With the ability to record onto hard-disk, DVD and VHS, the DMR-EX98V stakes a claim for the title of Ultimate Recording Solution™. Panasonic sticks one of these multi-talented machines in its range every year to cater for those who want the flexibility and convenience of DVD and HDD recording, but also have lots of VHS tapes still lurking in their cupboards. And because everything is combined into one tidy unit, you can transfer material internally between hard-disk, DVD and VHS tape (in any direction) and make back-up copies of your precious recordings.
The unit also features video upscaling to 720p, 1080i and 1080p, which makes it possible not only to watch DVDs, live TV and recordings in hi-def resolution, but also VHS tapes - a clever fusion of old and new technology that helps combat the problem of watching a low-quality source on a cutting-edge HD TV.
The inclusion of a VHS deck understandably makes the unit podgier than your average DVD/HDD combi but Panasonic has done a good job of masking this fact with a dashing black finish and a mirrored panel on the fascia. Within this panel is an illuminated display that uses large, easy-to-read digits and an indicator that tells you which drive is currently selected. Also on the front are buttons that activate one-touch copying between any of the drives.
The mirrored panel opens to reveal a few more buttons and a selection of auxiliary sockets, including S-video, composite and stereo audio inputs, plus a DV input to transfer camcorder footage. Even more generously, the DMR-EX98V provides a USB port and an SD card slot, the latter allowing you to view still pictures and SD Video files captured on Panasonic camcorders, or transfer them to the hard-disk. It also supports SDHC (High Capacity) cards of between 4GB and 16GB.
The rear panel is satisfyingly busy, boasting an HDMI v1.3 output that supports Deep Colour, Viera Link HDMI CEC and the aforementioned video upscaling, as well as a set of component sockets and an RGB-capable SCART output. For lower-quality needs, there are also S-video and composite outputs and if you want to record from external devices (such as a Sky box or Freeview receiver) then the RGB-capable SCART input lets you do so in superb quality. Digital audio duties are handled by the single optical output, which outputs Dolby Digital, DTS, MPEG and PCM.