Panasonic DMR-ES30V

Panasonic DMR-ES30V
  • Panasonic DMR-ES30V
  • Panasonic DMR-ES30V
  • Panasonic DMR-ES30V
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • DVD-recorder, easy to use, tons of features

Cons

  • Poor JPG and MP3 handling

Bottom Line

Brilliant. If it weren't for the poor handling of JPG and MP3 discs, this DVD-recorder and VHS combo would get the perfect rating.

Would you buy this?

With the DMR-ES30V, Panasonic has come as close as anything in this category to a perfect rating. It's an excellently designed combo device, incorporating a powerful DVD recorder and a no-expensive-spared VCR, with a user interface that is second to none. Its output from both DVD and VHS was flawless; the remote is well designed, with responsive buttons, a handy layout and a full set of functions; and even the LCD on the front of the player shows evidence of well-thought-out design.

There isn't a writable DVD disc format that the player doesn't support. It supports DVD-RAM (without the need to remove it from the cartridge), DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW. DVD+RW and DVD-RAM are the preferred rewritable formats, since it can better handle incremental writes and video editing on these discs.

We were most impressed with the drive's responsiveness during DVD recording. It kicked in very quickly, required little pause at the end of writing a file to a write-once or DVD-RW disc in DVD-video ("V") format, and delivered the kind of response we've come to expect from VHS. It supports five modes, from 1 hour per disc to 8 hours. The quality of encoding was good--we wouldn't recommend the 8 hours settings for fast-motion shows, since there would be considerable evidence of compression artefacts. At the 4 hours per disc (LP mode) or better, however, there's little to distinguish the recording from free-to-air analog TV (although if you're using progressive scan component output and are a quality Nazi, the SP mode--two hours per disc--may suit you better).

As with most DVD recorders, you can "finalise" recordings on DVD-R/+R and DVD-RW discs to make them playable on other standalone DVD video players.

If you're willing to spend the time, you can actually perform some serious editing functions on rewritable media. In addition to giving the recorded videos names, you can split videos, truncate them, erase chunks, set the thumbnail (for the DVD menu), set chapters and create playlists. The editing interface is as good as you can get using a remote control, although it can not, of course, match PC-based editing tools.

The DVD recording also has a few other neat touches: a timeshift-like function that allows you to watch a program that you're recording from the beginning; automatic quality rate settings in order to fit a scheduled recording onto a disc; one-touch dubbing to VHS (and vice versa) and a "Time Slip" feature that jumps you back 30 seconds from the current recording position (again, like timeshifting).

What's more, the Panasonic has two tuners, and it's perfectly possible to record one show (on either DVD or VHS) while watching another. You can also record two shows at once--one on DVD and one on VHS. We tested it out, and it managed to record on both a VHS tape and a DVD-RAM while simultaneously timeshifting the DVD-RAM recording. Very cool.

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