Panasonic rarely skimps on features and the DMR-HW220 boasts a typically generous selection. On the PVR side, there are two Freeview HD tuners, making it possible to record two hi-def channels simultaneously, and a whopping 1TB hard-disk, which provides 259 hours of recording time in HD or 518 hours of SD programmes. But the really good news is that you can connect an external HDD to the USB port and move data from the built-in HDD to the external one, freeing-up space. Conversely, if 1TB sounds too capacious then the cheaper DMR-HW120 offers a 500GB HDD.
Your recordings can be edited in the Direct Navigator menu, where you can delete part of a recording using a straightforward edit screen that lets you add start and end points. You can also rename and divide recordings, or change the thumbnail.
You also get all the usual PVR tricks that make TV viewing so much easier than it used to be – namely pause/rewind live TV (with a 1.5 hour buffer) and viewing of programmes while they’re still being recorded. But that’s old news – more interesting is the 2D-to-3D conversion, which allows you to bring flat Freeview programmes to life on your 3D TV. You can tweak the 3D image from the setup menu, including a choice of formats as well as distance and screen type adjustments. You can also add a frame to the picture that might make it more comfortable to watch.
The Panasonic DMR-HW220 boasts some serious network credentials. It’s DLNA-certified, which means you can use it as a client to stream media from PCs and other devices around the home. The HW220 also acts as a server, allowing you to watch non-restricted recordings made on this unit on other clients around the home – or watch recordings made on other recorders. Smartphone/tablet owners can also use the unit as a renderer and control it with the mobile device.
Network format support is decent, including AVCHD, DivX, MP4, MOV, JPEG, MP3, FLAC and PCM. During our test it found content quickly with no annoying delays but disappointingly it won’t play MKV over a network – for that you have to load it onto a USB drive but when we did it wouldn’t play the DTS audio track.
You can also copy music, video and photos onto the hard-disk to save you faffing around with USB sticks each time, and with such a capacious HDD you can squeeze loads on there without impinging greatly on TV recording time. Playback of AVCHD, JPEG, MPO and MP3 is supported from the hard-disk, while AVCHD, JPEG, MPO, MP4 and MPEG-2 (SD Video) are supported from SD cards.
Finally you’ll find Viera Connect on this unit, complete with its range of video streaming and social networking sites. The choice includes Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Acetrax, Twitter, Picasa, CNBC, Dailymotion, Facebook, AUPEO! and more, which is a much better choice than Viera Cast, although Samsung’s Smart Hub is much more fun. There’s also a Rovi guide EPG, which provides an alternative to the built-in version.