Like all of Panasonic’s recorders, transferring recordings onto disc is a blissfully simple process thanks to Panasonic’s foolproof onscreen menus, and when copying hi-def you can use the deck’s built-in H.264 encoder to compress recordings but retain the HD resolution. There are five modes for this purpose – HG, HX, HE, HL and HM – which apply increasing amounts of compression to the recording. For example, using the HG mode you can fit four hours of recordings onto a 25GB Blu-ray, while HM lets you squeeze over 17 hours into the same space.
For DVD recording or for making recordings from external sources, there are four more recording modes – XP (best quality), SP, LP and EP (lowest quality). It’s also good to see that the DMR-BS880 supports any single- or dual-layer recordable Blu-ray or DVD disc.
Freesat functionality is excellent. The EPG is astonishingly crisp and easy to follow, laying its seven-programme grid over a black background with legible text inside each programme block. It alerts you when programmes on SD channels are also available in HD. The landscape view can be changed to portrait if you wish, and there’s loads of options at the bottom of the screen for searching through the guide, including a filter by genre or channel type. It’s great to see that there are no adverts as found on Panasonic’s Freeview recorders, which means the whole screen is devoted to the programme guide, although it’s a shame you can’t continue watching live TV as you browse.
With this comes Series Link, activated on a separate screen after you’ve selected a programme from the EPG (followed by yet another screen that confirms all the details). Helpful onscreen dialogue boxes talk you through any recording clashes and other key details. It’s also pleasing that the Freesat information banner allows you to see what’s on other channels without actually changing over, as well as allowing you to browse the next few programmes, not just 'now and next'.
Recordings are stored in the Direct Navigator menu, which thankfully overhauls the DMR-BS850’s tired-looking interface for a fresh design that boasts brighter colours and a clearer layout. In fact, all of the onscreen displays look much better than the BS850’s, including the Functions menu, which uses more sophisticated graphics and icons. In the Direct Navigator menu, recordings are laid out in a list with comprehensive programme information, including the amount of copies that can be made.
Hit the Options button and a list of editing options appears, enabling you to delete part of a recording, change the thumbnail, divide a title and convert DR mode recordings. This deck gives you an immense amount of control over the quality of your recordings and subsequent disc copies, which has always been one of Panasonic’s strengths. You can also pause and rewind live TV like a proper PVR, using a handy timeline to show you where you are in relation to the live broadcast. The deck is also ready for the BBC iPlayer, although we couldn’t access it on our sample.