Panasonic proclaims this year’s recorders to be its fastest ever in terms of tray opening and accessing the EPG or Direct Navigator menus, and as promised it carries out these tasks in double-quick time.
It’s still sluggish in other areas though, particularly when pausing live TV where the screen goes black for a few seconds while the HDD kicks in, and to return to live TV you have to select ‘OK’ in a dialogue box. And sometimes it wouldn’t work at all for reasons we can’t quite explain. We prefer the immediacy of Sky’s HD box.
That aside, the Panasonic DMR-BWT735 is very user-friendly. The simplicity and clarity of the onscreen menus will reassure the uninitiated. The look might be a little basic for those raised on the flashy graphics of iPads and iPhones, but it gets the job done.
The EPG is terrific, using a large eight-channel programme grid while leaving room for live TV in the corner. The attractive colour scheme, crisp graphics and intelligent use of shortcuts make it a joy to use. You can filter channels by category or create lists of favourites.
One minor annoyance is that when you highlight a programme and press OK, a submenu asks if you want to view or record it, which feels unnecessary because you already have that option in the EPG (the red button).
The information banner only lets you view ‘now and next’ information, not the entire schedule. But it’s nicely designed and provides all the crucial details about each programme.
The well-designed Direct Navigator menu lets you switch between different types of media – TV recordings, AVCHD, music and photos. For TV, it displays recordings with a moving thumbnail and thorough details about the programme.
For HD recordings, you’ll see an icon signifying how many times you can copy it onto disc in HD – in most cases you can copy it once, or as many times as you like in SD. A little flag symbol tells you that the title hasn’t been viewed yet, while another denotes when a recording can’t be streamed over DLNA.
When recording anything onto the hard disk, the Panasonic DMR-BWT735 uses the highest quality DR (Direct Recording) mode (8Mbps). Then within the Direct Navigator menu you can convert the title into one of five lower-bitrate HD modes – HG, HX, HE, HL and HM (in descending order of picture quality) – or one of four SD modes, XP, SP, LP and EP (ditto).
The same modes are available when copying a recording onto Blu-ray or DVD, the idea being that you can squeeze more onto a disc by downgrading the picture quality. Hard-disk file conversion takes place when the deck is next placed in standby, so it doesn’t interfere with operation.
Also found in the Direct Navigator menu is a range of editing features, including Partial Delete (which lets you chop out unwanted parts of a recording) and Split. Copying onto Blu-ray discs is quick and easy thanks to informative onscreen menus, and provided you don’t want to convert into a different recording mode you can copy content at high-speed.
Elsewhere the Function menu is clear and simple, if a little dull, allowing you to access any function and select which drive you want to browse. Live TV plays in a small screen while you navigate. The setup menu is similarly clear and comprehensive.
Panasonic supplies one of its classic rubber-buttoned remotes, sporting a helpful layout, good use of colour and an intuitive direction pad in the middle. It’s a tad cluttered towards the bottom and the channel change keys could be more prominent, but on the whole it’s a success.