Review Freesat recorders are currently rather few and far between with Panasonic only the second company to launch models supporting this service. In doing so, it has adapted its existing DVD recorders by adding satellite tuners. It’s a slightly different approach to hard-disk recorders like the Humax Foxsat-HDR or Sky+, which have no optical drive and are built as DVRs first and foremost.
Panasonic's DMR-XS350 Freesat DVR
The DMR-XS350 is the entry-level Freesat model going for £699, but shop around and you can pick it up for about £570. It has a multi-format DVD writer and a 250GB hard drive. Further up the range are two models that swap the DVD for a Blu-ray writer, with a 500GB disk option. All have twin satellite tuners and bear the Freesat+ logo, so tricks like series linking are supported.
The case is a standard AV-width unit, with an uncluttered front panel; a flap at the bottom reveals analogue video, USB and DV inputs together with an SD card slot and a few buttons. Along the top there’s an eject button and a power button – curiously the power button is on the left, by the disc tray, with the eject button on the far right.
The rear panel has two SCART connectors for input and output, plus HDMI, component, composite and S-Video output, Ethernet, both varieties of digital audio output along with analogue phono outputs, and the connectors for the two satellite tuners.
In terms of connectivity, then, every base is covered. Camcorder owners can plug in SD cards – including those with AVC HD recordings – DV cables or USB, and copy directly to the hard drive, or create a DVD.
The main menu - familiar Panasonic fare
You can also play DivX files from a USB disk or recordable media. It’s pretty easy to copy files to the hard disk, and from there to record DVDs as well, with functions to add chapters and even change the thumbnail images used in menus. DVD menus aren’t things of great beauty, but are certainly functional.
Sony did a good one...
We've had the Sony HXD-860 for about 2-3 years and it's superb. Picture quality (via HDMI) is brilliant.
My parents have the Panasonic equivalent and the interface is nothing like as good as the Sony. Interesting to see that no matter what the hardware is like - it's the software which is make or break for a product.
My view is to wait until Sony upgrade their range to Freesat or any Freeview HD that may be started.
six hundred flippin quid
The price is completely ridiculous. I could buy a 250GB DVR for Freeview from a UK online supplier for £60, and maybe £100 at Tesco or Asda. I could probably buy a DVD recorder for similar prices for Freeview. Why on earth should it cost six times as much to buy one compatible with Freesat? And why should the Register only comment in passing about this stupid, ridiculous price?
You can get simmilar recievers for 200-300 Euros theese days. For 400 Euros you can get a Dreambox which will have a network interface so you can record directly onto your NAS (or use the box as a NAS).
Clunky interface not a surprise
My parents bought my grandparents a Toshiba combo PVR/DVD recorder, and I was tasked with setting it up and teaching my grandparents how to use it. I have never in my life encountered such a torturous interface. It was a clear case of design-by-committee. All the functionality was there, but using it was hideously unintuitive, and some functions were either given meaningless names themselves or were buried in menus with meaningless names.
After having used Sky+ this was a shock to the system, and to be quite honest I've sworn off Japanese PVR/disc recorders. I will have to read reviews with words such as "wonderful interface" and "a joy to use" before I touch one again, and I somehow I can't seem to find them in this review.
Right now I'm using a Tiscali TV+ box, which isn't quite Sky+ but is very very close.
Why the focus on discs?
I can't understand why they want to put disc recorders in these. Combining with DVD/bluray makes a little sense but humaxs approach of allowing archive to USB discs makes much more sense. Archiving to a network pc would be even better.
The DVr issues just sound like an unfinished product.
That said, my humax also has a fair few issues. Many interface elements are clunky and ubintuitive (or just bugs like being unable to delete while recording) and it's less stable than it should be. Mine crashes if I switch on when recording regularly and in response to amp volume commands at times.