If you can’t decide whether to go for a new Blu-ray player or a hard disc recorder, then why not kill two birds with one stone by opting for something like the Panasonic DMR-PWT420? It's a Freeview HD PVR that also has a Blu-ray drive built-in that supports 3D playback.
Panasonic basically has a single chassis that it uses for all of its hard disc recorders, and the DMR-PWT420 looks pretty much identical to previous products, such as the DMR-HW120 and DMR-BWT800. The chassis is all black with a glossy front that has a semi-transparent flap that covers both the Blu-ray tray and the six-character LED display that's used to show channel information. Its flap automatically opens and closes when you eject or retract the Blu-ray tray, but you can also manually just pull it down to get at the USB port and SD card slot that are hidden behind it. The design isn’t exactly what you'd describe as stylish, but it's neat enough and this model will blend in well with your other under-the-TV inhabitants.
Turn the Panasonic DMR-PWT420 around and you're greeted by the RF input that's used to feed both of the recorder's Freeview HD tuners. There's also an RF out to let you can share the aerial feed with your TV. The other connection options are basic, but cover most of the bases. There's a HDMI port as well as optical digital and analogue phono audio outputs. The rear is also home to a second USB port along with an Ethernet socket. Unfortunately, despite being a mid-range model, this one doesn't have Wi-Fi onboard. You can add it by shelling out for the DY-LN5 USB Wi-Fi adaptor, but this will set you back around £50. Also, it's worth noting that there are no analogue video output ports, so you can't use component video, for example, to connect it to older HD TVs.
This model includes pretty much all the PVR features you'd expect to find on a modern recorder. As it has twin tuners you can use it to record one channel while watching another, or alternatively record two channels at the same time. You can also pause live TV and it supports chase play too, so you can watch the start of a programme while the end is still recording. So, if you arrive home from the pub to find that Have I Got News for You is still recording, you can just hop into the recordings menu and start playing the show from the beginning without having to wait for the recoding to finish.
However, when two recordings are running at the same time it only allows you to flick between those two channels. Other more advanced Freeview HD PVRs, such as some Humax models, allow you to watch a third channel as long as it shares a multiplex with the two channels being recorded.
Thankfully, scheduling recordings is very easy. Panasonic has given its EPG a much-needed re-jig. It has removed the web-style advert slots that clogged up the screen on the old EPG and added a thumbnail window so you don’t lose all pictures and audio when you open the EPG as you did on the company's older models.
Recordings are child's play to set up too, as all you to do is select the show you want to record in the EPG and then choose whether you want to use the Single Record or Series Record option. The latter instructs the recorder to automatically grab all the shows in a series as they come up for broadcast. You can instantly start a recording just by pressing the Record button on the remote and you can manually set timers too. This model has a 500GB hard drive built in, which is large enough to allow you to store around 129 hours of HD recordings or 258 hours of standard definition recordings.