Live TV picture quality is a mixed bag. High-definition channels look stunning, with jaw-droppingly crisp detail and convincing, natural colours. For instance watching the Champions League football on ITV1 HD, the deck coped with fast-moving detail without shimmering or losing clarity, and during half-time studio chats it unfortunately brought revealing clarity to the textures of Adrian Chiles’ face. Planet Dinosaur on BBC One HD also looked great, with the charmingly sub-Jurassic Park CG and surrounding landscapes looking pristine. This high quality is maintained when recorded on the hard disk.
But strangely we’re not that enamoured by the quality of the Panasonic’s standard-def pictures. ITV1 looks noisier than usual – as the Loose Women moan about men in their usual animated way, the hideously garish studio shimmers with mosquito noise. Colours look overcooked too and the image lacks depth. It’s still watchable but not up to the same standards as rival Freeview PVRs.
Still, Blu-ray pictures look stunning. With Panasonic’s PHL Chroma Processor Plus at work once again, colours are smooth and realistic, plus the masterful detail retrieval ensures razor-sharp pictures. We fired up the original Star Wars on Blu-ray and it’s never looked better. From the scum and villainy of Mos Eisley to the gloomy surface of the Death Star, the DMR-PWT500 makes every scene shine. And 3D pictures share this sense of awe and wonder, particularly with Avatar in the tray – we couldn’t find a single fault with the quality of the deck’s stereoscopic picture processing.
The DMR-PWT500 also does a good job with web video, playing YouTube clips with surprising clarity and few delays. We were able to stream DivX, AVCHD, WMV, AVI and MP3 with no glitches, and all content is easy to access thanks to the clear, logical menu system.
If you’re in the market for both a Blu-ray player and Freeview PVR, then you won’t go far wrong with the DMR-PWT500. Despite two technologies being fused together in one box, neither side feels compromised by their close proximity.
On the Blu-ray side, its 3D support, DLNA networking, Skype and built-in Wi-Fi form a formidable feature line-up, plus its 2D and 3D picture quality is out of this world. And on the Freeview side, the twin tuners, editing features, comprehensive PVR tricks and superb HD pictures make day-to-day TV timeshifting and viewing a (mostly) pleasing experience.
It’s not perfect though – standard-def pictures are noisier than expected, the EPG needs a rethink and Viera Cast needs upgrading to Viera Connect. At around £400 it’s expensive too, but none of that greatly dims our enthusiasm for this impressive combi product.