A DVD/VCR combo is supposed to economize space and cut down on setup hassles. Unfortunately, Panasonic's top-of-the-line Double Feature model, the PV-D4762, is on the beefy side and has more buttons than your entire A/V center. But if you're not the superficial type, this dual deck does offer good progressive-scan performance and smart VCR features. A DVD/VCR combo is supposed to economize space and cut down on setup hassles. Unfortunately, Panasonic's top-of-the-line Double Feature model, the PV-D4762, is on the beefy side and has more buttons than your entire A/V center. But if you're not the superficial type, this dual deck does offer good progressive-scan performance and smart VCR features.
Measuring a whopping 17.0 by 14.0 by 4.5 inches, the Double Feature at least lives up to its name in terms of size. An inch wider and deeper than the largest combo deck that we've seen, the D4762 doesn't do the user any favors, sporting a cluttered front panel that's covered by two sets of awkwardly placed buttons as well as a more welcome set of A/V inputs. Thankfully, the bundled universal Light Tower remote, which can also be programmed to control a TV, a cable box, or a DSS box, is well designed. However, the archaic onscreen menu system is hardly intuitive.
On a more positive note, we're happy to report that Panasonic didn't skimp on the connectivity options. Around back, you'll find S-Video and component-video outputs as well as both optical and coaxial digital audio-out jacks. We should point out that you can't output S-Video and component-video sources simultaneously; a toggle switch on the back of the unit forces you to choose between the two.
Good MP3 support
Most combo decks aren't loaded with DVD extras, and aside from its progressive-scan playback capabilities, the D4762 is no exception. The only video adjustment that you can make is choosing among 4:3 PS, 4:3 LB, and 16:9 aspect ratios. It is worth mentioning that if you decide to switch from DVD to VCR mode in midplayback, the PV-D4762 automatically pauses your tape and vice versa. We also appreciated the Double Feature's MP3 support, as it played all the CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and DVD-Rs that we threw at it. There are random and program playback modes, and this Panasonic displays up to 11 characters of a track title onscreen.
Panasonic is known for making strong-performing progressive-scan DVD players, and this deck's DVD element appears to live up to those high standards. Watching one of our standard tests scenes from Jurassic Park III where the plane flies into the island, we found very few motion artifacts, and the forest below and in the background was relatively free of noise. Also, in close-ups, actors' faces exhibited sharp detail.
On the VCR front, performance is on a par with what we've seen from other combination decks, though it's worth highlighting the Commercial Advance and Movie Advance features, which we found useful. Taking a cue from digital video recorders, the player marks commercials and dead spaces on videotapes, allowing you to zip past them at the touch of a button. You can also zoom by previews at the beginning of rental movies.
The D4762 carries a list price of $330 but can be found online for well less than $300. Panasonic also offers the step-down , which lacks the Commercial Advance and Movie Advance features, and the entry-level , which doesn't have progressive-scan output. In the final analysis, while the D4762 isn't the slickest combo deck that we've seen, it has enough pluses to make it worth considering if you want to save space under an HD-ready set.