Panasonic's DMR-EX77 is a DVD/HDD recording combo, with an inbuilt standard-definition digital tuner. It's capable of upscaling DVDs to 1080p, which is a slightly strange inclusion, considering that the digital tuner is only standard definition. Half the unit's features seem to be HD-focused, while the other half are SD only. Still, the recording functionality to its 160GB HDD is top-notch, and an inbuilt card reader adds an extra dimension. Some problems with video upscaling, and the lack of a HD digital tuner are somewhat problematic though.
- Simple and easy-to-use recording, great inbuilt editing tool
- Some noise and chromatic aberrations when upscaling DVDs, lacks a HD tuner despite HD upscaling
The DMR-EX77 seems to be having a hard time deciding what kind of device it wants to be. Although it upscales DVDs to high definition, it can't decode high-definition TV. Apart from this little contradiction however, it's generally a functional and easy-to-use recording unit.
Price$ 659.00 (AUD)
Recording is simple and effective. One-touch recording and time-shift functionality are both present, and simple enough to use, although time-shift must be manually activated. The lack of dual tuners prevents users from watching one channel whilst recording another; however the EX77 does allow you to watch programs you've recorded earlier, or DVDs, whilst you're recording to the hard drive.
A range of four separate recording modes, as well as an easy-to-use inbuilt editing tool further extend the usefulness of recording on the unit. In our tests, we recorded half an hour of commercial TV at the standard recording quality, and were able to quickly edit out the commercials, create chapters, and copy the file to a DVD within the next 15 minutes. This process was further facilitated by a fairly simple and easily navigable interface.
We did start to notice some problems with DVD upscaling when we came to test it though. Firstly, there was a fairly significant amount of noise, more than we're used to. Secondly, we also noticed some chromatic aberrations in certain areas, although these tended to be quite rare, and not overly overt. Apart from that, however, the upscaling definitely adds an extra dimension of clarity and resolution to the image, and makes DVDs a lot more viewable on high-definition screens.
The unit boasts a slimline design which is quite attractive, with the DVD tray and card reader on the front, along with easily accessible composite and S-Video connections. A full range of connections is available on the rear panel, including HDMI, with coaxial being the only notable exception. This shouldn't be a problem unless your sound system doesn't support optical audio input for some reason, though.
The remote control and inbuilt interface system are both quite simple and intuitive to use, and pleasingly, we didn't find ourselves having to rifle through manuals or guides to find simple options.
The DMR-EX77 isn't a bad unit by any measure, but its problem is that it has one foot on either side of the high definition/standard definition fence. While it offers DVD upscaling to 1080p, which is something that will only really appeal to users with large, high resolution TVs, it only includes a standard-definition tuner, which won't let users with such TVs get the most out of them. It's a bit of a problem, but if you don't mind that, then the EX77 is worth considering.
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