On the whole the unit is slick and responsive. The ergonomic remote is close to perfection, using the now customary large buttons and foolproof labelling. The buttons are laid out in such an intuitive way that we only needed to look at it for the rarely-used functions. The unit features Power Save and Quick Start standby modes, and in the former it takes longer to boot up and shuts down the Scart loopthrough, while the latter uses a lot more power (13W compared with 0.9W) but starts up in a few seconds.
Although the EX769 doesn’t offer direct bitstream video recording to the hard-disk like Panasonic’s new Blu-ray recorders, it still produces excellent recorded picture quality in XP mode. Edges are sharp as a scalpel with no colour bleed to sully the clarity, while the strength and purity of its colour reproduction gives the image instantly gratifying warmth and richness, which looks great with daytime TV’s brightly-lit studios and eye catching graphics. This model lacks the Chroma Processor found on the EX89, but even without it the captured colours look stunning.
You get more of the same in SP mode, with the slightly lower bitrate introducing a smidgeon of extra mosquito noise around edges. But the real revelation is LP mode, which retains a high amount of detail and only a slight increase in noise, making this a great option for archiving lots of content on a single DVD disc. EP mode’s soft, juddery pictures are no good for archiving but okay for watching once if disc space is tight.
The EX769 also makes a top-notch DVD player, replaying our Men In Black disc with fantastic sharpness and strong, realistic colours. Will Smith’s black suit looks satisfyingly solid with lots of shading visible within it, while the combination of crisp 1080p upscaling and Panasonic’s Adaptive HD Enhancer makes the picture look effortlessly sharp, which helps when conveying the intricate textures of the movie’s alien effects.
If you want a solid, dependable DVD/HDD recorder that places the emphasis on TV viewing and recording duties over flashy multimedia trickery, then the EX769 is a great option. It’s bursting with indispensible recording and editing functionality, and although you don’t get USB ports and SD card slots, the rest of the connections are generous. Recordings look superb too, but perhaps the deck’s biggest virtue is its wonderfully simple user interface, which makes up for in simplicity what it lacks in glamour. If we’re being picky, perhaps that price tag should have been even lower considering how many of the EX79’s features and connections have been stripped out, but despite that the EX769 certainly won’t leave you feeling short-changed.