The Panasonic DMR-PWT530 is a well-specced PVR. The 500GB hard-disk has space for 129 hours of worth HD Freeview programmes, or 258 hours of standard-def. But if you need more space and don’t have the budget to step-up to the 1TB Panasonic DMR-PWT635, then you can add extra capacity by connecting an external hard disk to the USB port.
Dual Freeview HD tuners let you watch one channel and record another, or record two channels simultaneously. And of course you can watch recordings from the hard disk while one or two channels are being recorded, and even browse the EPG.
However, you can’t record two channels while watching a third – unlike the Humax DTR-T1010 Youview box and Samsung BD-F8500, which provide more recording flexibility. With the Panasonic you can only flick between the two channels being recorded. You also can’t use any network functions while recording.
It boasts all the PVR tricks we now take for granted, however, such as series recording, recording clash alerts and pause/rewind live TV – all of which make our lives easier, although pause live TV takes a while to kick in.
The Panasonic DMR-PWT530 also has a decent range of network features when connected to your internet router, either wirelessly or via Ethernet.
Most appealing is the new Remote Recording feature, which lets you browse the EPG and schedule recordings on a smartphone or tablet when you’re about and about – provided you can connect to the internet and have Panasonic’s DIGA Player app on your device. You can also use it at home to set recordings without interrupting what you’re watching on the TV.
Another cool feature is multiroom TV streaming, which beams live or recorded TV from the Panasonic DMR-PWT530 to Android or iOS devices around the house – again this requires the DIGA Player app.
Panasonic’s Viera Connect offers a selection of internet apps – although as we noted in reviews of Panasonic’s latest home cinema systems this hasn’t progressed much since last year. Indeed, it's a shame Panasonic doesn't include the more advanced smart TV system found Panasonic's 2013 TVs.
You get BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, MySpace, Acetrax, iConcerts, CNBC, Dailymotion, Euronews AUPEO!, SHOUTCast radio, Facebook, Twitter and Rovi Guide, an online alternative to the Freeview EPG. Other apps can be downloaded from the Viera Market (where you can also buy Panasonic peripherals). But with Samsung’s BD-F8500 offering the full range of catch-up TV services and LoveFilm, the Panasonic’s selection feels disappointing by comparison.
The Panasonic DMR-PWT530 can also be used as a DLNA client, streaming FLAC, WMV, AVCHD JPEG and MP3 files from other networked devices, or as a server, allowing you to access files stored on the hard disk from a smartphone or tablet.
Media files can also be played back from SD cards and USB storage drives. From SD card it supports JPEG, MPO, MP4, AVCHD, MPEG-2, while from USB you can play MP3, XviD, MKV, AVI, JPEG, MPO, MP4 and MPEG-2. You can also transfer AVCHD, JPEG and MPO files from USB drives and SD cards onto the hard disk, as well as MP3 files from USB.
Oddly, it doesn’t play DivX, WMA, AAC or FLAC from USB though, which might disappoint those with large, varied collections of digital movies and music.
As a Blu-ray player, the DMR-PWT530 is equally well-equipped. It plays 3D discs, upscales DVDs to 1080p and supports Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio, both decoding and bitstream output.