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Panasonic DMR-XW380 review

Seth Barton
20 Aug 2010
Panasonic DMR-XW380
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
450
inc VAT

Archiving HD TV or AVCHD footage to DVDs can be handy, but it’s a trick that Panasonic have overlooked here.

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Specifications

We’ve got to admit that DVD recorders aren’t our favourite products, even when they have built-in hard disks. We’ve universally found them to be hard to get to grips with, and fiddly to use even when you have. We’re hoping to report all that has changed, though, as Panasonic’s latest model is the first we’ve seen with Freeview HD tuners.

The dual DVB-T2 tuners mean you can pick up HD channels, as long as you have reception in your area of course. At present the selection is limited to BBC HD, ITV HD and Channel 4 HD, but once you’ve seen the best programmes from these broadcasters in HD, everything else looks a little disappointing. With two tuners you can record and watch simultaneously, or record two channels at once. We had no complaints about the EPG, scheduling programmes or pausing live TV.

Looking at the exterior, there’s little to tell it apart from other models in Panasonic’s DIGA range. It’s slim, black and understated, with a flap that covers a range of ports. Underneath are S-video and composite inputs for capturing SD video from analogue devices – not that useful these days. More important are the USB port and SDXC memory card slot. Using these you can view photos, listen to MP3 tracks and watch DivX, MPEG2 and AVCHD video.

Panasonic DMR-XW380

With all these capabilities, plus the ability to record programmes to both hard disk and DVDs, or copy files between these devices and USB mass storage devices or SD cards, it’s not surprising that the remote control and menu system are a little on the complex side. Still, Panasonic has done a decent job of labelling all the buttons with sensible names, and making sure they match up to the bevy of onscreen prompts. Still, if programming your old VCR used to scare you, then steer clear of this, or any other modern hard disk/DVD recorder.

You can record either SD or HD programmes to the hard disk, with it storing around 120 hours or 60 hours respectively, but you can’t archive HD content to writable DVDs. We found this disappointing, as you could get an hour of high-quality AVCHD video, or around an hour and-a-half of BBC HD, on a dual-layer DVD disc. Admittedly, there are compatibility options with playing back HD video on DVD on other consumer devices, but they could easily be made to work on any PC or on the XW380 itself.

For standard-definition programming you get plenty of quality options for archiving to DVDs, or you can leave them in their original format – which we’d recommend. If you do want to re-encode the video, say to fit a whole series on a single disk, then the results are watchable even up to the LP mode, which squeezes four hours on a single-layer disk. Re-encoding is a lengthy process, taking hours to fill a disc, but you can schedule this to happen overnight.

Yes, the DMR-XW380 packs a lot of different functions into a single box. However, if you need most of them, then you’d be better off investing in a Media Centre PC, which will give far more flexibility when handling media files and archiving recordings to disc. Unfortunately, Freeview HD tuners still aren’t available for PCs, but then the DMR-XW380 can’t archive HD programmes anyway.

For day-to-day HD TV viewing and recording we believe that a hard disk-only PVR is a better choice, and one that costs almost half as much (such as the £235 Sagemcom RTI90-329). If you really want to archive HD shows to disk today then you’ll need splash out £600 on the DMR-BW780, which is essentially identical but includes a Blu-ray drive, as well as buying expensive Blu-ray media to feed it.

Details

Rating***

Features

Analogue tuners0
Digital tuners2
Hybrid tuners0
RadioDVB-T
EPG days14
Dual-channel recordingyes
Series linkyes
Video recording formatMPEG2, H.264
Teletext (analogue/digital)no/yes
Certified Freeview Playbackyes
Interactive content supportyes

Connections

Analogue tuner RF inputs0
Digital tuner RF inputs1
Hybrid tuner RF inputs0
RF passthrough sockets1
HDMI outputs1
Component outputs1
Output resolutionsPAL (576i), 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Total SCART sockets2
S-Video input0
S-video output0
Composite inputs1
Composite outputs1
Stereo phono inputs1
Stereo phono outputs1
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs1
Optical S/PDIF outputs1

Storage

Optical driveyes
Region freeno

General

Power consumption standby1W
Power consumption on22W
Size430x59x330mm

Buying Information

Price£450
Warrantyone-year RTB
Supplierhttp://www.play.com
Detailswww.panasonic.co.uk

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