"Mostly A Success"4.0 starson by sfniceguy
Pros: Does everything as advertised.
Cons: Software occasionally locks up, and you have to reboot unit
Summary: I have been using this unit (okay, actually a slightly different model, the DMR-485VK, an essentially similar if not identical model I believe made exclusively for Costco; I paid $240) for a couple months now. DVD recording quality of broadcast/cablecast television in it's 1-hour "XP" mode is excellent. Other modes 2-hour, 4-hour, and 6-8 hours recording modes are okay, but pixelation and compression artifacts become more obvious, particularly in complicated and/or fast moving scenes. And it's QAM digital tuner is excellent at recording SD and HD signals if passed through by your cable company. (I use cable, but don't have a cable box. I just subscribe to basic analog cable, but my cable provider Comcast includes local digital unscrambled channels in this package as well, such as FOX, NBC, CBS, and ABC, something I didn't realize they did until I bought this digital recorder and an HD TV set).
I love using RAM discs to record TV programming. RAM discs allow you to simultaneously record one program while watching another program already recorded on the disc. This makes watching an evening of television very easy, and being able to skip through all the commercials. And not having to wait for the recorder to finish all the evening's scheduled recordings before starting to watch. DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs do not allow that feature -- only DVD-RAM discs.
I'd give this unit even higher marks (a 9 or 10) were it not for it's buggy software driving all of its features. The unit occasionally gets "confused" and locks up -- not responding to buttons on unit or on remote control. You have to unplug and re-plugin to reboot the software. This happens about once a week. This is only a minor inconvenience (takes about a minute to reboot), and re-powering it does not make it lose any of its stored channels setup or scheduled recordings memory.
The unit (and interestingly two other Panasonic DVD recorders I have) also suffered a problem with recognizing what date it was for a while if left set automatically. I had to set the date manually for a while (a couple weeks). But now automatic date seems to be working again. I suspect some software bug.
The other problem I have occasionally, is that it occasionally fails to record a scheduled program, for no apparent reason (there's still room on disc). I have not been able to figure out why (although the manual suggests it could be due to digital rights management issues on digital broadcasts, but I'm not convinced of that).