Panasonic DMR-PWT500 Blu-ray recorder

Panasonic DMR-PWT500GL review: an all-in-one 3D PVR and Blu-ray player

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Panasonic DMR-PWT500
  • Panasonic DMR-PWT500
  • Panasonic DMR-PWT500
  • Panasonic DMR-PWT500
  • Expert Rating

    3.00 / 5

Pros

  • BD, DVD, TV, 3D in one device
  • Built-in Wifi
  • 2D to 3D conversion

Cons

  • The convenience is expensive
  • No VIERA Connect video-on-demand service
  • Limited functionality while recording

Bottom Line

The Panasonic DMR-PWT500GL represents a convenient all-in-one product for consolidating your media consumption -- it can handle Blu-rays, DVDs, digital TV and 3D content. It's not perfect though -- there's no way to get your recordings off for long-term storage, Web features are limited and lots of functions aren't available while recording digital TV. The Panasonic DMR-PWT500GL is adequate for casual users to whom convenience and convergence is important.

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The Panasonic DMR-PWT500 fits a Blu-ray and DVD player into a personal video recorder with a HD tuner — it’s like the Samsung BD-C8900, except with twin tuners. Like the BD-C8900 it’s quite stylish and has some nifty extra features, but you’re paying a premium for the convenience of having several functions in the one device.

Panasonic DMR-PWT500: Design, connectivity and setup

The Panasonic DMR-PWT500GL looks like it’s designed to sit at the front of your home theatre cabinet — its single-piece front fascia is glossy and has a mirror finish. Behind this flip-down fascia is a tray-loading Blu-ray disc drive, as well as an SD card slot (for playing music, movies or photos). The DMR-PWT500 is roughly the size of a standard Blu-ray player, although it’s a bit taller to accomodate the internal 320GB hard drive, which can hold about 40 hours of HD or 80 hours of SD recorded digital TV.

The rear of the DMR-PWT500 is Spartan at best. There’s an HDMI port and supplementary optical digital audio output, as well as a composite analog video connector. The rear USB port is for connecting Panasonic’s Skype webcam, and you can hook the PVR up to the Internet via wired Ethernet or the box’s inbuilt Wi-Fi. The internal HDTV tuner also has a pass-through that you can use to connect directly to a TV or other home theatre device.

The Panasonic DMR-PWT500GL has a reasonably simple menu system and not too many features that require setting up. We connected it over HDMI to a Panasonic VIERA ST30A and a Sony BRAVIA HX925 for our testing, and used Wi-Fi for the Internet connection. Booting it up for the first time prompts you to scan for digital and analog TV channels as well as finding a Wi-Fi network. After that, you’re ready to go — you can watch digital TV, pop in a Blu-ray or DVD, or use the SD card slot for digital media.

Panasonic DMR-PWT500: Speed and performance

The twin tuners of the Panasonic DMR-PWT500 mean you can record one channel while watching another, or record two channels simultaneously (although you can’t switch between channels during this). Switching channels takes a few seconds — one of our chief bugbears with the whole business of digital TV. The on-screen electronic program guide is comprehensive in the amount of information and length of the descriptions it shows, but browsing through several channels can be a bit tedious due to the guide’s layout. If possible, we’d recommend you try it in-store first to see whether it’s to your liking or not.

The Panasonic DMR-PWT500GL also functions as a 3D Blu-ray player with speed comparable to other recent models — you can be up and watching a Blu-ray movie in around 30 seconds or so. The PVR’s initial start-up takes around a minute but it restores from its sleep mode quickly after that.

The SD card and Ethernet port allow digital media — photos, music and videos — to be played on the Panasonic DMR-PWT500. We did notice that DLNA doesn’t operate when anything is recording on one or both of the DMR-PWT500GL’s digital tuners — this is presumably because the hard drive is already in use and can’t be used to temporarily store data. Apart from this hiccup, the PVR didn’t have any crippling issues accessing the data shared on our test Wi-Fi network and was able to play back all common picture and audio file formats. It wasn’t able to play DiVX HD files though, with playback limited to

The DMR-PWT500GL can record 3D content (when it’s broadcast, which won’t be for a while on free-to-air) and play 3D Blu-ray movies, as well as converting Blu-rays and DVDs into faux-3D. While most 3D TVs already offer this feature, it’s a bit of a value-add that makes the Panasonic DMR-PWT500GL a smart choice for anyone with a 3D TV that can’t convert video to 3D on the fly. It’s not going to be as good as watching a proper 3D Blu-ray, but the novelty might be enough of a buying point over a competing product.

The Panasonic DMR-PWT500 can access the same VIERA Cast Web features as last year’s range — YouTube, Facebook, Skype, and a range of stock and photo and weather services. It’s only a small set of Web features, so the DMR-PWT500 isn’t keeping up with the latest VIERA Connect functions (which are themselves inferior to what’s offered by LG, Samsung and Sony).

Panasonic DMR-PWT500: Conclusion

The Panasonic DMR-PWT500 has a reasonable range of features in one device — the combination of Blu-ray player and PVR cuts down on the amount of power-sucking home theatre devices in your living room. It doesn’t have the extensive range of Web features we were hoping for, though, and it’s expensive for the convenience of an all-in-one device.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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