Panasonic DMR

Life getting you down? Is the only exciting thing that ever happens to you an unexpected item in the bagging area? Don’t be downhearted: the Panasonic DMR-BWT800 and DMR-BWT700 Freeview+HD Blu-ray disc recorders can metaphorically transform our boring two-dimensional world of meetings and losing any unsaved work into a dazzling high-definition, three-dimensional extravaganza, by literally turning 2D into 3D.

Both decks boast twin HD terrestrial tuners, so you can record two digital broadcasts at the same time. They offer 5.1-channel surround sound so you can enjoy your recorded programmes and your Blu-ray platters in glorious high definition for the ears as well as for the eyes.

If glorious high definition isn’t glorious enough for you, the players transform 2D pig-iron into 3D gold, converting regular fillums and telly stories into 3D. You can upscale rubbish old DVDs to hi-def quality, or go the whole three-dimensional hog and transform DVDs, Blu-rays or recorded telly into 3D. You can even turn your 2D photos into 3D snaps. Cor.

Whether it’ll look as good as stuff that was filmed in 3D is unlikely, but it’s a neat trick. A 3D Effect Controller adjusts the depth of the 3D, so you can crank the effect up for maximum depth-o-vision or dial it down if it’s doing your swede in. Obviously you’ll need a 3D-capable TV to display it.

Aside from 3D flim-flammery, the players give you assorted Blu-ray playback and recording options. You can access BD-Live extras on Blu-ray movies, or record telly to dual-layer Blu-ray discs, SD memory cards or a hard drive.

The BWT800 packs a 500GB hard drive and extra sound features, including a
quiet mode that shhhs the fan inside the player. The BWT700 packs a
320GB hard drive.

An HD archiving function copies your photos and video from the SD memory card out of your camera on to the hard drive and a Blu-ray disc. That’s handy for safely storing video you’ve recorded on your camera or camcorder, so you can get your muckers round and watch your meisterwerk on the big screen. You can also stream to other TVs, computers or even phones via DLNA.

The Wi-Fi-connected recorders access Panasonic’s Internet TV portal Viera Cast, and apps including Skype, YouTube and AceTrax video on demand.

The icing on the cake is Panasonic’s remote control app, which lets you control the recorders using your iPhone or iPad. The recorders are available now. The BWT800 costs £800 and the BWT700 costs £500.

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Panasonic DMR

Panasonic is adding three new Freeview HD recorders to its line-up, including the first to capture telly on to sparkling high-definition Blu-ray discs. The MR-BW880EBK and BW780EBK record to Blu-ray discs, while the DMR-XW380 records free hi-def telly to DVD.

The BW880 records to dual-layer Blu-ray discs or 500GB hard drive. The BW780 does the same, but with a smaller 250GB hard drive. Both pack twin HD terrestrial and freesat satellite tuners, which let you watch HD Come Weld With Me on one channel and at the same time record HD Strictly Come Morris Dancing on another. The Blu-ray drive also lets you rip CDs or record TV to DVD in standard definition.

The XW380, meanwhile, records Freeview HD to DVD or to a 250GB hard disc drive. It has twin hi-def terrestrial tuners.

The three new decks all include 5.1-channel Dolby surround sound, revised user interface and various sharing and connecting options. A USB slot plays back DivX HD, MP3 and JPEG
from USB sticks, and an SD card slot allows you to play back video and pictures, and copy over AVCHD, MP3 and JPEGs from your camcorder or camera.

Video and telly can be streamed around the house via DLNA, and controlled by the same remote as your Viera television. Viera Cast, Panasonic’s Internet TV service, lets you access selected Web services including YouTube.

An impressive array of features, to be sure, but these kind of extra-special extras don’t come cheap. The DVD-recording XW380 starts at £550, while Blu-ray recording will cost you £750, or £950 for the 500GB BW880. They’ll be in shops in a matter of days — just in time for the World Cup — but if you’re after a cheaper option here’s our round-up of Freeview HD receivers and TVs with the service built-in.

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Panasonic DMR

We aren’t expecting a symphony of sympathetic violins here, but there are times when reviewing consumer electronics is hard. Take, for example, a really great product like the Panasonic DMR-BW880. It’s a Blu-ray recorder, with twin Freeview HD tuners and a 500GB hard drive for recording up 130 hours of HD TV. It’s the perfect PVR, surely? Well, yes, apart from one thing: the price.

At £800, the DMR-BW880 is more expensive than most 42-inch TVs. In fact, it’s more expensive than a lot of things. It’s more expensive than an iPhone 4, higher-priced than most laptops and more costly than some diamond rings. Does that make it a bad product? No it does not, but it’s certainly going to affect the number of people that can afford it.

Ignoring the price though, there’s everything here you could need for a happy AV life. You’ve got a Blu-ray player for watching movies, and a recorder for archiving your favourite recordings from the built-in 500GB hard drive. Panasonic has also included DLNA network media support. But rather than the usual PC connectivity, this box can talk to another Panasonic player and allow you to stream TV shows around your home. The trouble is, you’ll have to own two of them, compounding the cost issue further.

We’re also pleased to see that Panasonic has gone for a twin tuner in this PVR. We’ve criticised it in the past for only having single tuners, and the company seems to have listened. As always, we do question the Blu-ray archiving, after all, with a 500GB hard drive you’re not likely to run out of storage all that quickly, and Blu-ray discs are still extraordinarily expensive.

VieraCast is also included, which allows you to access certain Internet services via your TV. Unlike Sony and Samsung, Panasonic doesn’t yet have video from BBC iPlayer or LoveFilm available. We’re determined to keep moaning about this until the company makes it happen. We’re amazed it hasn’t sorted it already.

The DMR-BW880 is available now, for around £800. Recordable 25GB Blu-ray discs go for around £2.50 each, should you want to archive recordings to the format.

We’re off to test this product fully and will have a full review with our final score on the site next week. 

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Panasonic DMR

Freeview recorders are exactly like arms. When you’ve got them, and they work perfectly, you take them for granted. But get one munched off by a shark or alligator and you’re really going to miss it. The cruel vagaries of review loan periods, rather than animal attack, mean we’ve gone without a recorder for a while, and it’s actually painful. Okay, not arm-munched-off hurty, but still, a considerable ache. So why not make sure you’ve got plenty of Freeview recording capability with the Panasonic DMR-EX79?

Where DVD recorder/hard drive recorder combos succeed and other Freeview recorders fail is the unlimited storage. Once the Panasonic’s built-in 250GB hard drive is full of Neighbours and Jeremy Kyle, you can simply store the amazing daytime TV you’re missing at work on DVD-R discs. That means, for a few pence a time, you’ve got a place to store those shows you’ll watch when you get around to them — for an almost unlimited amount of time. Thank goodness: we’d be lying if we said we’d never fallen foul of a full hard drive.

This being a Panasonic product, DVD-RAM is supported, which gives you some advantages over traditional RW media, such as longer life and slightly higher capacity. Normal DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW media are supported too. There are four recording modes, which adjust the amount of video you can store to either disc or hard drive. The more you store, of course, the lower the quality will be.

You can also rip CDs to the hard drive, and look up the CD information via the built-in Gracenote database. There’s 1080p upscaling via the HDMI output, which we remain sceptical about, but we’re happy to accept the high-quality digital connection between recorder and TV. You also get Navi Link, which allows you to search listings for a particular show. This is a fantastic inclusion that simplifies recording — the Freeview guide can be confusing at times.

We’ve got an EX79 here, right now, and it’s begging to be reviewed. So we’ll do exactly that. Once we’ve done that, you’ll find the results in our PVR reviews channel. The EX79 should cost you about £280 or so — hardly an arm or a leg.

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Panasonic DMR

In Crave’s ideal world, we’d be able to project TV out of our eyeballs whenever we wanted to watch it. We despise this hopelessly old-fashioned process of waiting for a programme to start and then sitting down and not being able to go for a wee until the first advert break.

Obviously, this model of convenience doesn’t suit the television industry. Its revenue stream is mostly made up of money from companies that want you to buy their miracle cream for reducing fine lines or sell you a lifestyle that you can only get by joining a specific mobile phone network. Luckily, the Panasonic DMR-EX88 DVD recorder and Freeview PVR moves us closers to watching TV conveniently and uninterrupted.

It does this by allowing you to record television shows to its built-in 400GB hard drive. That’s right — 400GB. You can record quite a lot of TV on a drive that size. Panasonic reckons at low quality, you can store more than 700 hours of video. Best of all, when you fill the disc, you can simply write the shows you want to keep on to DVD via the built-in recorder.

Of course, every DVD player worth its salt has upscaling these days and the EX88 is no exception. It can output a 1080p signal to your HD television and while that doesn’t mean Freeview will look high defintion, but it does mean you’ll get the very best out of your DVD collection.

The EX88 has a total of four recording modes, so you can pick the picture quality that best suits you. It also has support for all the blank DVD standards, including DVD-RAM; this format is especially useful for recording TV because it allows flexible writing, deleting and can be re-written up to 100,000 times. Even dual layer discs are supported, allowing you to archive up to 8GB of video on one disc.

The EX88 is a great way of storing your shows until you’re ready to watch them. Besides also offering some nice DVD playback options, it should do the job of annoying the nation’s broadcasters, what with all the advert skipping that’s going to occur.

The Panasonic DMR-EX88 is available now for around £350. -Ian Morris

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Panasonic DMR

There’s got to be someone left with some VHS tapes. While most of the world has upgraded to DVD, there’s someone out there who is refusing to pay for another copy of Star Wars. If that’s you, then Panasonic has a product it thinks you might be interested in — if it can prise you away from your money.

The DMR-EX98V is essentially a VHS deck, DVD writer and HDD-based Freeivew receiver. It’s the electronic equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. The EX98V promises to upscale both DVDs and VHS, which gave us a shock because attempting to upscale low-quality analogue recordings is a fool’s errand.

We’re amazed on an almost daily basis by how electronics companies
attempt to polish the proverbial excrement by offering to upscale
anything that they can lay their hands on. Of course, for the most
part, we know it’s a load of old rubbish, but that doesn’t stop them
from pushing on with it anyway.

Despite our scepticism with the concept of upscaling any old footage and presenting it in 1080p, the EX98V has enough built-in features to make it a really good choice for some people who have a lot of different media. We can see it being a popular choice with home movie enthusiasts too, because you can connect DV cameras to it and use it to copy footage. Plus, the addition of VHS means any old format, VHS-C camcorder tapes you have can be accommodated.

It also features a 250GB built-in hard drive, so you’ll be able to store frankly ridiculous amounts of TV shows and even music — the Panny can copy music from your CDs directly onto the hard drive, and get track information from its built-in Gracenote database. So we’ll let Panasonic off its crazy VHS upscaling claims, as they seem to have created a box with a genuine use, even if we threw our tape collections out years ago. -Ian Morris

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Panasonic DMR

Because Crave leads such an active social life (read: we can’t stop playing World of Warcraft), we’re very rarely around to watch TV. This means Freeview hard-drive recorders are absolutely invaluable. One of our faves was the excellent Panasonic DMR-EX75, so we’re overjoyed to see an upgrade: the EX77, which allows digital recording to either DVD or its built-in 160GB hard drive.

The EX77 also has a built-in Freeview receiver, so there’s no messing around with those pesky Scart leads to plug in your Freeview receiver and suffering a loss in quality as everything is converted from digital to analogue and back again.

There’s also an HDMI output for hooking it up to your high-definition television. The great news is the EX77 can upscale all of your stuff to 1080p. Don’t expect miracles from Freeview pictures, but DVDs should look great.

What’s even more awesome is the ability to copy files from the hard drive to DVD and vice versa. This means you can pop stuff on to the hard drive, and if it’s good, dump a copy to DVD to keep forever — or borrow a burned TV show from a pal. Although Crave would never suggest that anyone break the hallowed law of copyright by doing so.

You can get your grubby mitts on the EX77 for about £260 online, and we’ve got a full review on the way. -Ian Morris

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Panasonic DMR

We’ve never seen anything quite like the Panasonic DMR-EH80V. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of DVD recorders, with both a hard drive and a VHS deck busting out of its oversized chassis. Going back to VHS is like an 80s nostalgia trip — you want to fire up a massive IBM ThinkPad and listen to Wham! for the complete experience.

In this age of high-definition, flat-screen TVs, it doesn’t seem quite right, but if you’ve got some old programmes that you just can’t bear to lose, you can back them up to either hard disk or DVD with a one-touch, 6-way dubbing system (as long as it’s not copy protected, of course).

It’s not a complete technological throw-back, with progressive-scan video and a 200GB hard drive justifying its high-end price tag. The hard drive will hold up to 355 hours of recording at the lowest quality, or 89 hours at a quality you’d actually want to watch. You can also transfer directly from a camcorder over DV and play photo slideshows directly from an SD card. As for vanilla DVD recording, the EH80V supports Panasonic’s own RAM format as well as DVD-R/+R. It’s a shame there’s no support for the RW format though.

The EH80V is available now for around £600. We’ll have to wait and see if it has the recording power of Panasonic’s previous machines — expect a full review soon. -GC

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