Want to cut down the ever-growing number of boxes under your telly but can’t bear to throw out your clunky old VHS cassettes? Then the DMR-EZ49V could be the solution you’re looking for. It fuses together a DVD recorder and VHS VCR, creating a single unit that not only lets you watch your videos and DVDs (in upscaled 1080p, no less) but also provides a convenient, cable-free way of transferring treasured tapes onto durable digital discs.
It’s worth pointing out that the DMR-EZ49V is not equipped with a hard-disk, making it best suited to casual users with infrequent recording habits, and people who want a tool for backing up programmes from their PVR. But if you want a hard-disk too, then check out the DMR-EX99V, which adds 250GB of memory as well as an SD card slot - the replacement for the DMR-EX98V. Interestingly, Panasonic hasn’t replaced the DMR-EZ28 DVD-only model this year – does this spell the end for the standalone DVD recorder?
Anyway, we digress. Although it lacks a hard-disk, the DMR-EZ49V does support a comprehensive range of recordable DVD formats (grandly dubbed 'Super Multi-Format Recording'), which has been a key feature of Panasonic’s recorders for many years. Most useful is DVD-RAM, which lets you perform many of the non-linear recording tricks that you can on a hard-disk, even more than DVD-RW discs formatted in Video Recording (VR) mode. But for permanent archiving you get a full house of write-once formats, namely single- and dual-layer DVD-R and DVD+R. However, on dual-layer discs, seamless recording between the two layers isn’t possible – the deck stops recording when the first layer is full and you have to close it before recording on the second.
When using one of these dual-layer discs, you get just over 14 hours of recording time, but that’s assuming you record everything in the lowest quality EP mode. In the highest picture quality XP mode you can fit one hour and 45 minutes onto a dual-layer disc. A single layer disc can hold one hour in XP and eight hours in EP. Two other presets are provided to help you choose the appropriate picture quality for the material – SP and LP – as well as Flexible Mode, which can squeeze a timer recording into a given space in the optimum quality. And in the unlikely instance you want to record onto VHS tape, there are three recording modes – SP, LP and EP.
As you’d expect the DMR-EZ49V is fitted with a Freeview tuner, but as per usual we’d have preferred twin tuners so you could watch one channel while recording another on DVD. It’s something Panasonic has managed on its Freesat recorders so why not here? Sure, there are technical challenges to overcome and it would bump up the cost, but plenty of people would be willing to pay extra for the privilege – after all, nobody likes being locked into the channel that’s being recorded.
Panasonic isn’t alone in this limitation – there are currently no Freeview DVD/HDD or DVD-only recorders on the market with twin-tuners – but you’d have thought someone would have had a go by now. The only way round it is to use the Freeview tuner in your TV but that’s not particularly convenient, and not every TV has one. Perhaps a bigger issue is that this deck won’t be able to pick up Freeview HD, so if hi-def is important it might be worth waiting for the first DVB-T2 recorders to come through.