Panasonic DMR-EH75V - DVD recorder / VCR combo with 80GB HDD review:

Panasonic DMR-EH75V - DVD recorder / VCR combo with 80GB HDD

Connectivity on the DMR-EH75V is highlighted by its HDMI output, its component-video output, its optical digital jack (no coaxial), and its FireWire input. There are also three A/V inputs (one in front and two around back) offering a choice of composite or S-Video. We would've liked to see a component-video input, as on most Philips recorders, but it wasn't a deal breaker. Finally, if you flip down the front panel, you'll notice an SD memory-card slot for digital photos.

Recording quality on the Panasonic DMR-EH75V was excellent overall, highlighted by an impressive LP mode. Whereas most recorders we've tested suffer a large drop in resolution when switching from 2-hour SP to 4-hour LP mode (usually from about 450 to 250 lines of resolution), LP mode on the DMR-EH75V maintained almost exactly the same resolution as SP mode. This is a big deal, as you can double the amount of content you can fit on a DVD with essentially no loss in video quality.

When we compared footage from Everybody Hates Chris, for example, the difference between SP and LP modes was negligible--only hard-core enthusiasts will be able to spot it. As usual, longer-play EP mode was almost unwatchable, with a huge loss in resolution and tons of video artifacts, especially in scenes with a lot of motion. We recommend using EP mode only for shows with simple animation, such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The loss in resolution is noticeable, but the resulting video is still watchable. Additionally, the DMR-EH75V had no problem recording wide-screen content from our Time Warner HD box, maintaining the correct aspect ratio and filling our wide-screen TV completely.

Since the DMR-EH75V can upconvert via its HDMI output, we ran it through our video-quality test but came away somewhat disappointed. It passed the resolution test from Silicon Optix's HQV test suite in 1080i mode but failed in 720p and 480p mode, exhibiting significant flicker. It also failed relatively easy tests, such as scrolling titles (in every resolution mode), introducing obvious combing on the text crawl. Overall, we can't recommend it as a great choice for videophiles as their main home-theater DVD deck, but most viewers probably won't notice the flaws.

Disc compatibility overall was spotty and represents the DMR-EH75V's greatest weakness. When we ran our test suite of discs, the unit often displayed a message indicating the disc would need to be formatted before it could play. If we declined the formatting option, it refused to play the disc. Considering other players handled these discs without a problem, we'd exercise caution if you plan on using the Panasonic to play older recorded DVDs. Additionally, we ran into snags with blank DVD+R and DVD+R dual-layer (DL) media; the DMR-EH75V was unable to record on the discs we tried, including Staples and Verbatim discs. This lack of compatibility isn't a big deal in our book; you can always buy the -R/RW and -R DL media instead. The Panasonic handled -R dual-layer discs well, although it can record from only the hard drive to dual-layer media, not directly from a live video stream.

After numerous failures with other decks, our tests of the DMR-EH75V's TV Guide EPG were successful on Time Warner NYC's digital cable hookup. As instructed, we connected it to our cable box, ran through a quick setup, then turned the unit off for 24 hours so that it could collect program data. Afterward, we were able to select programs to record via the graphical user interface, with about seven days' worth of programming information. Initially, it was missing info for several channels, but after a day or so, the information filtered through as well. Unlike with previous incarnations of TVG, the channels on the DMR-EH75V appeared in the correct order, exactly as we're used to from Time Warner NYC. As with all TVG versions, we can't guarantee that it'll work properly in your area.

During SD slot testing, we were able to load a card full of JPEGs and watch them directly or even transfer them to the hard drive for easy accessible slide shows. We didn't have much luck with other file formats on the SD card; it failed to recognize both AVI and DivX video files, although the Panasonic DMR-EH75V doesn't claim to support those formats.

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