Panasonic DVD Recorders
Panasonic have proved themselves leaders in the field of Freeview DVD Recorders with integral hard disk technology. Their latest products include the DMREX88, with it's massive 400GB disk and the DMREX768, a replacement of the popular DMREX77 DVD recorder with a 160GB HDD.
In this review we take a look at the DMR-EX77 and DMR-EX87 DVD recorders, both of which incorporate a Freeview compatible DVB-T tuner and large capacity hard disk, together with providing an HDMI interface with up-scaling to full HD (1080p / 1080i). In keeping with other Panasonic DVD recorder models, both offer exceptional picture quality when connected to an HD ready flat screen TV.
Up to 111 hours of TV programming can be recorded onto the DMREX87's 250GB hard disk in Standard Play mode. The DMREX77 is identical in terms of functionality, but has a smaller 160GB hard disk capable of recording 70 hours of programmes in Standard Play. Hence, this review is applicable to both Panasonic DMR-EX77 and DMR-EX87 models.
Panasonic DMR-EX87 Review Conclusion
Easy to use DVD recorder with excellent picture quality and full 1080i and 1080p upscaling via the HDMI interface. The ability to playback a recording whilst recording another programme is a useful feature, which allows time delayed viewing.
Fiddly DVB-T channel editing process means that it is not easy to delete unwanted automatically installed out or region Freeview channels without using channel profiles. There is no integral UHF modulator.
The Panasonic DMR-EX87 is very easy to use with a clear intuitive on-screen menu system. Installation was automatic at first power up and all available DVB-T channels were found and installed. Signal strength and quality readout are provided in bar graph can be accessed from the Setup menu to check or align your aerial.
Most digital recorder functions are accessed by the Function Menu on the handset and are clearly labeled "Playback", "Recording", "Delete" and "Copy". Most functionality is intuitive and doesn't necessitate referring to the comprehensive owner's manual.
5 different recording modes are provided to increase hard disk recording capacity. These include XP (extra high quality) – up to 55 hours, SP (Standard Play) – up to 111 hours, LP (Long Play) – up to 222 hours, EP (Extra Long Play) – up to 443 hours. The recording capacity figures quotes are for the Panasonic DMREX87.
Although the unit provides over 400 hours of recording time on Extra Long Play, the video quality is reduced down to levels similar to conventional VHS recordings. We consider LP, SP and XP offer the best performance for everyday use.
The Panasonic DMREX77 and DMREX87 both offer advanced editing functionality (Partial Delete) to remove unwanted sections of any recording like adverts and unwanted captions, useful if you plan to archive any recording onto DVD using the integral DVD recorder.
DVD's created by the DMR-EX87 can be played on other DVD Players since disks are finalized prior to completion. Recordings made onto DVD RW format disks can be erased and the disk media re-used as needed.
Being the owner of a Freeview PVR, it was refreshing that the Panasonic DMR-EX87 and DMR-EX77 both offered some really useful functionality, including the ability to playback any recording from the Hard Disk whilst recording another. This means that you time delay playback is possible, whereby a recording can be simultaneously replayed even before it is completed, after a short delay.
It is possible to start recording a programme, then play it back shortly afterwards, with the ability to pause the playback giving similar functionality to "pause live TV" on a conventional PVR. In this way you have the next best thing to pause live TV with the benefit of the DMREX87's integral DVD Recorder thrown in. The DMR-EX87 offers flexibility which is currently unmatched by Sky+ and the popular Humax PVR9200T and Topfield TF5800 PVR's all of which lack the integral DVD recorder offered by the Panasonic.
Using the tips above, both the Panasonic DMR-EX77 and DMR-EX87 could replace a separate Freeview PVR, stand alone DVD recorder or DVD player, providing a neat and powerful all-in-one solution.
HDD and DVD recordings can be made from an external sources such as a Video Recorder, Sky or Sky+ box using the DMR-EX87, by means of rear panel AV2 Scart input which supports RGB for improved picture quality. It is more convenient to record onto the HDD and then edit and copy the footage onto DVD if required. An additional S-VHS input as well as composite video and two audio inputs are provided under a pull-down flap on the DMR-EX87 front panel. The S-VHS input allows high quality archiving to DVD from compatible equipment.
Fast copy to DVD is provided for HDD recordings of less than 2 hours in duration. When copying films over 2 hours in length, flexible recording is used to compress the video to fit onto a single sided DVD. This reduces picture quality slightly and prevents the use of the fast DVD copy, resulting in DVD authoring taking up to 1 hour to complete.
The Panasonic "Copy menu" allows several shorter programmes on the HDD to be recorded onto a single DVD. These then appear as separate DVD chapters to allow easy viewing.
It's worth noting that the Panasonic DMR-EX87 is supplied with a terrestrial digital TV (DVB-T) tuner and will not receive or record analogue TV channels. Thus, it's important that you check Freeview coverage in your UK region before purchase.
When connected through an HDMI cable to an HD Ready TV, Freeview DVB-T broadcasts can be upscaled to HD formats including 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Viewed in this way, Freeview pictures become sharper and more detailed compared to conventional Freeview boxes or integrated digital TV's.
Both DMR-EX77 and DMR-EX87 Panasonic DVD recorders support the playback of conventional audio CD's, MP3 music CD's as well as MP3 DVD's.
The UK DMR-EX87 is compatible with Region 2 disks or disks labeled as "All". This implies that the UK model is not multi-region compatible without modification. A Multi region hack for the DMREX87 is available from Multi Region Upgrades. After modification, the unit will play Region 1 -6 disks.
The Panasonic DMREX77 and DMREX87 DVD recorders accept DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD-RAM and DVD-R disks and will record onto each, but 1-16X DVD-R disks or DVD-RW are recommended to take advantage of fast copy to DVD, which will burn a 2 hour DVD in around 11 minutes. Longer programmes will be converted to DVD using Panasonic's Flexible Recording mode, which adjusts video quality to fit the DVD media. Although DVD+R and DVD+RW disks can be recorded on the DMR-EX77 and DMR-EX87, recordings are reproduced in 4:3 screen format.
In use the Panasonic DMR-EX87 produced excellent quality recordings (indiscernible from the original in Standard Play (SP) mode. Recording quality on LP also eclipsed VHS recordings, although digital artifacts around edges become more prominent.
Neither of the DMR-EX77 or DMR-EX87 offers a UHF modulator, but UHF loop-through is provided. The unit can be connected to an external modulator if required or feed the AV input of a Video Recorder that has an integral modulator.
The Panasonic DMR-EX77 and DMR-EX87 digital TV recorders both offer excellent picture quality, ease of use and functionality and come highly recommended. Recently, these DVD/HDD recorder models have now been replaced. John Lewis stocks a selection of the latest digital TV recorders.