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Panasonic DMR-BS750 review: Panasonic DMR-BS750

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Performance
As is traditional, we'll now perform our famous Blu-ray speed test. The BS750 can load our test Blu-ray in 1 minute 17 seconds, which is about the same speed as Panasonic's own BD35. That makes it seventh fastest on a list of eight players. Not really very good -- we're giving Panasonic a grade C here, with a side note of "please do better in future".

Another speed-related niggle is the BD Live access. We popped in our special-edition Casino Royale Blu-ray and accessed the online interactive features. Civilisations rose and fell in the time it took to see anything useful. Suffice to say, we weren't impressed. Still, when using Blu-ray menus to navigate around movie special features, the player is spry enough to stop its remote control from being hurled around the lounge.

Picture quality from freesat channels was, for the most part, brilliant. BBC HD looked magnificent, and most broadcast channels in standard definition looked decent too. Mind you, there's an awful lot of garbage on freesat, so we won't be conveying our opinion of the smaller channels. Suffice to say, BBC One, Channel 4 and Five all looked pretty decent to us. Recording is, of course, a direct bit-for-bit copy of the original. If you want to save some space, you can engage one of the lossy recoding modes, but we'd advise against it.

Blu-ray playback was excellent too -- our Casino Royale disc got another outing here. By way of contrast, we watched the stylish black and white opening sequence and the bright, colourful credits. Both looked utterly splendid and we would happily use this as our primary Blu-ray player.

We also really like the music-ripping service and the BS750's skilful way of playing music alongside a photo slideshow. This is really useful for parties where you want some background music while you show off your holiday photos. It beats hands-down anything the Popcorn Hour media streamer can do with photo and audio and it's pretty much nailed Apple TV in this department too.

The VieraCast system is also thoroughly likeable. Although it's sparsely populated at the moment, we really enjoyed the YouTube function. Our only complaints here are that the text entry on the YouTube menus is slow and arduous, and the machine beeps too much, which is really annoying. We couldn't find a way to shut it up either, which was even worse. When you're playing a clip the player does a great job of buffering and the video is always silky smooth. For sure, it's one of the best of these YouTube widgets we've ever seen.

When we were recording we noticed that noise from the spinning disc was occasionally a minor issue. Sometimes it was reasonably quiet, other times it was loud enough to scare a decent-sized lion. For most people that's unlikely to be a problem, as the amount you actually record to disc is going to be reasonably small.

In terms of using the recorder to copy video from the hard drive to Blu-ray, it works well -- although the menu options for doing it are a little confusing. It's worth pointing out that HD recordings can only be burnt to Blu-ray, and for the most part, only once. SD recordings can be burnt to either Blu-ray at high speed, or DVD at a slower speed and in reduced quality. DVDs with SD recordings on aren't copy protected in any way though.

Sadly, Blu-ray recordings are cursed with idiotic copy protection, but this is just Panasonic playing by the broadcasters' rules. It's up to the likes of the BBC to lift restrictions like that -- and given that freesat's satellite feed is unprotected, we think it's pretty ludicrous that saving recordings is prohibited.

Conclusion
We adore the Panasonic DMR-BS750, and we suspect you will too. The only barrier to us owning one is the very substantial price. Not only is the initial outlay of £900 a massive wedge of cash, but if you intend to buy recordable Blu-ray discs, you're also in for quite some expense on top of that.

If you're happy with paying the money though, we say go ahead and get one of these excellent machines. The picture quality is top-notch, it's a fully featured Blu-ray player and a terrific freesat DVR. If you want to record freesat but the £900 is too steep, we suggest the Humax Foxsat HDR, which at £300 is much more wallet-friendly. We'd also be happy to recommend any of Panasonic's Blu-ray players to go alongside it -- all are excellent.

Edited by Nick Hide

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