Panasonic DMR-XW480 DVD recorder

Panasonic DMR-XW480 review: A 500GB PVR that can record DVDs

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Panasonic DMR-XW480
  • Panasonic DMR-XW480
  • Panasonic DMR-XW480
  • Panasonic DMR-XW480

Pros

  • Excellent DVD and television playback, lots of useful features including DivX playback and Web functionality, good build quality

Cons

  • Remote is overly complicated, menu is unwieldy and sluggish

Bottom Line

Despite its sluggish and unfriendly user interface, the Panasonic DMR-XW480 remains a top-notch PVR/DVD recorder.

Would you buy this?

The Panasonic DMR-XW480 is a high-end, 500GB DVD recorder with dual HD digital tuners that allow you to record two TV channels simultaneously. Other highlights include high-definition video recording, a seven-day Electronic Program Guide (EPG) and access to popular Web sites like YouTube via an Ethernet connection. It's essentially a PVR with an inbuilt DVD recorder and added Web functionality.

[Compre the Panasonic DMR-XW480 to other PVRs and DVD recorders on PC World.]

As its name implies, the Panasonic DMR-XW480 is an upgraded version of the Panasonic DMR-XW380 DVD recorder. Panasonic has added SDXC memory card support to its new model as well as the ability to pause live TV. The hard drive size has also doubled — leaping from 250GB to 500GB. (This will allow you to store up to 350 hours of high-definition video.)

Panasonic DMR-XW480: Design and connectivity

Like most DVD recorders, the Panasonic DMR-XW480 has a pedestrian, workmanlike design that doesn't draw too much attention to itself. A flip-out door conceals a multitude of front connections, including a USB port, an SD card slot, component video and miniDV (along with basic playback buttons). With dimensions of 430x59x249mm, the DMR-XW480 is a fairly bulky piece of hardware, though it remains average for a product of this calibre.

Our only real complaint about the design is the position of the power button -- once again, Panasonic has placed it directly above the disc tray, which makes it easy to mistake for the eject button. Why companies insist on this configuration is anyone's guess, but it looks and feels unnatural. Otherwise, the Panasonic DMR-XW480 is a well constructed piece of kit that we would happily place in the centre of our home theatre setup.

The Panasonic DMR-XW480 comes with all of the connectivity options you'd expect to find on a DVD recorder. Along with HDMI, component and composite AV outputs are included for older standard-def televisions. An Ethernet port is also provided at the rear; granting access to online content such as YouTube videos, weather reports and Bloomberg financial news (more sites and services are reportedly on the way).

The Panasonic DMR-XW480 is also DLNA-certified. This means you can access the DMR-XW480's media files from any compatible device linked to your home network. Naturally, the afore-mentioned USB port can be used to connect digital cameras and camcorders, including high-def AVCHD models. Select media files can also be accessed via USB, including the popular DivX video format.

Panasonic DMR-XW480: Performance

The Panasonic DMR-XW480's main claim to fame is its twin DVB-T tuners that can record two channels simultaneously — even while watching another TV station or DVD. Video content can be stored directly on the hard drive, or scaled down onto DVD discs (pretty much every format going is supported, including DVD-RAM, DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-Video).

Upon powering up for the first time, the Panasonic DMR-XW480 will automatically scan for available television networks and radio stations in the area — so make sure your TV aerial is connected. The process was impressively fast, taking around two minutes in total. Unlike some PVRs we've tested, the Panasonic DMR-XW480 successfully located all TV stations on its first runthrough.

The picture quality of free-to-air TV looked superb, although this will partly depend on your television model (for the record, we were using a Sharp LC52LE820X LED TV).

DVD playback is equally luxurious. We watched the DVD version of The Matrix and were suitably impressed by the results. Image quality was excellent, with very few artefacts marring the picture. Again, DVD quality will be dependant on the TV you're using, but we doubt many people will have cause for complaint.

We found recording television to be a relatively painless process. If you're watching a program that you'd like to record, simply press the remote's record button to start an instant recording. Seven-day EPG support makes scheduling recordings a breeze — you can browse each station's listing and select a program by name. For peace of mind, you can also adjust the start and finish times manually to ensure you catch the entire show.

Panasonic DMR-XW480: Remote and user interface

Panasonic has a track record of producing fearsomely complicated remote controls for its AV products. Unfortunately, this trend continues with the DMR-XW480. While we appreciate the difficulty in getting so many functions onto a single remote, the layout seems needlessly obtuse at times. Even frequently used buttons, such as Eject and Main Menu, are hidden in obscure places or beneath unhelpful labels.

We also weren't particularly impressed by the Panasonic DMR-XW480's menu interface. Swapping between menus is annoyingly sluggish, with some pages taking three or four seconds to load. This makes menu surfing and backtracking a severe pain.

If you can get past these foibles though, the Panasonic DMR-XW480 is a worthy DVD recorder that provides plenty of functionality and storage space. It might not be perfect but we still like it.

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