Whether it’s 3D, 2D Freeview or DVD, the DMR-BWT800’s picture quality is excellent across the board. Freeview HD channels look spectacularly sharp and shiny, particularly programmes like The One Show on BBC One HD with its radiant studio colours and definitive, flaw-revealing detail. Recording these HD channels to the HDD in DR mode gets you an exact copy containing all the detail of the original broadcast.
The BWT800 is also proficient at displaying and storing SD programmes, keeping the usual block noise, banding and mosquito artefacts at acceptable levels. When you start converting recordings to the lower quality modes you start to see smudgy colours and blurred detail creeping in, but that’s to be expected at lower bitrates. However, the higher-quality recording modes produce superb results, keeping HD pictures visibly sharp but stopping short of the pristine quality of the original DR mode recordings.
As we’ve established with Panasonic’s standalone Blu-ray players, the company produces some of the most dazzling HD pictures on the market, and that’s also apparent in the BWT800’s reproduction of The Dark Knight. The image is solid and filmic, but bursting with detail. Faultless detail rendering gives the image mesmerising clarity, while the deck’s natural looking colour reproduction – complete with subtle shading and smooth tonal blends – completes a highly impressive 2D video performance.
These qualities also permeate its 3D picture performance. Avatar’s hypnotic mix of intoxicating neon colours, layer upon layer of forest foliage and photo-real CG creatures is masterfully constructed by the player and 3D TV, making for an immersive viewing experience that’s every bit as good as that which the DMP-BDT310 has to offer. But like the BDT310, 2D to 3D conversion is underwhelming, struggling to add convincing depth to the vast majority of 2D scenes we viewed.
Sonically there are no major issues with the BWT800 – CDs, digital music and Blu-ray movies sound fine through decent audio equipment and Digital Tube Sound’s added depth will no doubt appeal to some listeners (but did we really need six different settings?) However, after watching a Freeview channel for a few minutes it would suddenly lurch up in volume every now and again, which was a tad annoying.
Let’s get this out of the way up front – the DMR-BWT800 is undeniably expensive, making it something of a niche product only likely to attract enthusiasts with deep pockets. But that’s not intended to undermine the amazing things it can do. It’s an incredibly versatile entertainment epicentre, packed with staggering array of recording, editing and playback features – it’s a Freeview receiver, PVR, 3D-ready Blu-ray player, network streamer, digital media library and videophone all wrapped up in a single box.
On the negative side, the disjointed operating system makes it trickier to use than it could be – particularly when compared with the jazzy GUI on Panasonic’s latest standalone players – plus Viera Connect is badly needed on the Blu-ray range, the EPG is poor and 2D to 3D conversion needs work. But those gripes aside, the DMR-BWT800 is a killer piece of kit that will reward anyone who can afford one.