Pana­sonic goes on the record

FOR Blu-ray player, recorder and DVR – it does ev­ery­thing AGAINST Slug­gish in use; quite pricey

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Test -

Pana­sonic DMR-BWT850

The Pana­sonic DMR BWT850 is a cu­ri­ous beast. Sure, it looks like just an­other Blu-ray player, but it’s ac­tu­ally a Blu-ray recorder. Yes, they still ex­ist, but some­how it seems only Pana­sonic still makes them.

‘Recorder’ seems some­what of an un­der­sell, how­ever. It plays Blu-rays and DVDS. It records live TV to its 1TB hard drive (up to 518 hours of pro­grammes in SD or 259 hours of HD TV, which can then be ripped to Blu-rays and DVDS.

It also serves as a TV set-top box, with the new Freeview Play ser­vice and a hand­ful of key apps, and you can insert mem­ory sticks and SD cards and watch or lis­ten from there.

Take it for a spin

Blu-ray recorder

Some­thing with this many fea­tures must be bro­ken down to its con­stituent parts, and we’ll start with the disc spin­ning. Treat it as a reg­u­lar Blu-ray player and you won’t be dis­ap­pointed.

It is up to Pana­sonic’s typ­i­cally high stan­dards: solid disc tray mech­a­nism, de­cent load­ing speeds, plus good sound and pic­ture to boot. There’s even 3D, if you’re still us­ing that. New for this year is 4K up­scal­ing, al­though we’ve yet to find a need for this as 4K TVS do their own up­scal­ing any­way.

£570

More use­ful is 4K play­back, which lets you watch the Ul­tra HD videos and pho­tos you take your­self, if you have a com­pat­i­ble cam­era. They’re get­ting more com­mon th­ese days.

Rip-roar­ing suc­cess

Then there’s the DVR side of things, which is fairly stan­dard. Choose some­thing and click ‘record’ (or set a timer) and it does so. You get two tuners, so you could watch one pro­gramme while record­ing an­other, or you could just record two pro­grammes.

The TV Any­where fea­ture lets you view recorded pro­grammes and live TV broad­casts on a smart­phone or tablet over the in­ter­net. The ser­vice will work even if you’re abroad. It’s pretty neat, but it de­mands a good broad­band con­nec­tion.

As for rip­ping discs, you’ll have to copy over ex­ist­ing records from your hard drive. You can’t burn pro­grammes straight onto disc like we used to on VHS. The process of choos­ing a record­ing and burn­ing it to disc is very sim­ple, how­ever, and fairly speedy.

Fi­nally, we get to Freeview Play. It’s not avail­able out of the box – make sure you down­load the lat­est soft­ware up­dates. Freeview Play of­fers the same as Youview, an EPG (elec­tronic pro­gramme guide) with the abil­ity to scroll back seven days. No­tice some­thing you missed? Click on it and it will open, pro­vided it be­longs to one of the main catch-up apps: BBC iplayer, ITV Player, All 4 (for­merly 4OD) and De­mand 5. Netflix and Ama­zon Video are there too, to com­plete the stream­ing fam­ily.

Just a tad slug­gish

The core fea­tures work just fine. Freeview Play is a lit­tle stut­tery right now, but it’s early days. That said, we find the ma­chine to be a bit slug­gish in op­er­a­tion over­all. Just play­ing a Blu-ray is fine, but switch­ing be­tween modes or skip­ping through the menus is a slow process. We get the feel­ing Freeview Play needs to be bet­ter op­ti­mised.

The Pana­sonic DMR&BWT850 is a small box with a big list of tricks, but we can’t help won­der who it is be­ing aimed at. With great Blu-ray play­ers go­ing for less than £150 th­ese days, and a 1TB Youview box cur­rently on sale for £200, the pur­chase of th­ese two ma­chines will give you all the stream­ing ac­tion you need.

That leaves the Blu-ray rip­ping el­e­ment, which is a very niche de­mand, and we’re not con­vinced that it jus­ti­fies spend­ing an ex­tra £220. We com­mend Pana­sonic for mak­ing this all-in-one box of tricks, which no doubt some peo­ple will find use­ful. How­ever, it’s no cheap op­tion.

This Pana­sonic box is

a cu­ri­ous beast – a

Blu-ray recorder with

many ex­tra fea­tures,

but not all hit the mark

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