In terms of connectivity, the highlight is the HDMI output, which allows you to upconvert to 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolution for DVDs, VHS tapes, and even digital TV. Rounding out the rest of the connectivity is a component video output, two A/V inputs with S-Video (one front, one back), two A/V outputs (one with S-Video), an optical digital-audio output, a FireWire input, and screw-type RF input/outputs. The two A/V outputs are labeled "DVD/VHS common output" and "DVD priority output." There are some restrictions about how you can use them; for example, when you're recording a DVD, you can't use the DVD priority output to watch a tape. It's a small nuisance that slightly limits your ability to multitask on the DMR-EZ47VK.
A component video input would have been nice, but they're pretty rare on DVD recorders. The lack of an IR blaster could be viewed as a slight omission, given that the competing LG RC797T has one. An IR blaster can be used to control an external source, such as a cable or satellite box, so that it changes the box to the appropriate channel when it's scheduled to record.
Digital TV performance
As we mentioned before, the DMR-EZ47VK is incapable of outputting true high-definition content from ATSC signals. We first noticed this simply by looking at a high-definition program from a built-in ATSC tuner on the Panasonic TH-58PX600U and comparing it to the DMR-EZ47VK. The difference was definitely noticeable, with the easiest place to spot it simply being the CBS logo which looked sharp with nice rounded edges on the TH-58PX600U, while it looked soft and had more jagged edges on the DMR-EZ47VK.
We were able to test that resolution was in fact being lost with our Sencore VP403C signal generator, using its RF output. From there, we looked at resolution patterns, and it was apparent that the DMR-EZ47ZK could not pass the full resolution of 1080i or 720p signals, despite the fact that it puts out a "1080p" signal. It did, however, display all the detail of a 480p signal. What we imagine is happening inside the device is that it downconverts the original high-definition signal to 480p--which loses much of the actual detail--and then it upconverts it back to 1080p.
To be fair, downconverted digital TV looks much better than anything we were able to see with analog over-the-air signals, and it is able to preserve the wide-screen aspect ratio on high-definition shows. Additionally, there are still many programs that only broadcast in standard definition, and those shows won't suffer. So while the DMR-EZ47VK's performance is disappointing to anyone looking to use it as a high-definition tuner, others simply wanting to take advantage of standard-definition over-the-air programming will be pleased.
DVD recording performance
We've lauded Panasonic's DVD recorders in the past, and the DMR-EZ47VK is no different. Overall, the recording quality is excellent. XP and SP modes are very close in terms of image quality; you might be able to eke out a slightly better picture in XP mode, but in most cases it won't be worth the extra disc space. On most DVD recorders we test, we tend to see a big drop in image quality going from SP to LP mode, but not so on the DMR-EZ47VK. We recorded the The Late Show With David Letterman, and it was very difficult to pick out specific instances where SP mode was superior to LP mode. This allows you to double the amount of content that fits on a DVD with almost no loss of video quality. Dropping from LP to EP mode had a drastic effect on image quality. EP mode suffered from very low resolution and plenty of compression artifacts that severely impacted the overall image quality. For instance, it was difficult to make out any detail in Letterman's face in EP mode, while he could be seen much clearer in XP, SP, and LP modes. It's worth noting that we had no trouble recording wide-screen content to any of the disc types, including DVD-RAM, DVD+R/-R, and DVD+RW/-RW, and having it display properly on wide-screen TVs.
DVD player performance
The DMR-EZ47VK is also capable of upscaling standard-definition DVDs to 1080p. This doesn't mean they'll look anywhere near as good as Blu-ray or HD DVD discs, but it might make DVDs look a little better, depending on the capabilities of your HDTV. We've had DVD player performance issues with Panasonic's previous DVD recorder/VCR combo, the DMR-ES45V, so we were interested to see whether the company made any improvements.
To test DVD upconversion performance, we started off with Silicon Optix's HQV test suite. Considering that the DMR-EZ47VK is not a dedicated upconverting DVD player, we weren't expecting much, so we were actually a little surprised by its capabilities. It aced the first resolution test, demonstrating its ability to output the full resolution of DVDs. It fared a little worse on the next two, jaggy tests; it did a pretty good job with a rotating line, but on the next it wasn't able to handle the third of three shifting lines. It also aced the 2:3 pull-down detection test, as it correctly locked into film mode almost immediately when the race car zoomed by the grandstands.
The DMR-EZ47VK also showed off its 2:3 pull-down capabilities on the intro to Star Trek: Insurrection, rendering the curved lines on the railing of the bridge and the hulls of the boats with no problem. We took a quick look at the Windows DVD Test Annex and did notice the chroma bug on incorrectly flagged material, but that should only show up on poorly authored DVDs.
We also took a look at the intro to Seabiscuit, which can often give even accomplished players problems. To our surprise, the Panasonic DMR-EZ47VK aced the test; we couldn't see any jaggies in the scenes that usually trip up players. We watched a little bit further into the disc and continued to be impressed as we hardly noticed any artifacts at all. While it might not live up to the very best upscaling DVD players, such as the Oppo DV-981HD, overall we thought it offered very strong performance for a DVD recorder and would be good enough for most people to not need a separate dedicated player.
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