Review Price £389.99
Unlike the DMR-BWT800, there’s no built-in Wi-Fi, so in order to avoid Ethernet ignominy you’ll need to invest in Panasonic’s DY-WL10 USB wireless LAN adaptor. Trouble is, the BWT700 also supports Skype – allowing you to make video calls to family and friends from the comfort of your sofa. This not only requires the purchasing of the rather expensive TY-CC10W USB communication camera but if you buy both camera and LAN adapter, you’ll need to connect the camera to the front-mounted port, which not only looks ugly but also leaves nowhere to plug in your USB sticks.
Still, it’s great to see Skype on the spec sheet at this lower price point. We’ve really grown to love this feature and the superb user interface makes it an absolute breeze to use. It’s part of Viera Cast, which is still being included instead of the newer Viera Connect found on the latest Panasonic TVs. It’s a shame because its content is behind the times compared with other manufacturers – there’s no BBC iPlayer, for instance, which is made all the more galling by the fact that Panasonic’s Freesat recorders can now receive iPlayer thanks to a recent firmware upgrade.
When hooked up to the web you can also stream media from devices on your home network, as well as watch recordings on this unit on other networked Panasonic components. The deck’s multimedia talents are impressive – it supports DivX HD, MKV, JPEG, MP3, WMA, WMV, MPO and AVCHD from USB, plus AVCHD, MPEG-2, JPEG and MPO from SD cards. Remember that you can also copy SD Video, AVCHD, MP3 and JPEG photos to the hard disk to create your own media jukebox, and rip tracks from CDs directly onto the HDD, with an online Gracenote database on hand to tag your tracks automatically.
On the recording side, there’s very little this deck can’t do. You can record Freeview programmes onto the HDD and not directly onto Blu-ray, but everything is recorded in DR mode, which basically records the raw bitstream and ensures the highest picture quality possible. Copy protection is in force, which generally means that you can only make one Blu-ray copy.
Using DR mode, up to 79 hours of HD programmes can be recorded on the 320GB HDD, or 258 hours of SD, which might not be enough to satisfy those who hit the series link button for everything. If they do start to take up too much space you can compress them afterwards using a range of five HD recording modes (HG, HX, HE, HL, HM), which make the files smaller without greatly reducing picture quality – although it’s a time consuming process. That’s handy when backing up to Blu-ray and you want to squeeze as much onto a disc as possible – the lowest quality HM mode fits 35 hours of HD onto a dual-layer BD-R, compared with 13 hours in DR mode. You also get four SD recording modes (XP, SP, LP, EP) which can be used to record from external devices via Scart or when recording onto DVD.
On the Freeview HD side, it does everything you’d expect from a twin-tuner PVR – pause/rewind live TV, simultaneous recording and playback and recording of two channels at the same time, although when doing the latter, network functionality is greatly reduced. Features like the eight-day EPG, series link, guide link and broadcaster recommendations ensure you never miss your favourite programmes.
There’s a vast array of editing features too, which allow you to remove unwanted parts of your recordings or split titles in two, and it’s easy to carry out these functions thanks to the simple onscreen menus and clear instructions. They’re useful for tidying up recordings before committing them to disc.
With so much going on elsewhere, it’s easy to forget that the DMR-BWT700 is also a fully-fledged Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player complete with 3D playback, and on that score it features the usual range of picture tweaks – screen frame, screen depth and 2D-to-3D conversion, which works with discs and with Freeview programmes recorded onto the hard disk.