Price (RRP): $989
Reviewer: Valens Quinn
Panasonic’s DMR-EH65 is one of the new generation of DVD recorders that’s more like a media centre than just a recording device. While you can use the hard drive to record your TV shows, and the DVD recorder to archive them once the hard disk starts to fill up, the DMR-EH65 is also designed to play a wide range of different media files. This includes CDs and DVDs, MP3 music, DivX and MPEG4 video and photo slideshows.
In addition, there are plenty of other features included, which make it easy to both import and manage your media, including SD card and DV inputs, editing tools, plus an HDMI interface is supported.
Sitting at the heart of the DMR-EH65 is a high-capacity 250GB drive, which is a roomy platform for storing all sorts of media. In fact, the EP recording compression modes enable you to cram about 443 hours of video onto it, provided that you don’t mind VHS-quality video playback.
There are four different video compression modes, starting from XP, which has the highest quality, and intended to be played back on computers. The XP mode will fit one hour of video onto a 4.7GB DVD, and fill up the 250GB hard drive with 55 hours. Then there are SP, LP and EP modes, with SP providing about two hours of video on disc, and 111 hours to fill up the hard drive. LP gives you four hours and 222 hours, and EP, the maximum compression mode, gives you eight hours on disc and a whopping 443 hours to max out the hard disk drive. There’s also a clever Flexible Record mode, which sets the optimal video compression depending on the length of the clip and the amount of space you have left on a recordable disc or hard drive.
The DMR-EH65 supports the new HDMI connection, and apart from integrated high-quality digital video and audio signals, HDMI can carry ‘Viera Link’ signals to other Panasonic devices. This means that if you have HDMI-based Panasonic products, such as a Viera television, when you turn the DVD recorder on, it will turn the TV on. Also, the Panasonic recorder will upscale video to 720p or 1080i resolutions when you are using HDMI.
Your recorded video, disc contents and photo files are all managed through a centralised ‘Direct Navigator’ utility. This provides a visual menu, where you can see thumbnails of the contents of the different media types, or a list view. It’s easy to get the hang of it, and you don’t have to drill down into endless sub-menus to reach the functions you want.
The SD card reader option makes it easy to import photos and compatible video clips that have been captured with a digital camera. A navigator window lets you create albums and transfer or view your photos. Pressing the play button starts a slideshow, and a nice fade effect is added as you advance through your shots. You can also set the slideshow interval time, rotate photos and protect them from being deleted. This all worked nicely, but the DMR-EH65 didn’t ‘see’ the videos on my SD card as they are saved in Apple’s Quicktime format, and not supported.
The DMR-EH65 features a one-second record feature, meaning the device is ready to capture your video one second after the unit is turned on. This actually works, and is true for both hard disk and DVD recordings. Also, there is a Chase Play function, which essentially lets you go back and watch the beginning of a recording while it’s still being recorded.
Editing video is a simple button-push affair, where you can set markers in a recording and delete everything between a ‘start’ and ‘end’ time. You can also divide the title and choose a thumbnail that represents your clip.
Setting your timed recordings can be done by entering a G-Code number or through the Program menu. Entering the details is quite easy, and you can select between the HDD or DVD drive as the storage device.
Once you decide to archive some of the content on your hard disk, the Copy menu displays a list of your content, and you simply select what you want to transfer, and where you want it to go (SD, DVD or HDD). A progress bar and estimated copy time lets you know how long you’ll need to wait. There is a high-speed dubbing mode too, but you have to remember to set your recording to support this function beforehand. Once done, it takes about a minute to transfer a one-hour video from DVD.
The DMR-EH65’s only real letdown is the analog TV tuner. It is poor company for the unit’s HDMI and high capacity hard disk, providing only VHS-quality 4:3 video from a transmission standard that is scheduled for the scrap heap from 2012. Anyone looking to make the EH65 part of a a quality home entertainment setup will need and integrated HDTV or external set-top box to receive digital TV broadcasts. The good news, though, is that the DMR-EH65 supports widescreen 16:9 recordings from a digital TV set-top box.
The physical design of the DMR-EH65 is well considered, however. The LED readout is large and easy to see, and SD Card, DV, component and S-Video inputs are accessible behind panels located on the front of the unit. The remote control is logical, and there are direct buttons for switching between SD, DVD and hard disk, plus access to the navigator, programmed recordings and main settings menu. The remote also supports rudimentary volume and channel controls for major TV brands.
Overall, the performance of the DMR-EH65 was quite good – the menus responded quickly, and there were no problems reading or writing to a variety of media types. The hard disk was fairly quiet but it did make some vibration noises from time to time.
As a package, the Panasonic offers a lot of functionality for the money, and good connectivity options. However, an integrated digital TV tuner would have made the DMR-EH65 even more attractive.