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Panasonic DMR-EX79 DVD / HDD Recorder review



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


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Panasonic's DVD/HDD recorders get better every year, and we're hoping the company can continue this trend with its latest model, the DMR-EX79. It replaces last year's brilliant DMR-EX78, adding a few new tweaks and features that make it easier than ever to record and watch your favourite programmes - and as is the norm these days it also acts as a central hub for your digital media library.

The DMR-EX79 forms part of a three-strong range, which also includes the top-end 400GB DMR-EX89 and 160GB DMR-EX769. Just like the DMR-EX78, this model is equipped with a 250GB hard-disk drive (up to 441 hours of recordings) and can record onto and play back any type of DVD, including DVD-RAM. Dual-layer DVD-R and DVD+R are supported but you can only copy recordings from the hard disk, while DVD+RW/+R recordings can only be made in 4:3 aspect ratio.

But frustratingly none of this year's models feature twin Freeview tuners, which is the only thing preventing DVD/HDD combis from emulating the runaway success of PVRs like Sky+. It means that you can't watch one channel and record another, which for most people is pretty high on the list of things you'd want to do with a digital recorder. Sigh.

Still, it partially makes up for it with the inclusion of Freeview+, which lets you record an entire series automatically and record programmes that are split into two parts. The DMR-EX78 also combines these features with some other nifty tools that make it easy to find programmes within the Guide Plus EPG - Free Word Search and Navi Link Search let you punch in the programme you're looking for using a virtual keyboard, then it lists all of the relevant broadcasts over the coming week.

Another of the EX79's smart new features is Auto Scene Chapter, which adds chapter points at the start of a scene as it records by 'listening' to the sound of the programme and detecting significant changes or gaps. Using the chapter skip key you can jump right to the next part when the adverts appear. We tried it out with a recording of Brothers and Sisters on Channel 4 and the function is astonishingly accurate, placing markers at the end of each ad break. Panasonic isn't the first to introduce such a feature but anyone who hates adverts will be pleased to find it included on these new models.

Aesthetically the EX79 doesn't mark a radical departure from last year's models, and although its black finish looks perfectly pleasant, it'll hardly set your living room alight. That said, it is remarkably slim by normal DVD/HDD standards, a result of Panasonic reducing the number of internal components. Also new is an advanced control system that activates the fan only when the unit gets too hot, leading to quieter operation during playback.

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Hamish Campbell

April 5, 2009, 7:49 pm

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


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?


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


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 ;-(


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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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