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Panasonic DMR-BWT800 review

Tom Morgan
8 Aug 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
687
inc VAT

Packed with features, but we weren't keen on the user interface and it's expensive

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A/V racks filled with high-end equipment might look impressive, but they take up a lot of room, tend to be power-hungry and create a surprising amount of heat. If you want to simplify your home cinema setup, Panasonic’s DMR-BWT800EB all-in-one system might be exactly what you’re looking for. Combining a 3D Blu-ray player and recorder, DLNA media streamer, twin Freeview HD tuners and a 500GB hard disk, it’s got so many features you could be forgiven for thinking it was a home theatre PC in disguise.

Despite packing in so much technology, the unit itself is understated and looks refreshingly minimalist. The entire front panel folds out when you eject the disc tray, revealing a USB port and SD card reader that can be used to play multimedia files from a flash drive or SDXC card. Around the back two HDMI ports, two SCART sockets, RGB video, optical and coaxial audio outputs and an Ethernet port sit beside a second USB port for Panasonic’s Skype camera, which lets you make video calls from your sofa.

Panasonic DMR-BWT800

The unit has built-in Wi-Fi, so you can connect to your home network easily without needing to run a cable to your router. This makes streaming multimedia files from a PC or DLNA compatible server much easier, saving you the time it takes to copy files onto removable storage. Once connected to the internet, you’ll also be able to access the integrated VIERA Cast internet TV features to play YouTube videos, access social networks, watch movies on-demand and catch up on missed TV using BBC iPlayer.

Catch-up TV is a great feature, but there’s a good chance you won’t miss any programs in the first place, thanks to the built in hard disk recorder. A respectable 500GB capacity should be more than large enough for around a hundred hours of standard definition video; high definition footage will obviously take up more space, but there should still be room for multiple films and TV series. Once you’ve filled the internal hard disk, the Blu-ray optical drive can also be used to burn content to disc, freeing up internal storage and providing a permanent copy of your programmes. You can also record 3D content, although as there currently aren’t any 3D channels available on Freeview HD, this isn’t a feature we can see appealing to many. Once we’d copied a TV program from the hard disk to a BD-R disc, we couldn’t get it to play on a PC; you’ll need to play back recordings using the player itself.

Unlike Samsung’s D8500M (see What's New, Shopper 282), the BWT800 has two separate TV tuners, so you can record two programs at once or record one while time-shifting live TV on the other. There’s a slight delay when activating time shift, but otherwise it works very well. A sensibly laid-out recording menu notifies you of any conflicts and warns you if you're trying to change channels when two are already recording.

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