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Blu-ray has finally gained widespread mainstream acceptance as the HD disc format of choice, and we've recently seen players hit the sub-AU$100 mark, such as the rather stupendous value. This sort of machine is a great entry-level buy, but what if you want your BD player to do a bit more than simply play Blu-ray discs? Then you'll need something like this: the Panasonic DMR-BW880 Blu-ray recorder/PVR, which will, with patience, provide all manner of HD video and audio convergence.
Sharing the current Panasonic "look" for its DVD/BD hardware, the BW880 sports a metallic-lined front fascia with both disc draw, on-board controls and more hidden behind a couple of drop-down flaps. A flip reveals such hidden assets as a DV-in, SD card slot, USB input, composite video and stereo audio inputs, plus the basic functions of play, stop, record and channel selection. Everything else is on the remote, which is (understandably) quite a button-busy handset. Physically, the BW880 shares the same size footprint as your average slimline BD player.
Replacing the DMR-BW850, the BW880 adds a couple of noteworthy extra features and a price drop, but at AU$1199 it's still a relatively expensive machine compared to some hardware alternatives. Internal HDD memory has remained the same as the previous model at 500GB hard drive (Japanese buyers of the local BW880 do twice as well with a 1TB minimum HDD ... why is that?) and the twin, high-definition tuners are the same as before. Feature-wise, this model adds DLNA media sharing over a home network compared to its predecessor. The twin tuners mean you can simultaneously record/watch digital TV broadcasts and the 500GB capacity equates to around 350 hours of HD quality recording or 885 hours of standard definition.
The DLNA networking capability is extremely useful, but only if your home's already networked and set-up for such. If so, and you've the technical know-how, the BW880's content can be shared on any other DLNA-compliant media devices on the network, such as streamers, laptops or desktop PCs. Other external devices, such as digital cameras, camcorders or MP3 players can be plugged in to either the SD card slot or USB port. What's more, the DMR-BW880 also supports Panasonic's Viera Cast service — connect it to your broadband and it'll stream photos and video via YouTube and Picasa.
At the back are all the usual connection types, including a single HDMI output (surely, two would have been no hassle to include?), as well as the garden variety component, S-Video, and composite video ins and outs. A single coaxial input and output make the antenna connection and again it would have been handy to provide twin ins and outs for both on-board tuners. Finally, digital audio is outputted as you'd expect as bitstream or PCM via both coaxial and optical outputs.
The remote is the same sort that Panasonic's been using for a while now and with the Viera Link it has clearly been designed for use with Panasonic's range of LCD and plasma TVs.