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The DMR-EX89 is the step-up version of Panasonic's impressive DMR-EX79 DVD/HDD recorder and features a couple of upgrades for a £100 premium. Like all of Panasonic's Freeview combis, the EX89 leaves absolutely no stone unturned when it comes to recording functionality, but it's so much more than a mere TV timeshifter - its ability to handle a wide range of disc types and digital formats makes it an all-singing, all-dancing entertainment centre too.
The main difference between this and the EX79 is hard-disk capacity. The EX89 offers a 400GB HDD as opposed to the EX79's 250GB, giving you a maximum recording time of 712 hours - if you record everything in the lowest-quality EP mode that is. In the top-quality XP mode, you get 89 hours and SP offers 178 hours, which should still be enough to cater for most people's recording habits.
The other difference is that the EX89 adds an SD card slot to the front panel, which is great news if you own peripherals like SD video camcorders and digital cameras and want to view your masterpieces on the living room telly. The slot also accepts SDHC cards with capacities from 4GB to 32GB and supports JPEG and SD video (MPEG-2). Both can be copied to the hard-disk.
Otherwise the two models are identical in terms of features and design. The EX89 is a tasteful if unremarkable-looking unit, with a black finish that blends in surreptitiously with other AV gear and compact bodywork that's a million miles away from the chunky Panasonic recorders of old. A flap on the front conceals a whole host of goodies, including that SD card slot, a USB port and a DV input for fast, high-quality camcorder dubbing. The S-video, composite and stereo audio inputs let you copy from external analogue gadgets, and there's a row of five buttons (up/down, play, record and stop).
The rear panel is teeming with connections. The HDMI socket sends 1080p, 1080i, 720p and 576p pictures to your TV digitally, or you can opt for the analogue outs - component, S-video or composite. The two SCARTs enable you to input and output RGB, S-video and composite video signals, plus the input can be used in conjunction with a timer-equipped digital TV box. On the audio side there are analogue stereo and optical digital outputs.