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Panasonic DMR-EZ48V DVD / VHS Recorder
Incredibly, the VHS format refuses to die despite being usurped by DVD, hard-disk and now Blu-ray recording. It's a bit like Mickey Rourke's character in The Wrestler - hugely popular in the 1980s, started to fade as rivals came to prominence but hanging in there despite its age. While you might not be able to buy new films on VHS, most people have old tapes lying around - many of which contain precious memories or much-loved programmes not yet released on DVD - and products like Panasonic's combined DVD recorder/VCR provide a convenient way of archiving them for prosperity.
The DMR-EZ48V comes equipped with a multi-format DVD drive, which means you can bung any type of blank DVD into the tray (including dual-layer DVD-R and DVD+R) and internally copy VHS tapes onto disc. But of course VHS archiving isn't this unit's only purpose. There's a built-in Freeview tuner too, which means you can record digital TV programmes directly onto DVD (or onto VHS if you prefer) as well as upscale DVD movies to 1080p.
The unit's chunkiness is explained by the built-in VHS drive, but the black or silver styling is smart and snazzy enough to carry it off and the silver circle of buttons on the right provides an attractive embellishment. The front panel includes a row of AV inputs, including S-video, composite, stereo audio and DV, but unlike Panasonic's latest DVD/HDD recorders there's no USB port, which is a tad disappointing.
Around the back is an excellent array of sockets, including two SCART sockets - one input for making copies from external devices, and one output for sending RGB, S-video or composite signals to your TV - as well as component, HDMI and S-video outputs. They're joined by analogue stereo and optical digital audio outputs.
Setting up the recorder is a piece of cake. Hook it up to your TV, plug your aerial into the RF input on the rear and let the Auto Setup mode do its thing. It finds all the Freeview channels fairly quickly, and runs through a few other settings to save you doing it later. General operation is also easy - to switch between the VHS and DVD drives, hit the dedicated Drive Select button on the remote, plus another button labelled Input Select lets you toggle through the external inputs.
The operating system revolves around the Functions menu, which boasts a blissfully simple layout. From here you can access the Setup menu, which covers every conceivable option, as well as the Timer recording schedule and the Copy menu. The latter runs through a step-by-step process for dubbing recordings - first select the source and destination, set the recording mode and then compile a list of recordings to copy (when dubbing from VHS to DVD). Everything is clearly signposted along the way; making it an easy procedure even for digital recording novices, and the intelligently laid out remote doesn't complicate matters.