Panasonic DMR-E100H review: Panasonic DMR-E100H

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The Good Vast capacity; high-speed dubbing from HDD to DVD; great recording quality in XP and SP modes; records MPEG-4 to flash memory cards; FireWire input.

The Bad Expensive; complex operation; no IR blaster for cable or satellite control; soft recording quality in EP mode.

The Bottom Line With a colossal hard disk and oodles of options, this expensive hard disk/DVD recorder can almost do it all.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Sitting atop Panasonic's four-product pyramid of 2003 DVD recorders, the DMR-E100H has more features than a lot full of Lexuses. Its 120GB hard disk drive (HDD), currently the largest available in a self-contained deck, can store up to 160 hours of video and be used for basic editing. You can transfer programs from HDD to DVD and even to any type of memory card. All this flexibility and power creates a tough learning curve, however, so people with little patience for user manuals and technical details should steer clear of the E100H and await the TiVo-based Pioneer DVR-810H. Everyone else in the market for a high-end DVD-R will find plenty to like.

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

With two card slots, rows of logos and buttons, a drawer, and a display, the E100H certainly looks the part of a full-featured recording powerhouse. A mirrored strip makes up the bottom half of the face and lends the E100H some sophistication. The big, animated screen does a good job of organizing information, but thoughtful design ended there.

The main way to access the E100's many functions is through a long series of bland, complex menus. We spent a good deal of time reading the dense, 67-page manual, and we still had to consult it afterward. Less-experienced users shouldn't have much trouble with basic recording, but advanced operations will require some study.

The E100's remote is an improvement over the clunker included with the DMR-HS2, this product's predecessor, but we would have appreciated more distinction between the buttons and a bit less crowding. On the plus side, once we'd gotten used to the layout, we had little problem accessing many of the functions.

The E100H is as close to a universal recorder as set-top devices get. It can record audio and video to DVD-RAMs, DVD-Rs, the hard drive, and (in MPEG-4) flash memory cards. Although DVD-RAM is the least compatible of the three rewritable DVD types, a variety of manufacturers are beginning to put out more RAM-capable players. Write-once DVD-R is the &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecdrinfo%2Ecom%2FSections%2FArticles%2FSpecific%2Easp%3FArticleHeadline%3DDVD%2520Media%2520Format%2520Compatibility%2520Tests%26Series%3D0" target="_blank">most compatible recordable DVD format available.

The E100H is the only deck that can transfer MPEG-4 video to memory cards. This ability makes the slots more than just a convenient way to display digital photos. For example, a 512MB card can hold 2 hours, 40 minutes of second-best-quality video (see the Performance section for more), so you can record a movie and watch it on your PDA. One slot accommodates an SD card, while the other accepts any PC Card adapter compatible with SD, CompactFlash, Smart Media, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, or Microdrive.

Another major feature of the E100H is dubbing from HDD to DVD and vice versa. It's quicker than with previous models, faster than real time when you use 2X and 4X DVD-Rs. A relatively simple editing interface lets you shorten segments on the hard disk before you transfer them to DVD--handy for eliminating commercials. Naturally, you can't dub copy-protected discs.

The hard disk and DVD-RAM also let you record one program while playing back another; watch an in-progress recording from the beginning; and pause, rewind, and fast-forward live television. The E100H includes VCR Plus to help you schedule TV recordings, but the machine cannot control a cable or satellite box. The TiVo and other hard-disk recorders, such as the upcoming, similarly priced Pioneer DVR-810H, are better for TV.

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