I recently received the Panasonic DMR E55 DVD recorder from a friend, as they had upgraded to a newer recorder.
At first, I found the remote control confusing, especially not having an eject button the remote.
You can record upto 16 hours on DVD - RAM Disc, upto 8 hourd DVD -R - depending on recording quality that is selected.
I have found out setting the timer is quite tricky, as you have to go through a view menus, by using the remote control. There is plenty of features available to user, like pressing record to record the current channel that you are watching.
The playback picture is very good, using PAL through a scart lead.
Another drawback is that it can't play DVD+RW, DVD+R and a few others, otherwise it is a brilliant machine.
There is a feature that when you put a DVD in, if you had in before, it will start from the last title that it had arrived at.
You also need to make sure it is not in a cabinet, otherwise it doesn't operate properly.
Althoug confusing at first, once you have got used to the remote, it is quite simply to operate and the installation was easy, once you know how the remote works.
The Panasonic DMR-E55 is a simple DVD recorder. I wouldn't say it's versatile because we will get to that later. It's a very modern model and can be bundled with a Home Cinema System/Home Theater System. That is how I got mine.
Playing a DVD is the same as any DVD player. You can also play CDs (MP3 CDs I'm not so sure) with complete ease. The picture is very clear and works perfectly with surround sound. It has a very clear panel with view of format (v=DVD Video, R=DVD-R, RAM= DVD-RAM), chapter and time of either chapter or whole feature time.
The remote control I think is very vital when choosing a model. It must be simple yet a sort of sophistication and style. This certainly has evrything I need with the VideoPlus+ button very visible along with the Play, Pause (note: the pause button is separate to the play button), Stop but sadly, no open/close button on the remote. That slighty annoyed me. On my last DVD player, it had an open/close button. Oh, well, can't have everything.
The recording format is DVD-R or DVD-RAM. I really don't know why it couldn't have been DVD-RW like the Philips ones. The DVD-RAM are very hard to find and I would think you would have to go to a Panasonic specialist. Luckily, there is one very near me. To get to Timer Rec, I end up having to go to VideoPlus+, enter a fake number and get to the Timer Rec. screen. To start recording, you press the Timer Rec. button. This is actually quite convenient, so you can do it advanced or you can do it just before you go out. I don't know why the button doesn't bring you to the Timer Rec. screen. I'll look up in the manual.
I hope this encourages you to think about getting this. Mind you, it's not that bad.