Over all opinion: Great. Reliable, high quality and studded with features, although missing some no-brainers. After daily heavy use for several years I can tell you: it works perfectly all day everyday. I've had only two glitches: the DVD spindle gets dirty and it fails to write ... Read full review
Over all opinion: Great. Reliable, high quality and studded with features, although missing some no-brainers. After daily heavy use for several years I can tell you: it works perfectly all day everyday. I've had only two glitches: the DVD spindle gets dirty and it fails to write DVDs*, and it sometimes aborts recordings after 10 seconds with an unexplained "error**." Probably the best available at this consumer level price point, but unfortunately has many limitations that reduce its usefulness to a heavy editor like myself.
*SYMPTOM of this problem: grinding noises from the DVD drive and fails to finalize the disk. SOLUTION: open the unit and clean the spindle with 97% alcohol. Don't touch the middle hole of DVDs inserted into the unit. WORKAROUND: Use DVD-RAM, which is easier for the unit to write and doesn't need finalizing.
**No solution found yet.
Many of my comments are critiques as to how things could have or should have been done better, drawing on my experience as a software engineer. Since Panasonic has discontinued making hard disk DRVs these critiques are kind of pointless since I'll never have a chance to send them my comments to help them improve later products. The comments might give someone insight in to how some other DVR got it right.
+Text entry is very good, with great use of the remote control buttons to allow hot key shortcuts for various operations and screen positions. It's a clever system and fast and fun to use.
+Remote control is strong and the unit responds to its commands without fail.
+The scrubber for finding an edit point is great.
+The manual is very good, 77 packed pages with detailed technical information on all aspects of operation. It's much better than the "user friendly" Sony manuals that avoid tech talk. It also carefully lists the many limitations of this unit and the technology, including what burn speeds you can expect.
+The on screen TV guide is da bomb. It's far superior to the scrolling cable channel we have been watching for the last ten years. In spite of reviews here to the contrary, it worked perfectly for us, setting up with just few easy questions, one minor glitch requiring a glance at the manual, and then video nirvana. It finally makes it possible to reliably set programs for a recording device. I love it!
+The fan is whisper quiet.
+The manual warns you that high speed burn will be louder than normal. For me it's not bad. The high speed burn usually sounds like someone running water in the sink, with loud portions sounding like an electric shaver.
-Multi-tasking challenged. You can't edit any previously recorded tracks, not even renaming them, while the unit is recording. You can't even watch tracks while high-speed burning a DVD with finalize, which is silly, since you can watch without finalize. What's in this thing, an 8080 microprocessor? During high speed burn with finalize it won't even play TV from the tuner! This is a serious limitation for me, greatly reducing the utility of this expensive device*. Even the useful (and hidden) "create chapter" screen is unavailable during recording.
-Copies pre-recorded DVDs (and some others) to the hard disk (HDD) only in real time and with loss of a generation. The Pioneer DVR also copies in real time, I assume also losing a generation. I think what they are doing here is playing the DVD and routing its signal through the analog circuitry to allow any copy protection scheme on the DVD to confuse the input circuitry and cause that brightness fading in and out and color shifting. This is another serious limitation for me since I like to consolidate my home movies and etc. I make sure that I will not have this problem with my home movies by using the DVD-RAM or whatever. If this limitation bites you it's a disaster.
*The DVD-RAM avoids the real time limitation, so using that for your own editing purposes is a work around.
-Will not pause live TV! Instead you have to start recording and then chase playback. That's an odd oversight on Panasonic's part and a sorely missed feature.
-When you divide or edit a track you have to do it in a small preview screen. That's silly, sacrifices a lot of usefulness, and so needless. They sacrificed screen space for useless stuff, including a useless title bar at the top, another one on the bottom, useless edit/divide preview windows, and huge on screen buttons for "divide" and "preview" operations. I like to edit and divide my programs while watching them, but since Panasonic has a special screen for editing/dividing, where the program is shown only in a small preview window, I have to view my program once, then go back and edit or divide it later.
If you edit much video you know that editing time is a big problem, e.g. ~fifteen minutes to edit the commercials out of a one hour show. If you record many shows, that's hours of editing. So a needless time waster like this edit/divide screen is a problem. For me, this needless limitation is a fatal flaw.