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Panasonic DMR-BW750 review: Panasonic DMR-BW750

If you're looking for a flexible PVR that's packed with features, then the excellent Panasonic DMR-BW750 Blu-ray recorder is almost a one-stop shop.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
5 min read

In 2008, Panasonic was the first to release a Blu-ray recorder outside Japan, and in Australia of all places! Twelve months later and Panasonic is still the only company to have a recorder of this type available, and it has now unfurled a further two models! The design has been tweaked, and there are several new features, so is it time to upgrade to Blu-ray?

8.2

Panasonic DMR-BW750

The Good

Excellent recording quality. Media playback also fine. Feature-packed.

The Bad

Lacks DLNA streaming. Still some functionality hiccups. Dedicated Blu-ray players perform better.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a flexible PVR that's packed with features, then the excellent Panasonic DMR-BW750 Blu-ray recorder is almost a one-stop shop.

Design

If you're familiar with the BW500, then the design of the BW750 will seem hauntingly familiar. Indeed there seems to be a tacit agreement amongst the Blu-ray manufacturers that they need to feature mirrored, "Blu" facades. Against type, though, the whole fascia doesn't drop down, and only the tray itself ejects when you push the button. If you're looking for "drop-down bits" it still has them though — on the right-hand side you can pull down the flap for access to a USB port, SD card slot and the playback controls.

We've written about Panasonic remotes plenty of times now, and they're all very similar, but we will say that the button naming system is still confusing: instead of Menu you get something called "Direct Navigator", for example.

Features

So, what does your AU$1759 actually get you? Well, this is a Blu-ray recorder that features dual-HD tuners, which means you can record two different programs at once, and then burn them to disc if you like. Whereas last year's recorder featured MPEG-2 recording, the BW750 features the more efficient H.264 codec which means you can fit more content onto its 250GB drive. Unfortunately, unlike other models you're unable to add extra space; however, the ability to sluice recordings off onto Blu-ray at full quality alleviates that problem a bit. The recorder features support for the seven-day Electronic Program Guide (EPG), so it's relatively easy to find the show you want.

Like many PVRs on the market at the moment the Panasonic features access to Picasa and YouTube, including search. It's not a core function, but it's certainly a fun one. On the other hand, the Panasonic lacks DLNA media streaming features, but it is an up-to-date Blu-ray player that features access to BD-Live and its interactive features.

Panasonic is known for its image quality, and so the BW750 does its best to polish the end results with upscaling to 1080p, and the self-explanatory "HD Optimiser with Digital Noise Reduction for Digital Broadcasting".

The only things the BW750 misses over the more expensive BW850 is a 500GB hard drive.

Performance

Having seen what the BW500 could do, and as fans of its wide-ranging capabilities, we were keen to give the BW750 a spin. As this is a recorder first and foremost, we tested that first. The recordings the Panasonic gave us were some of the best we've seen. When pitted head to head against the Topfield TRF2400 Masterpiece HD the BW750's eye for detail was keener, and it was able to clean up artefacts such as "jaggies" as well. The only thing we miss over other PVRs is the ability to automatically buffer recordings: this means you can't rewind the show you're watching unless you're recording something first. Frankly, this is a pain. Panasonic says its product doesn't buffer because it means longer hard drive life, but in over 12 months we've yet to have a problem with the Foxtel iQ2 which automatically saves the last 30 minutes.

Transferring recordings to Blu-ray disc was a simple process, and unlike last year's model, you can watch something else at the same time. The imprinted discs were every bit as good as the originals, and helpfully the machine automatically creates a menu for the disc which makes navigation easier.

As a Blu-ray player we found that the BW750 may not be the best, but it was very good. When thrown a disc such as Mission Impossible 3, the Panasonic was able to render it with a minimal amount of grain but good detail. The opening shot of the famous "bridge sequence" was also free of judder and "moire" effects. Skipping to something more astringent and the Pana handled itself well on the HD HQV Benchmark disc. It acquitted itself on all tests, with a small amount of mosquito noise during the HD noise test being the only minor mark against its name. Otherwise it performed beautifully.

DVD replay was also great, with the machine doing an excellent job of the Brontosaurus Stampede scene from King Kong. On other machines the scene can look washed out, but that was not the case on the Pana. Colours were natural and detail levels high — although some noise did again creep in as before, but not detrimentally.

If you're interested in YouTube and Picasa access then you'll be pleased to hear that the process is straightforward and fun. Search is relatively quick, and navigating through pages is also fast. Image quality is fine for what you get.

Sound quality was also surprisingly good, with Dolby TrueHD streams of Spider-Man 3 showing a decent amount of surround-sound immersion. It may not have been as impressive as our reference Sony receiver, but good enough for on-board decoding. Likewise, the Panasonic is a Creditable CD player: while it may not be the most "rhythmic" player with sloppy bass response, it nonetheless has a bright, detailed and focused sound.

The only "downsides" to this player is its ease of use, and this is mostly related to media playback. For example, on some Blu-ray discs the resume play doesn't work, and if you want to edit settings while watching a movie the player will dump you out of the Blu-ray completely and back to the tuner mode. This can be very time-consuming if you are watching a multimedia-heavy disc, which means it could take up to two minutes to get back to where you were. And that's if you can "resume" play at all.

Conclusion

Feature-rich, the Panasonic BW750 is a better value package than last year's model, and seems to have ironed out a lot of the kinks that troubled it. The inclusion of YouTube and Picasa is welcome, though we would have liked to have seen some sort of DLNA playback at this price range. Recording quality is excellent, and the ability to rip onto Blu-ray discs is unparalleled.

We've seen the player going for as low as AU$1400 online, and for this price it is more compelling than a hard-drive only PVR. The fact that the BW750 is a quality Blu-ray player makes it much more flexible than the Foxtel iQ2 and Topfields of this world. We're crossing our fingers, toes and internal organs that Blockbuster will announce movie downloads just as it has on the competing TiVo.