Integrating the unit into your system should be a doddle thanks to the generous selection of sockets on the rear panel. There’s an HDMI 1.3 output that supports Deep Colour (although there’s no content to test it with) and delivers upscaled video to 1080p, 1080i or 720p to your hi-def TV. It’s also compatible with Viera Link, which enables you to control the unit using the remote from a Panasonic Viera TV, making it possible to turn the unit on or off, pause live TV and record the programme you’re currently watching.
The rest of the rear panel is the same as the DMR-EX78, sporting two SCARTs (one input and one output, both RGB capable), component, composite and S-video outputs, plus optical digital and analogue stereo audio outputs. When connecting a timer-equipped external TV receiver to the SCART input, you can programme the EX768 to start recording when it detects an incoming signal, but it can’t control the set-top box automatically. The optical output allows you to pipe Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams to your receiver and enjoy full-on 5.1-channel sound.
The front panel not only lacks the SD card and USB ports found on the higher-end models but also the FireWire input, which may make DV camcorder owners look elsewhere, but you will find S-video, composite and stereo audio inputs.
After you’ve made a recording onto the hard-disk, it’s stored in the Direct Navigator, a superbly laid out menu with moving thumbnails. From here you can edit titles by renaming them (using a virtual keyboard), change the thumbnail, divide a title, create your own chapters or partially delete a section using a slick and intuitive interface.
More advanced editing is facilitated by the Playlist feature, which is surprisingly easy to use thanks to the clear onscreen layout. This makes it possible to grab clips from any recording and stitch them together into a seamless sequence – handy for making montages of home movies or favourite scenes from TV shows. The original recordings are not affected, so you can edit to your heart’s content without fear of deleting anything. Both original recordings and playlists can be copied from the hard-disk to DVD (or vice versa) at high speed and even downgraded to a lower quality to free up space. The look of your finalised disc can even be customised using a range of different coloured backgrounds, which appear when loaded into a different player.
Elsewhere, other features include MP3 and JPEG playback, but sadly not DivX or WMA, plus some basic picture and sound tweaks and an option to encode XP mode recordings with LPCM audio instead of regular Dolby Digital. And as ever, the hard-disk lets you pause live TV, chase playback and simultaneously play and record.