models) with a typical MTBF of 30,000 hours or about 3 years of continuous operation. For applications such as NAS that require 24/7 operation, there are other HDDs (e.g. WD’s “Red” range) that cost a bit more than the general purpose models and come with a 5 year guarantee - have a look on Ebay.

Thank you for the helpful responses all.
To clarify, I guess I was only querying the type of HDD to buy to connect direct to Smart TV.
Samsung say do not use a memory stick but a HDD running 5400 rpm+. Does this mean that the HDD should be mains powered? Would an SSD work?

Should the HDD be mains powered? - absolutely. Unlike a PC, a Smart TV doesn’t offer a means of powering external attachments as far as I know.

Would an SSD work? - I very much doubt it. In any case you’re after storage space, not speed, and an SSD is very expensive storage space.

Thank you Paul. Have now visited computer shop and the man said that the popular portable USB only powered HDD should work fine so I bought the 1TB - and he was right!
Time slip, recording and timer recording from EPG all work fine so thankfully it’s goodbye to the cranky Topfield!
If the Choice people are watching then some research would make an interesting little article. There must be many Smart TV owners who are unaware of the useful features available just by spending another $80 or so.

1 Like

As part of our TV testing, we test and score the recording capability if the TV offers it. We test with both an externally-powered HDD (formatted as either FAT32 or NTFS) and a USB stick.
I note that the majority of TVs still only have one tuner, so this is a significant limitation in their use as a PVR.


A USB powered hard drive sometimes does work it depends on how much current it draws, but the bigger issue is whether the TV keeps the USB port powered on when you turn off the TV. (e.g. your hard drive will either suddenly and rudely lose power, which is a bad thing, or it will stay on all the time) I’ve certainly seen two situations… 1) sudden power down before the hard drive has finished and 2) not enough power to keep bring the hard drive to full operation.
An externally powered external hard drive unit would avoid both issues especially if it has a decent sleep function.

I myself have reverted to using 128GB USB keys (get the ones rated at the highest possible speed) and this seems to be OK through some TV’s mistakenly report them as too slow which isn’t the case if you get a fast enough usb key. (I’m using PNYs currently, the older better model)

An SSD might work but they aren’t designed well for this kind of use (needs TRIM support) and you’d need to put them into a HDD caddy so they can be powered and converted to USB. That said I’m tempted to try it given prices of SSDs.

I have two PVR’s and they have worked well, I had to replace one hard drive, a Seagate which failed, oil and noisy fan. Both did not come with a hard drive, I bought and installed them separately.

The brand I have is Astone, while the menus are rather crude looking they do work well enough once you get use too how they work.

I would recommend Westan Digital Red hard drives which are made for NAS drives.

One thing to check as well is that the TV is compatible with the size , that is the number of terabytes that the disk drive is . 4 Terabyte portable drives have dropped in price recently but not all hardware recognises them . I have encountered this problem a couple of times so it may pay to check that your TV is compatible with drives of this size .

What I discovered recently is that a lot of the newly released machines don’t allow you to copy the recording off the internal HDD I was going OS so wanted to copy some of them onto my tablet for later viewing on buses etc.
So I bought a soon to be discontinued model that was basically the same but did allow me to copy off the videos

I wonder if it could be some sort of formatting issue . Maybe check the format of the drives is the same .

Hi , I did some research lots of posts saying that it wasn’t possible … a Panasonic

Here’s my experience:

I’ve used two TV’s (modest Sony 800B and el cheapo TCL) and one $50 Healing DTS. Each device claimed to have an internal PVR storing to external memory on a USB 2 port.

I haven’t seen a PVR using USB 3 though that would be best as transfer speed seems to be a major factor. In general, I found USB 2 memory sticks (Sandisk, Verbatim) were too slow for reliable recording.

The Sony TV has been recording reliably onto a cheap PNY 128 GB USB 3 memory stick for maybe two years. Note, the Sony does not have “catch up” mode.

The TCL never recorded reliably (ie longer than 10-20 minutes) onto anything USB 2 or 3.

The Healing did record pretty reliably onto cheap PNY 128 GB USB 3 stick - BUT - if “catch up” was enabled there were regular “skips” in the video where maybe half a second of video was lost (presumably because the memory couldn’t quite keep up) - viewable but annoying.

The solution was a regular USB 3 HDD (WD passport 2TB). It is running happily powered through the USB cable. In theory, the PNY has faster peak transfer rate, but it seems unable to maintain the fast rate long term, whereas the WD just chugs along for ever. The peak rate is not really relevant because it is all slowed down by the USB 2 port on the PVR.

Sony and TCL only worked if the HDD/stick were formatted FAT32 and the Healing supports both FAT32 and NTFS. I forget whether there was a size limit on the Sony or TCL but the Healing at 2TB is larger than I can use - 1TB would save a bit, I just had the 2TB lying around.

“Catch up” mode is a major load on the memory as everything is being recorded always - just in case you want to back track.

I am sure my Sandisk Extreme pro stick and any SSD in a USB box would work wonderfully, but it just seemed a bit ridiculous hanging them permanently off a $50 box.

Anyone who states something “computer” is not possible is misrepresenting. A PVR is a dedicated computer. What they really mean in virtually all cases is that they chose not to implement it because of some marketing or design or engineering or technology decision.

Some PVRs do not support copying but if they can be FTP servers and are networked, recordings can be copied off that way to a PC.

Not wanting to start another related stream, I have decided to continue with my question here (@ScottOKeefe) .

We want to buy an new PVR.

The Choice review (https://www.choice.com.au/electronics-and-technology/home-entertainment/dvd-blu-ray-and-hdd-recorders/review-and-compare/pvrs-and-dvrs) is archaic :scream:, at least 16 months old! From my previous experiences, given the churn rate of new models, even six month old tech reviews are out of date, and recommended models very hard to find.

I would like to know if there is a new PVR review planned?

If not, can anyone recommend what the best value for money PVR is please? We don’t do anything fancy, we primarily record TV programs :tv: for later viewing and watch DVDs :dvd:. Very occasionally we will watch YouTube :projector:.

Your suggestions would be appreciated. :relaxed:



@meltam, Hi Tamás, We have a Humax 4Tune and a Topfield 2460; neither is a basic model. The Humax 7500 or 3000 might suit. Beyondwiz also has a decent reputation.

As I posted previously they all have quirks and avoid new to market unless you like beta testing. It has taken each generation of product at least a year for the firmware to settle down in the hands of users.

Whatever you look at, make sure there is a service and support website. Topfield/Toppro are nice products but have business issues in Australia and have essentially gone missing. eg try to find a support web site; whatever you buy you will probably need a firmware update during its life unless it is already >1 years in the market and your box has the latest, greatest already.

1 Like

Thanks for your suggestions Phil.

I’m fine with not having a basic model. What I was alluding to was we want is a PVR that is easy to use and will be good at the fundamentals of recording (twin tuners & series recording), playback, and playing DVDs.

1 Like

I use two USB TV tuners in the back of my PC to record any TV shows and series I want. I store them, the recordings, on my internal HDD that is set aside for Video recording and then move them onto external HDD if I want to long term store them. I used to have a twin tuner USB stick but after about 6 years it went to USB heaven. I haven’t bought another twin tuner model as the single ones are cheap as chips and so haven’t bothered looking.

Well I went looking and here is an example:

or here

1 Like

Thanks @grahroll. As we use laptops I thought that it would be a great idea to use the USB stick in your first link (with a retired vintage laptop & an external HDD). It would have also been a cheaper option ($99) utilising things we already own.

Unfortunately, after having a discussion with the family, I don’t think that it will work with what we have. They don’t want to leave a laptop running all the time (dead battery), the complications of waiting for an extended time for it to boot, & the added complications of an operating system. Rather they want the simplicity of being able to turn the PVR on and it works.

Back to the proverbial drawing board.

1 Like