Panasonic DMR-EX79 DVD / HDD Recorder - Panasonic DMR-EX79

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Panasonic DMR-EX79 DVD / HDD Recorder

Summary

Our Score:

9

The bottom part of the fascia drops down to reveal a few playback controls, DV, S-video and AV inputs and a USB port that lets you play back DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG files (the DMR-EX89 additionally sports an SD card slot). The USB port also provides a way of transferring MP3, WMA, JPEG and MPEG-2 files onto the hard disk, although it's disappointing to discover that you can't transfer DivX, and the port doesn't support PCs or external hard-drives.

If you can't be bothered to rip tracks on your PC and transfer them via USB, then the deck will also rip them directly from CD into LPCM and tag them using info from the built-in Gracenote database. When you load a CD it asks if you want to play or copy it, which makes the process easy enough, but the lengthy ripping time makes it a tedious job.

On the rear panel is a typically comprehensive array of sockets, including an HDMI v1.3 output (which supports Deep Colour and Viera Link CEC), component, S-video, composite video and analogue stereo outputs. These are joined by two RGB-capable SCART sockets that can be used to record from an external digital TV box and loop the signal through to your TV.

It's also worth remembering that the EX79 is also a fully-fledged DVD player, and can upscale movies to 1080p, as well as pipe Dolby Digital/DTS 5.1-channel soundtracks to an AV receiver using the optical digital audio output.

Elsewhere there's a plethora of other convenient features, including Pause Live TV, Chasing Playback and simultaneous record and playback. When making recordings there are four presets - XP, SP, LP and EP - and when changing modes a useful menu pops up to show you how much time is left in each one. The Flexible Recording mode can be used to fit a recording into a given space.

Editing is similarly comprehensive, with the deck letting you rename, trim or divide recordings and fiddle about with chapter points, plus you can assemble chapter playlists on DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and the hard disk. Recordings can also be backed-up on disc at high-speed. The manual makes the wealth of editing features seem complex, but after some hands-on time it's actually quite self-explanatory.

Much of this is down to the superb user interface, which improves on the previous generation and operates with pleasing responsiveness. It uses bright, welcoming colours and the layout of the 'Functions' setup menu is intuitive. All of the onscreen banners are clear and legible, particularly the Freeview 'now and next' info box that provides a programme synopsis and other key info, but it's a shame you can't browse other channels on the fly - for that you have to enter the full EPG.

Hamish Campbell

April 5, 2009, 7:49 pm

They've done a remarkeble job of making those menus and epg look ugly.

Paul W

April 5, 2009, 8:51 pm

@haim - that's also what I thought on first impressions. I can only assume it's different when you use it first hand? Also, what's with the big grey DIGA block on the EPG - is it used for anything?

Gnormie

April 5, 2009, 9:05 pm

@ Haim


They're not much to look at, but if they're anything similar to last years model which I won they are remarkably easy to use and navigate, even my dad was able to record a program something he hasn't been able to do since VCR tapes :P

Orinj

April 5, 2009, 11:19 pm

I bought a Panasonic DMR-EX78 last year and although that is also an excellent recorder, there were a few fundamental user interface features that bugged me so much that I ended up selling it. At least one of them, auto chapter marks seems to have been resolved but what about any of these in this year's EX79 model?





1) When you come to the end of one recorded program does the EX79 play straight through to the next program - thus removing the 'new' tag.


3) How good is the display information? Can you see the title, chapter and playing and remain time? The EX78 was pretty poor with no time remaining information.


4) How long is the DVD layer change delay? It's quite slow on the EX78


5) Although this may not be a region-free player, do you know how easy it handles the swap between PAL and NTSC discs. Do you have to go in and change TV mode just to watch an NTSC disc when you have a timer recording?


6) When in power save mode, is the start up time still hideously slow?





On the positive side it's great to see TR show more screen shots of the product in action.





@Pbryanw - The grey DIGA block is actual the space where adverts are shown and you cannot get rid of it. It's a really annoying waste of space but obviously Panasonic had some deal to include advertising in their EPG ;-(

smc8788

April 6, 2009, 2:39 am

Whoa, times change fast in the world of Countdown...since when has that guy from Sky Sports been presenting it?!





I didn't even know it was still on TV!

Paul W

April 6, 2009, 3:47 am

@smc8788 - Going off-topic, but Jeff Stelling's been there for a while. Do you also know that Carol Vorderman no longer co-presents either. Apparently the new show's not doing too well in the ratings also.





@Orinj - Thanks for clearing that up. I've heard that Panasonic TV's run adverts in their EPG, but didn't realise the recorders did too. The last DVD/Hard-disk recorder I had was a Sony which was pretty good. I wonder how this Panasonic stacks up against a similar Sony.

Grimboyd

April 6, 2009, 1:26 pm

And yet another HDD/DVD freeview recorder without twin tuners!

Isaac Sarayiah

April 6, 2009, 2:30 pm

You don't really need twin tuners as most tv's these days come with a built in freeview tuner so you can still record while watching another program.

Orinj

April 6, 2009, 2:53 pm

@Pbryanw - Interestingly, I sold the Panasonic EX79 to buy a Pioneer DVR-LX61D which I am much happier with. It uses the same user layout and functionality as the Sony models and I also have a Sony RDR-HXD870. Both models have their quirks that don't make them perfect but I still prefer them to the Panasonic. It's just disappointing that the remote controls for the Pioneer and Sony have too many buttons compared with the Panasonic and so finding basic controls such as pause and time skip are a bit tricky in the dark.

Jmac

April 6, 2009, 5:51 pm

When you pay 𧷐 for a device, you really don't expect to be fobbed off with ads in the EPG. Not cool, Panasonic!





@Isaac Sarayiah - dual tuners are essential for me. I never use the tuner in my TV (in fact it isn't even connected to an RF cable), because - having been a PVR user for a couple of years now - I hate not being able to pause and rewind live TV. I use my PVR in chase mode a lot, especially on commercial channels where I can start watching say 10 minutes late and then catch up by fast forwarding the ads. Also it is useful to be able to record two things at once, perhaps while also watching an existing recording.

Steve 12

April 7, 2009, 5:06 pm

@John Mclean - exactly, i too always watch in chase, especially the gadget show so i can fast forward over the irritating presenters :)





"new is an advanced control system that activates the fan only when the unit gets too hot" - it's called a thermostat

M. Long

May 3, 2009, 6:01 am

I thought the primary benefit of having twin tuners is that you can record two programmes on two different channels at the same time... Anyway, can anyone tell me how the upscaling performance of these Panasonic recorders compares to the upscaling of standard DVD on a Panasonic Blu-ray player? I'm trying to make my mind up. Thanks!

robin 3

December 3, 2009, 2:34 am

I have just bought this model and installed it. The manual is the worst I have ever seen and using it has lived up to the expectations of the manual. Nothing much seems to work, it has only a single tuner so you cannot record two programs at once or watch one and record another. Afetr trying a few options the menu does not work and it does not seem possible to reset it back to a default situation. The instruction to reset is to press and hold simultaneously up and down on a rocker switch. Previously we had a Sharp for half the price it did have two tuners and worked reasonably well until the digital changeover when it stopped getting the EPG and failed to record anything. The panasonic is going back to John Lewis as soon as we can get there.

Geoff Richards

December 3, 2009, 5:24 am

@robin - the fact this model only has a single tuner, rather than dual tuners, is clearly stated on Page 1, and again in the Verdict.

Clive Richards

January 15, 2010, 4:40 pm

I was all set to buy one of these to complement my panasonic plasma TV until I saw that it had only one tuner - that is just unbelievable since even the cheap end PVRs mostly have this....some say not important if you have freeview on the TV - true if you only want to record one programme but what if you are setting up advance recordings and some programmes overlap - a product of this price should have a second tuner ...end of!

Samuel

February 1, 2010, 7:14 pm

Very useful analysis. I like specially the pictures to show menus, and your detail about the onscreen banners, because nobody informs about "on the fly browsing"


I was sharing a flat in which we had a 10 year old decoder (ABQ) with which you could browse time and other channels on the fly, without changing the channel. I loved this system but don't find any DVB machine that has this possibility, except old philips interface


Would be grateful if any of you told me models of TVs and DVB decoders with this possibility, my email is samuel_sc_o@yahoo.com

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