The Panasonic DMR-HW120 is a dual tuner Freeview HD digital recorder with 500GB of storage space built-in and support for smart TV services and network media streaming. Priced at around £250, it's the entry level model in Panasonic's new for 2012 range of PVRs.
Panasonic's digital recorders all use pretty much the same chassis and so look virtually identical. Just like last year's models, this one has a mostly glossy black finish that looks smart, but also a little bit boring. The front is covered by a semi-transparent flap, behind which sits a large-ish six character LED display. This is used to show time and channel information and is joined by two small red LEDs to indicate when one or two recordings are in progress. Also behind this flap are a USB port and an SD card slot.
On the Panasonic DMR-HW120's rear panel you'll find a second USB port as well an Ethernet port. Sadly, there's no Wi-Fi built-in, but there is a rather expensive USB Wi-Fi dongle available for around £70 if you want to go wire-free.
The rear also houses a HDMI port, along with an optical digital audio out and a pair of phono sockets for analogue stereo output. Naturally, there are RF input and output connectors to feed the aerial into the recorder and back to your TV. That's your lot, though, so it's not compatible with older TVs that only have component rather than HDMI ports.
The onboard 500GB hard drive is large enough to store around 129 hours of HD recordings or 258 hours of standard definition recordings. Thankfully Panasonic has improved the EPG substantially over that used on its previous recorders. There are two very welcome changes. Firstly, there's now a video thumbnail window in the top left hand corner of the screen, so when you call up the EPG you don’t lose all audio and video as you used to with the old EPG. Secondly, the web-style adverts that took up valuable space on the screen have been confined to the dustbin. Other updates include a new layout that has a more airy feel to it, and the use of larger, easier to read text fonts.
As you would expect, the Panasonic DMR-HW120 has pretty much all of the staple PVR features. The presence of twin tuners mean you can use it to record one show while watching another, or alternatively record two shows at the same time. When it's recording two shows you can flick between them, but you can’t watch a third channel. Some PVRs do allow you to watch a third channel as long as it's on the same multiplex, but that's not the case here.
Recordings are very easy to set up. You can just select a show in the EPG and choose either the 'single record' or 'series record' options. The former just records a single episode of a show, while series record will try to grab all the episodes in a series automatically as they come up for broadcast.
Naturally, you can just hit the record button at any time to start instantly recording the programme that you're viewing to disc or alternatively you can create a manual timer by entering data for the channel number, start and end times. However, we can’t see very many people using this method as setting up recordings via the EPG is so much easier.
This model supports chase play too, so you can start watching a show from the beginning while the end is still recording. You can also pause live TV. Once you hit the pause button the recorder starts buffering the TV show to disc, so when you press play you can carry on from exactly where you left off. It's a neat feature to have if you need to answer the door or pick up the telephone.