Once high-end luxury items, satellite receivers with two tuners are now fairly common. The feature tends to go hand-in-hand with an integrated HDD, so that one channel can be viewed while another records. Some receivers - notably the Sky - have the HDDs built in; others (often free-to-air or CI-upgradable types) can be fitted with the drive of your choice.

The TF6060CI, however, falls into neither scamp. There's no IDE or SATA interface inside the unit, or a USB port for external drives. In this case, the two tuners are used to provide nothing more than a picture-in-picture facility.

In other words, one channel (received by the second tuner) can be monitored within a 'window' that overlays the main picture (from the first tuner). That you can do little more than this is a wasted opportunity. It's almost as if Topfield's engineers were planning a twin-tuner PVR, but ran out of time.

To the outside world, the TF6060CI presents a pleasant albeit functionally styled fascia, which is freed of clutter. The only visible control is a standby button; there's also a large fluorescent display that gives you the current channel's name and number - some other information (radio/TV mode in use, for example, plus the current time in standby).

Lower the flap that dominates the right-hand side of the front panel and you'll find some essential operating controls (channel/volume/menu access) and a pair of CI slots. Above this is a card slot, but it's just an empty slot in this model, so if you're looking for firmware emulations of expensive CAMs, then you're advised to look elsewhere.

Interestingly, there's what looks like a HDD interface, but the relevant components are missing (could our earlier assumption have some basis in truth?). Although the case is far from densely packed, the TF6060CI runs surprisingly warm.

This receiver is well-specified in connectivity terms, though regrettably, you can't send one channel to the TV Scart and another to the VCR Scart for recording.

In the main menu, you'll find a 'system setting' option for setting parameters like AV output, parental control, clock, languages, OSD transparency level and even the type of onscreen transition experienced when channnels are changed (a straight 'switch', fading or freeze).

Timer out of place

Overall, these menus are reasonably well-organised, but for some bizarre reason, the VCR timer is grouped here. Before you get this far, though, your dish/LNB arrangement needs to be specified and channels found. This is the responsibility of the 'installation' submenu. The presence of two independent tuners makes configuration slightly unusual.

For each tuner, you have to specify LNB details, whether DiSEqC is used, and whether they're separated or looped through with a jumper cable (if the latter is chosen, then Input 1's settings take precedence). You can then automatically search for channels; free-to-air only, encrypted only or all channels (network search is also possible).

But what about more advanced searches? Sadly, blind-searching is not available. Manual searches allow you to concentrate on single transponders, which can be edited or defined manually with an installation-menu 'sat/TP edit' option. Polarity, frequency and symbol-rate can be entered here. In the third 'advanced' mode, you can also enter service PIDs.

Channel databases can be 'copied' between the two tuners - useful if you're using a motorised dish and dual-output LNB. On which subject, DiSEqC settings (1.2/1.3/USALS are supported) are independent for each tuner. In theory, you could have two different motorised dishes.

If only one dish is motorised it should be connected to the first LNB input. If you're using a USALS dish mount, site latitude and longitude can be entered for automatic determination of satellite positions. Here, a 'go-to' function will let you enter the orbital position of the bird you're after.

Multi-satellite searches are, unfortunately, not catered for, but a nice touch is the 'extended signal' function, which brings up larger signal and quality bars onscreen during setup functions. They're accompanied by an audible level indicator that goes from 'blip-blip' to a continuous tone with increased signal. A great installation aid.

Other main-menu options give you the opportunity to manage your channels (operations here include lock, delete, move and rename) and organise the ones you watch/listen to the most into four predefined lists. Not enough? Then you'll be pleased to note that an additional 26 can be defined manually.

This is perhaps just as well, because the radio mode offers no specific favourites lists. If you ever bored of TV or radio - favourites or otherwise - you might appreciate the six games on offer.

But back to broadcast services. Pressing 'enter' displays the channel lists - the rather cheap-looking (and often poorly labelled) remote's coloured buttons allow you to switch between tuners (useful if you've dedicated each to a specific satellite), or sort/search alphabetically (but, alas, not by encryption status).

The remote dedicates a specific button to channel access via the 'Favourites' route; the 'sat' button switches between the channel lists of each satellite.

Teletext is supported, the unit having its own decoder on board. The EPG supports both now-and-next and seven-day schedules, and can program the timer - which is capable of storing 70 events. Recordings can be scheduled at least 10 years ahead, by which time the DVB-S standard (and this receiver) will probably be obsolete.

But it's the picture-in-picture features that steal this receiver a lead over the competition - and the twin-tuner design comes into its own. A sub-picture window, which can be shown in one of three sizes, shows a second service that could be on a second satellite if you're using a multiple-dish setup.

Dedicated buttons on the remote allow you to swap the main picture with the sub-picture, choose the sub-picture channel or move it around the corners of the screen.

Potato-friendly

Related to PiP is a multi-channel 'mosaic' that grabs (and slowly refreshes) still picture windows from a choice of 2, 4, 9, 13 or 16 channels. All good for channel-zapping couch-potatoes, but PVR upgradability would have been more useful.

Other features include a picture 'freeze' and 'zoom' (up to 16x), a one-key shortcut to the UHF modulator menu, five-band audio graphic equaliser and the ability to switch between NTSC and PAL output at the touch of a button.

With an RGB Scart connection to our display, pictures from 'quality' channels impressed with their freedom from artifacting, vibrant colour reproduction and sharp detail. But in the world of MPEG-2, you don't get something for nothing and 'budget' channels employing lower bitrates were spoilt by feathery edges and blocky movement - a prize, then, for the first receiver manufacturer to introduce MPEG noise reduction.

Sound quality, from analogue and digital outputs, is punchy and clear. This stretches to radio; the BBC stations via Astra 2D sound far better than their DAB equivalents.

Searches are fast, a full-service scan of the preset Astra transponders found 800 TV and radio services in under 2.5 minutes. An FTA-only scan of the same cluster, meanwhile, took two minutes. Changing channels on the same satellite is adequately fast, taking around two seconds.

If you're using two dishes, then switching between channels on different satellites is just as responsive. As far as sensitivity is concerned, the TF6060CI gave us no cause for concern.

In performance terms there's little to criticise. Ultimately, though, the receiver's selling-point - twin tuners - is compromised by a lack of PVR functionality or independent video outputs. The inability to add your own hard disc doesn't help. Some will appreciate the picture-in-picture facility that the two tuners do provide, while others will see it as a gimmick