The EPG layout seems cluttered at first but is actually as logical as they come, making great use of the colour-coded keys. You can choose from an overview of several channels or hone in on just one.
We're also impressed yet again by the simplicity of the remote, which uses big, clearly-labelled buttons. Especially helpful is the placement of the Direct Navigator, EPG and Functions buttons in an arc around the menu controls - a simple touch but very effective, particularly for newcomers to HDD recording.
The DMR-EX79 is also a terrific performer with Freeview recordings. In XP mode it captures the digital TV stream immaculately without adding any artefacts, and it preserves the integrity of strong colours and fine detail. For example, a recording of This Morning looks immaculate, with the EX79 convincingly replicating the garish studio colours and tricky skin tones, as well as delivering smooth edges and tightly focused, bleed-free scrolling text.
SP mode delivers similar results, looking just a fraction softer but solid overall. In LP the deck retains a great deal of detail, and when viewed on a mid-sized screen, it's quite hard to tell the difference - great news, considering you can squeeze four hours onto a single-layer DVD in this mode. EP mode displays increased amounts of mosquito noise giving it a generally gauzy appearance but it's still watchable - we've seen LP pictures on other recorders that look worse.
The DMR-EX79 features a new Adaptive HD Enhancer to sharpen images, and you can see the benefits when playing back movie DVDs at 1080p - the stylish visuals of the X-Men disc are presented with crisp detail, rich colours and no upscaling artefacts, a fact backed up by its slick handling of the HQV disc test patterns. Sonically the player also does a decent job, firing out movie tracks with aplomb and delivering a clean presentation of CDs and ripped LPCM tracks.
The DMR-EX79 continues the great work of previous Panasonic recorders but throws a few new tricks into the mix to keep you interested. In terms of recording, editing and media playback it leaves no stone unturned, plus its picture quality is solid and it's extremely easy to use - making it one of the best hard-disk combis we've encountered, particularly at under £300. The only caveat is the lack of a second Freeview tuner, which would have made it an even more essential purchase.