Elsewhere there are tons of other little playback tricks and functions that we’ll let you discover, but pause/rewind live TV is always worth a mention – this displays a logo in the bottom corner reminding you that you’re watching delayed playback.
As for performance, the EX83 is generally impressive. Channel tuning is over in a flash, cursors dart round menus in an instant, and unlike Panasonic’s Blu-ray decks there are no delays when moving from one menu to another. There’s a slight delay when changing channels but nothing too frustrating.
Picture quality is as good as Freeview can be. Every channel looks solid and stable, with strong but natural colours and plenty of detail. There’s a slight hint of over-sharpening around some edges, highlighted by dark objects against coloured backgrounds, and intense detail or movement causes a bit of shimmering, but on the whole the on-board DVB-T Adaptive Noise Reduction keeps the image looking crisp. The BBC News ticker, for example, scrolled across the screen with sharp edges and no judder.
Recording quality is excellent in XP and SP modes, surprisingly sharp in LP and hideous in EP, due to the low bitrate used. Images look fuzzy and juddery – a shot of a spinning roulette wheel was a complete blur – so we don’t recommend using EP for programmes with a lot of fast movement. Accompanying these pictures is clear, audible sound, captured on the hard disk by Dolby Digital Stereo Creator. You also have the option to record audio in space-hogging LPCM in XP mode, but there’s no real difference in quality.
Finally, DivX, MP3, WMA files play back from the hard-disk or USB drive without any problems, and as an added bonus JPEGs can be displayed in hi-def and look fantastic on an HD TV.
Like the DMR-EX79 before it, the DMR-EX83 is a top-notch digital recorder that puts many of its rivals to shame. Not much has changed since the previous generation, but why tinker with a winning formula? It’s teeming with features, provides superb live Freeview pictures and recordings, and it’s generally easy to operate.
Some areas need work though, primarily the terrible EPG, and the inclusion of only one Freeview tuner is as grating as ever. What’s more, at £330 it’s by no means cheap, and with Freeview HD looming on the horizon you’ll need to decide whether it’s worth splashing out that much now or hanging on until someone launches a similar recorder with built-in Freeview HD, which they inevitably will at some point.