They’ve got ’em in Japan. They’ve got ’em in France. They’ve even got ’em down under. And now the UK is getting its own model too. Say hello to Blighty’s first high-definition Blu-ray Disc recorder, courtesy of Panasonic.
Actually, there are three new models: the DMR-BS850, DMR-BS750 and the DMR-XS350 – the latter being a high-definition recorder with DVD archiving in standard def.
First up, the prices:
DMR-XS350 – £699
DMR-BS750 – £899
DMR-BS850 – £999
We know, there’s that whole ‘credit crunch’ thing happening at the moment. But trust us, you’ll like what these things do for you.
For starters, you get freesat+, which means recording, pausing and all the other usual PVR functions for the free-to-air satellite TV service.
When you go to record something on a standard-def channel and there’s a HD alternative, the guide tells you (useful for ITV HD content hidden under the red button or when the Beeb simulcasts something on BBC HD).
There are also two tuners, so you can record two TV channels and still watch a Blu-ray disc or view something stored on the hard drive. Since the content is stored as the pure bit-stream, there’s no reduction of quality when you burn it to a Blu-ray disc.
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The device can even record in standard definition to a DVD, so you can share content with friends who haven’t made the leap to Blu-ray yet.
And there are slots to access the content on SD cards and USB memory drives. Content can even be transferred directly from SD cards to a BD disc or the player’s hard drive, cutting out a PC if you want to burn your holiday snaps.
Since it has an Ethernet networking port, the players also make use of Panasonic’s Viera Cast technology – allowing you to view YouTube content or Picasa photos on your TV screen.
So how much can the 500GB hard drive hold? Well, at the top quality of 14Mbps it can handle around 77 hours of HD content.
However, there are five levels of recording quality, with the lowest being 4Mbps. At this quality the box can hold 240 hours. “Yeah, but it’ll look crap,” we hear you saying. Surprisingly, content stored at this level was very watchable, with only a slight reduction in sharpness and some background colours washed out.
Also, the sound is only 5.1 channels, which doesn’t reach the 7.1 level of Panasonic’s BD-80 player, but will be enough for most current home systems. The DMR-BS850 has slightly better sound connection options, just so you know.
We had a play with an early production model at Panasonic’s new museum/showroom, so what did we think? Overall, despite that price this is a very competent system.
Bundling Freesat recording with a Blu-ray player/recorder could have resulted in a jack-of-all-trades product, but Panasonic has managed to turn out a catch-all system that looks very professional, yet is still very easy to use.