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Panasonic DMR-ES10 review: Panasonic DMR-ES10

Panasonic DMR-ES10

Ben Patterson
5 min read
Panasonic's new entry-level DVD recorder sets a new low for name-brand recorder pricing: it's available for only $200 (list) and even less online. The Panasonic DMR-ES10 delivers sharp recordings even in its four-hour EP mode, while its compatibility with DVD-RAM discs give you plenty of hard drive-type features, including chasing playback. Unfortunately, its skimpy editing options for non-RAM discs make for tedious navigations once it's time to watch your recordings. If you're all about video quality, the DMR-ES10 merits a close look, but anyone who wants to edit or insert chapter stops would be better served by another deck, such as the feature-packed (and now bargain-priced) Philips DVDR80.

Editor's note: An upgraded version of this product, the DMR-ES20 is available for the same $200 list price. It features a FireWire connection for easy dubbing from DV camcorders but is otherwise identical. Anyone with a DV camcorder looking to burn home movies to DVD should opt for the DMR-ES20 instead.


Panasonic DMR-ES10

The Good

Relatively inexpensive; excellent recording quality; chasing playback and quick-start recordings with DVD-RAM discs; easy-to-use menus; flexible recording mode.

The Bad

Inability to create chapter stops on +R/-R/-RW discs; no IR blaster for timed recordings.

The Bottom Line

Panasonic's entry-level DMR-ES10 DVD recorder offers excellent recording quality but falls short when it comes to editing features.

Measuring 13 by 17 by only 2.5 inches, the Panasonic DMR-ES10 looks thin and sleek next to our other components. It's available in silver or black. We like the shaded plastic panel that runs the length of the deck and houses the LED, while the sparse front panel includes just play, stop, record, open/close and power buttons. Beneath a door on the front panel sits a set of A/V inputs, including S-Video (but not FireWire) for directly recording digital video content from DV camcorders.

Panasonic's remote can't match the style of the deck itself, but it's easy to use and can be programmed to operate your TV. The large five-way navigational keypad is surrounded by an array of menu and setting controls, with the play/pause/stop and chapter-skip/fast-forward/reverse controls sitting just above. All that's missing are buttons to cycle through the DVD player's Repeat and Angle modes.

The DMR-ES10's menus, while extensive, get the job done with a minimum of fuss or flash. There's no slick animation, as seen on Sony's DVD decks, but we appreciated the abundance of onscreen help and the diagrams of the remote showing which buttons to push. Within a few minutes, we were breezing through the various menus and functions.

Recording on the Panasonic DMR-ES10 is a simple matter of hitting the Record button or scheduling a recording either manually or with VCR Plus+. Since there's no EPG or IR blaster for changing the channel on your cable or satellite set-top box, you'll have to make sure the box's channel is set properly for your recordings to work.

In addition to its five fixed recording-time modes (one, two, four, six, and eight hours per disc), the deck provides a handy Flexible Recording mode that lets you fit a precise amount of video onto a DVD (anywhere from one to eight hours) while maintaining optimal video quality--perfect for recording, say, a 130-minute movie without resorting to the four-hour recording mode. The recorder also has a Quick Start function that lets it begin recording a DVD-RAM within a second of powering up (other DVD formats take 10 seconds or more before they're ready to record).

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 Lite-On LVW-5005. 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.


Panasonic DMR-ES10

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 8