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So what else do we find inside the DMR-EZ49V? In terms of multimedia playback, it’s fairly obliging, although the lack of WMA support might be problematic for some. You can play DivX, MP3 and JPEG from drives connected to the front-mounted USB port, or the same file types from CDs and DVDs.
As for DVD recording and editing, this deck offers all the tricks found on the DMR-EX83. DVD-RAM discs offer the greatest flexibility – with one of these in the tray you can create playlists of various chapters and titles; delete combine and create chapters; divide a title; delete part of a recording by entering start and stop points and watch a recording from the start before it’s finished. Other disc types offer more basic editing features, but one useful feature common to all formats is Auto Chapter Creation, which inserts markers when there’s a lengthy gap in the audio – we tried it a few times with various commercial channels and it found the beginning and end of the ad breaks every time.
Also pleasing is that the deck starts recording almost instantly after pressing record, almost as quickly as hard-disk recording on the DMR-EX83, and you can get some very accurate edits by pressing pause on the remote while recording. Using the Partial Delete function, the edit points are clean as a whistle, with no picture noise or audio problems. There’s a myriad other DVD features to explore, but on the VCR side you get automatic indexing, S-VHS Quasi Playback (SQPB) and Jet Rewind.
On the outside, the DMR-EZ49V is just a thick hunk of black plastic with only a large, easy-to-read information panel to brighten up the front. Along the bottom are the auxiliary inputs – S-video, composite and analogue stereo – as well as a cluster of playback buttons and the USB port for digital media playback. There’s a circle containing two buttons for convenient one-touch copying between DVD and VHS and vice versa.
On the back, the deck offers everything you need. The HDMI port fires Freeview, DVD, VHS and anything else to your TV in upconverted 1080p, 1080i or 720p, while the SCART output offers RGB and composite video. When recording from external sources, the SCART input supports RGB, S-video and composite as well as the EXT Link feature, which starts the deck recording when a signal is detected from a connected digibox. The line-up is completed by composite, analogue stereo and optical digital audio outputs.
The onscreen menus are identical to the DMR-EX83, and as a result share the same level of simplicity. It’s all very bright and colourful, making it a blessing for digital recorder newcomers, and the structure is generally logical. The Direct Navigator is particularly good, showing each recording with a moving thumbnail when highlighted, and for Freeview programmes it displays the name too.
But there’s a few things we don’t like about the DMR-EZ49V’s onscreen design. The Guide Plus EPG is a garish mess, with a large grey advertisement block taking up much of the space and making the programme grid look unnecessarily squashed. The rest of the space is taken up by colour-coded options and instructions, which makes it very cluttered. The placement of the setup menu is another slight niggle – it’s hidden away in a submenu when it should have been prominently placed in the main Functions menu. It’s also a shame that you can’t browse the entire digital TV schedule menus using the onscreen banner, but it only contains now and next information.
The remote is terrific. Large, responsive buttons, clear labelling and an intuitive layout make navigation a swift and hassle-free experience.