The connection roster is exemplary and includes an HDMI port, which offers upscaled 720p, 1080i and 1080p output, plus progressive scan capable component video output. Also worthy of note is the optical digital audio output for piping Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams to an amp. The only minor let down is the lack of a Conditional Access Module slot for adding pay TV channels.
Under a flap on the front is an i.Link/FireWire input for transferring footage from a DV camcorder and an SD card slot, which accepts 4GB SDHC Memory Cards and lets you copy SD video and JPEGs to the hard-disk or DVD-RAM. The unit will play MP3 and JPEG files from disc, but sadly not WMA or DivX files, which is the biggest blot in the unit’s copybook.
Another key feature is Viera Link, the new name for Panasonic’s HDAVI feature which was introduced last year. It allows you to link the recorder to a Viera TV and/or AV receiver via HDMI and activate all of the components with one remote. But despite being based on the industry-wide HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronic Control) standard, there’s no guarantee that kit from other manufacturers will be compatible due to the tweaks that Panasonic has made.
Recordings can be made in one of four quality presets – XP (best), SP, LP and EP, which affects how much recording time is available. There’s also a Flexible Recording mode that fits a timer recording or copied programme into the remaining space on a disc in the best possible quality. All of your recordings are stored in the impressive Direct Navigator menu, which lists every programme with a moving thumbnail and the programme name.
With HDD or DVD-RAM, you can add your own chapter points and delete parts of a recording, but for more complex editing head straight for the Playlist feature. Here, you can arrange chapters from any recording into a new sequence, which can be played back seamlessly.
Once you’ve created a playlist it can be copied to DVD, which makes this a great way of piecing together your own mini masterpieces. The step-by-step copying interface makes the process very easy, allowing you to choose the source drive, destination drive, copy speed and video quality setting. Using, the high-speed copy mode, the unit will transfer a one-hour EP mode HDD recording to 12x DVD-R in just 48 seconds – phenomenal!