First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
- Excellent functionality, packed with features, fantastic value
- No time shift buffer, single tuner only, no HD reception
More manufacturers should be following Panasonic's example with the DMR-EX85. A truly outstanding product, the omission of a time shift buffer is the only feature preventing this unit from being a near-perfect purchase.
Price$ 989.00 (AUD)
Convergent technology is the way of the future, as more and more features previously performed by multiple devices, are being packed into a single unit. Panasonic's new DMR-EX85 is an excellent example of the power that convergent technology has to produce some truly amazing devices. The EX85 combines a DVD player and recorder, a hard drive recorder, and a digital TV receiver, all in a single unit. Not only does it deliver three-in-one functionality, but it increases it to beyond the sum of its parts.
The recording functionality on the EX85 is incredible. A massive 250GB hard drive headlines the recording capabilities of this unit, complete with one-touch recording, five separate recording quality modes, and flexible recording, which will set the quality of a recording to the exact level to fit it onto a DVD. We found every aspect of the recording process, from recording a programme or setting a timer, to slicing out ads or copying to a DVD, to be simple, quick and intuitive. The entire process is facilitated by a well laid out and responsive interface.
One of the only faults we found with the unit's recording capabilities was the lack of a time shift buffer, which allows users to pause and rewind live TV. While not critical, it is nevertheless a fairly glaring omission, and one which holds the EX85 back from true greatness. Although this is solved to some extent by chasing playback, which allows you to start recording, then start playing again later from the point you started the recording at, the extra levels of interaction really detract from such an otherwise effortless device.
DVD recording follows the trend of ease of use and simplicity. Copying titles recorded on the hard drive to DVDs takes no more than a few seconds to set up, and recording TV broadcasts straight to DVD benefits from the same one-touch recording functionality as hard drive recording does.
In addition to its standout performance as a recording unit, the DMR-EX85 also brings digital television to the user through an inbuilt Standard Definition receiver. While this addition doesn't increase the functionality to a huge extent, it makes the unit an absolutely fantastic option for those considering the upgrade to digital television. Already a bargain at the time of its release, the integrated digital television support is a pure bonus. This helps to forgive the lack of both twin tuners and High Definition support, since the addition of these things would require a much higher RRP.
The combo is rounded out nicely with a full array of connection options, including, but not limited to, HDMI, optical audio, and an SD Card reader.
Overall, the DMR-EX85 is an excellent unit, with fantastic functionality, especially considering the integration of three technologies. Even better, it represents fantastic value. The only faults we could find with Panasonic's offering were omissions, which, had they been included, would have raised the price, compromising the excellent value offered by this product. The EX85 is the perfect option for new comers to home entertainment, who are looking for a simple and easy to use all-in-one package. While advanced users may find that it lacks a few too many features for their tastes, those looking for what it provides won't find many better options.
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