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Panasonic's latest Blu-ray recorders aspire to be more than just archiving time-shifters. By integrating PVR duties with Blu-ray recording, 3D support, media-streaming capability and Web connectivity, they're striving to become do-it-all entertainment hubs. But, to be able to pull that off, a device really needs to do everything well. The DMR-BWT700 very nearly succeeds.
The DMR-BWT700 is one of two ambitious new Freeview HD recorders from Panasonic -- the other is the higher-end DMR-BWT800. While the DMR-BWT700 has a 320GB hard drive, the DMR-BWT800 offers a more capacious 500GB. The latter also has integrated Wi-Fi, twin HDMI outputs and advanced audio-processing modes. Both can be controlled by a free iOS app for Apple's mobile devices.
The DMR-BWT700 costs around £500.
Panasonic's first-generation Blu-ray recorders were far from intuitive. Only Panasonic engineers could truly understand how they worked, and they used terminology no-one else employed. Matters have improved, but the DMR-BWT700 still has a level of operational complexity that few normal mortals will relish.
Still, as a twin-tuner Freeview HD PVR, the DMR-BWT700 works much like any other. There are options for manual padding when recording from the electronic programme guide, and linked recordings are grouped together in the deck's 'direct navigator' screen.
As a Blu-ray player, the unit also passes muster. Its images are effortlessly crisp, and its multi-channel audio is predictably entertaining. Unfortunately, disc-loading times are sluggish. Lou Reed's Berlin goes from tray to menu screen in 39 seconds, while the remastered Goldfinger takes 1 minute and 7 seconds to produce the 007 logo.
The DMR-BWT700 is fully compatible with 3D Blu-rays and can convert 2D TV programmes and discs to faux 3D. Until 3D disc availability improves, this gimmicky feature will probably get a fair amount of use.