Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Panasonic DMRBS880 Blu Ray Recorder Review

I bought this a couple of weeks ago as our freeview reception was getting progressively worse.

Thankfully when we moved house a while ago I decided to ask our satellite dish installer to put in two extra cables incase we wanted to have sky+ or freesat+.

After a brief crash course in mastering the art of fitting F-connectors to the sat cables, the setup was simplicity itself. The tuning process took a matter of minutes, with only a prompt to enter your postcode in order to receive the correct regional broadcasts, needed to complete the initial setup.

Timer recording is very simple. Using the onboard TV guide you can record up to a week in advance, with the choice of single or series timer options available. The machine will even suggest new programmes to record based on the ones that you like to watch. And with a fairly substantial 500GB of hard drive capacity there's room enough for 76 hours of HD recordings and approximately 360 hour of standard definition content in SP mode. The machine can also pause and rewind (up to 2 hours) of live TV.

With its twin tuners the machine gives the handy facility of recording two programmes simultaneously, and, at the time of writing there are four high definition channels available to record from (BBC HD, BBC One HD, ITV1 HD and Channel 4 HD). The programmes are recorded to the hard drive in DR mode, which efficiently compresses the data to a relatively low bit rate, but retains high definition resolution, which gives exemplary playback, especially from HD sources. DR mode also records subtitles and audio description, which can be turned on or off after recording.

Another neat feature is the ability to copy jpeg photos, music CDs and camcorder content in both standard definition and in the AVCHD high definition format, as used by Panasonic, Sony and others. The machine has a gracenote database as used in iTunes, so that your music stored on the machine's hard drive has the artist, track and album names automatically added to make them easy to find.

Blu Ray playback is stunning, Panasonic's PHL (Panasonic Hollywood Labs) chroma processor creates a faithful pixel perfect reproduction of your favourite Blu Ray discs. It also does a decent job of upscaling from standard definition DVDs, the BBC's "The Tudors" looks sharp, well defined and colourful played back from a DVD disc.

And if you thought that the audio side of things has been overlooked, you are very mistaken! With the BS880 connected to my Sony 7.1 amplifier, the Daft Punk fuelled soundtrack to "Tron: Legacy" sounds amazing. Also selected programmes from the HD channels are presented (and recorded) in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, something that most Freeview HD machines cannot offer.

This machine is certainly not the cheapest recorder on the market, but it's definitely one of the best.

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