The DMR-ES10 records to all DVD formats except DVD+RW. You get a few hard drive-type features when recording with a DVD-RAM disc, such as chasing playback (which lets you watch a program while it's being recorded) and the ability to watch one title while another is recording. You also get plenty of editing options, such as splitting and combining titles, adding chapter stops, and creating playlists that reference your recordings without altering the original files.
Unfortunately, those editing options are only available for DVD-RAM discs, not +R, -R, or even -RW discs, which usually support a variety of editing features. In fact, the only editing you can do with non-RAM discs is to change the title name and the menu thumbnail. Particularly irksome is that you can't even add chapter stops to +R/-R/-RW discs, and the deck doesn't add them automatically, as do decks such as the. That means you're stuck with fast-forward and reverse navigation, which will grow tiresome if you're looking for a particular scene in a lengthy DVD recording.
In addition to its recording abilities, the DMR-ES10 provides a few handy playback features, including a 60-second commercial skip (although 30 seconds would have been better), as well as a 1.3X playback mode, which speeds up playback ever so slightly without making speech sound chipmunky.
The deck comes with a solid set of connections, especially for an entry-level deck. In back, you get outputs for component and composite video, as well as S-Video; an analog and an optical digital audio output; and an RF out for antenna or cable connections. Rear inputs include one RF and two A/V inputs with S-Video, while behind the front panel hatch, you'll find a third set of A/V inputs with S-Video.
Panasonic hasn't been shy about touting the recording quality of its DIGA decks, and our recordings lived up to the hype. In our tests, the DMR-ES10 captured more than 450 lines of horizontal resolution in the high-quality XP and SP modes, as we expected. Surprisingly, though, the deck scored almost the same marks in the four-hour LP mode--remarkable, considering that most DVD recorders are lucky to deliver 325 lines in LP mode. The deck's resolution dipped to a much softer 250 lines in the six- to eight-hour EP mode, complete with blocky artifacts in the background.
In our test recordings of Star Trek: Insurrection, the peasants running from the murderous probes looked rock solid in the one- and two-hour XP and SP modes. When we switched to the four-hour LP mode, we were impressed with the amount of detail, but we noticed some slight blocky MPEG artifacts around the edges of objects, as well as smearing of motion, especially as the peasants dashed across the frame. In EP mode, the picture became much softer and unstable and was marred by severe blockiness--typical for the six- to eight-hour recording modes we've tested. When we skipped to scenes of the smoky, damaged Enterprise bridge, the XP and SP modes again looked excellent, but the LP mode had a slightly tougher time rendering the smoke-filled background cleanly.
The Panasonic DMR-ES10 breezed past our 2:3 pull-down test, easily rendering the jaggy-prone haystacks and bridges at the beginning of Insurrection. The deck had little trouble with the CDs and DVDs in our test suite, although it couldn't play MP3 DVDs.