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Panasonic DMR-HW220 - Operation, Performance and Verdict

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

Operation

From the very start the DMR-HW220 proves to be a friendly, helpful and cooperative PVR. It tunes in channels automatically when you first boot up, then runs through the network setup modes using a series of self-explanatory screens.

Panasonic DMR-HW220

The onscreen menus haven’t been upgraded to the flashy new design of Panasonic’s latest Blu-ray players, but presentation is still clear and engaging, with excellent use of bright colours, large text and cute icons. Some of it looks a little old now – particularly the Functions and Direct Navigator menus with their chunky yellow blocks on blue backgrounds – but who cares when it’s this easy to use?

The Direct Navigator menu displays recorded programmes in a list with moving thumbnails to the left. Tabs running across the top filter the recordings into genres (Movie, Drama etc) and one tab lists copied AVCHD files. You can switch to music or photos using the red button.

Panasonic DMR-HW220

The EPG has had a long overdue revamp, and is all the better for it. Gone is the annoying grey block (hurrah!), which means the large eight-channel programme grid stretches across the entire screen. The layout is beautifully crisp and colourful, with colour-coded options across the bottom. Live TV plays in a small box in the top left corner, and to view programme synopses simply hit the ‘i’ button. The Rovi guide’s layout (below) is slightly more impressive (it places programme thumbnails in the grid, for instance) but sadly it’s a lot more sluggish to navigate and there’s no live TV box, making the built-in EPG the better option.

Panasonic DMR-HW220

Setting recordings from the EPG is easy – just select the programme and hit OK. It takes you to a confirmation screen asking if you want to view or record it, either as a single programme or as an entire series. For recording, you’re taken to a second confirmation screen, which seems a little long-winded but at least you can check all the details thoroughly.

To make recording even easier, Guide Link tracks changes to start and stop times, and it’ll automatically record split programmes. Another nice touch is the onscreen programme banner which saves you the trouble of visiting the EPG, allowing you to browse channels using the direction pad – although you can only view ‘now and next’ info. Also worth noting is that when two recordings are in progress, you can switch between the two channels being recorded, and you can view the EPG too (you can’t on the Samsung BD-E8500).

Panasonic DMR-HW220

The remote is classic Panasonic – none of this touch pad malarkey seen on the Blu-ray player remotes. The chunky buttons, foolproof layout and clear labelling make it blissfully easy to use, although the amount of buttons crammed onto it make it feel a little cluttered. As ever, the direction pad is ideally placed under the thumb, with Direct Navigator, Guide and Function menu keys helpfully fanned out above it.

Panasonic DMR-HW220

Performance

Not only is the DMR-HW220 easy to use, but it also performs brilliantly. The Freeview tuners provide great looking pictures, with solid chunks of colour, sharply resolved detail and clean edges. The HD channels obviously show the HW220 at its best, making even dreary daytime guff like The Renovation Game on Channel 4HD and Dickinson’s Real Deal on ITV1HD worth watching. Most pleasing is the lack of picture noise, which allows the extra high-def resolution to shine through the screen unhindered.

Standard definition channels are consistently watchable, with only slight hints of block and mosquito noise. It’s worse on some channels thank others – ITV2 looks feathery, while regular BBC One is more solid – but that’s down to broadcast bitrates.

Panasonic DMR-HW220

The DMR-HW220 holds up its end of the bargain though. The on-board 1080p upscaling is clearly doing a terrific job, as detail looks crisp, edges lack jaggies and movement appears smooth. Recordings look identical to the live broadcast too, so there’s no quality sacrifice involved when timeshifting. Unlike the more advanced Blu-ray recorders there are no recording modes to change the quality, making everything nice and simple.

There are no complaints with sound quality either – we streamed a batch of MP3s and spun a couple of CDs and the results were enjoyable through our sound system, making this a decent digital jukebox.

Viera Connect’s video streaming sites like BBC iPlayer work smoothly, offering impressive HD picture quality to boot, while digital text loads up in a flash, putting our cumbersome Sky HD box to shame. We also tried converting some 2D content to 3D and it worked fairly well but we imagine it won’t be long before the novelty factor wears off.

Verdict

With a superb range of features, slick recording functionality and a massive 1TB hard-disk, the DMR-HW220 is an excellent PVR. Panasonic has righted all the wrongs of previous models – including, crucially, the EPG, which is now much easier to use – while the inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi, DLNA and Viera Connect extend your entertainment options well beyond the confines of Freeview. Viera Connect lacks the fun factor and extensive content of Samsung’s Smart Hub, but in every other respect it’s more than a match for its Korean counterpart – and at £260 it's cheaper too.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Value 8

Mike B

June 7, 2012, 7:44 pm

I have the DMR-BWT720 Blu-ray recorder, which has the same interface and basic features, and can confirm it really is a nice unit. At £200 more than this it may be an overkill unless you really need to burn Blu-ray and DVD copies of your recordings but is the only unit on the market that can burn Blu-rays. Anyone considering the HW220 should also consider the PWT520 as it has the addition of a Blu-ray player for about £90 more and will reduce an extra box.

The main reason to get a Panasonic freeview recorder is the fact they are very stable and reliable, unlike some units out there!

Orinj

June 8, 2012, 12:34 pm

I've been looking for a Freeview HD Recorder for a while but would like one with a Blu Ray player to replace my old PS3 which suffers from loud fan noise. I used to have an older Panasonic DVD/HDD recorder that suffered from slow interface response and disc loading times. Do the Panasonic recorders have quick responses to button presses and disc load times? Also, do they make much noise from fan cooling?

Mike B

June 8, 2012, 8:22 pm

My BWT720 is virtually silent, no fan noise just a faint hum from the disc drive. The menus are all very quick and a Blu-ray disc loads to the network check screen within 10s and onto play 5s after. Very fast by comparison to a PS3 or older Panasonic I have. Since the PWT520 uses the same hardware it should be a quick.

These new models really are very good and if you add in their reliable operation you can't beat them.

Andrew Garner

December 28, 2012, 5:26 pm

I thought the dmr-hw220 was the same as the dmr-hw120 except for the hard drive size and Wifi? They have the same manual. Yet this review gives the 220 9 out of10 and the 120 review gets only 7 out of 10. Why? The reviews suggest that they have different interfaces and epg's, is this correct?

Sizzla

March 22, 2013, 2:05 am

With Panasonic, all network based activities are disabled when recording. You'll be watching a movie on Netflix only to be disconnected when a scheduled timer recording kicks in. Completely useless. Otherwise a good product.

smcf

March 25, 2013, 10:54 pm

Search is very basic. Nintendo Wii sitting in same place allowed Wi-Fi connection but had to buy powerline comms for the panasonic because reception was weak (note they weren't on at the same time). No multitasking i.e. can't use the web when recording freeview. My previous PVR, a Humax, allowed me to rewind back and then start recording, the panasonic doesn't. NO search on the main guide. Picture viewer a bit basic. Hopefully the unit has the power to accomodate some of these after further development, I look forward to the anticipated upgrades . PS it Won't accept ext HD that already has data, you have to reformat.I also forgot. If you have two recordings set one after the other on different channels then it ties up both tuners during the switch over so you have to wait before watching another. Currently having problems with the Rovi guide and Panasonic are passing total responsibility to Rovi. This would think is acceptable but they push Rovi because there own guide is useless.

SeanBonJovi

May 20, 2013, 9:32 am

Dissapointed with this.
Market and bought on the fact it is able to play several movie formats such as /mp4/.avi. Combined with the massive 1tb hard drive the assumption was you could transfer your movie files to and from the unit.....not the case.
Enctypted software means you can only transfer music and photos to device whilst you can only transfer back the jpegs only.
How anyone is expected to use the 1tb by solely recording tv shows is beyond me. I am having to transfer movies to my 4gb usb stick before plugging in and playing to watch movies.....in effect the 1tb is a waste of 'storage'.
I have 800gb of photos/music and movies currently split between 5 other devices and this unit was meant to be the one unit 'solution'. The 1tb is a waste of space as you cant even edit your mp3 files as they are enctypted and the only way to 'transfer' back of the unit is by deleting them.
Would have been better buying another PS3 500GB and networking myself.
***This is not a mass storage device***
3/10

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