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I have had this for sometime now and overall is 4 out of 5 as its never let me down.
However the technology moves so fast that it now seems outdated.
To set the backgound i love panasonic even though i have tried sony amongst others i just like panasonic.
The unit was a definate step up from what i had previously and i even bought my dad the same unit for christmas.
I have confidence in the build quality which has never let me down and it is quite easy to use for the simple functions ie, hdd recording and dvd playing.
The downside are only niggles but they do mount up
The guide screen with like it seems all other panasonic products means you cannot watch an inscreen caption of the channel that is currently on so you sit there looking at a screen with no sound. I think this was to subconciously get you to perform the programming as quickly as possible. It is annoying thougth.
The 160gb hard drive is quite limited. you soon fill up the capacity and have to delete or watch items quicker than you would want and this is on standard def not hi def which reduces the capacity significantly.
Newer machines have a lot larger capacity and i believe they have changed the guide screen so you can watch in picture.
Apart from that i would buy for the hardware quality and ease of use. But i would but a newer higher capacity model
The EX769 recorder has it good points and its bad points. In my opinion the bad far outweighs the good, making this one of the most frustrating electrical devices I've ever used. Nevertheless, I'll try to give a balanced review. I chose a Panasonic recorder because we had a Panasonic TV and in my experience this brand has been the best in terms of quality and reliability.
Turning it On and Off
The recorder takes an age to switch on during which time you'll be irritatingly greeted with the word 'Hello' on the display panel. So if the machine is not on when you suddenly realise you want to record something on another channel you will inevitably miss the beginning of the programme you want to record. An added frustration here is that this recorder has a tendency to crash or stall and this more often occurs when the device is in the process of switching on. This is a common complaint mentioned in other reviews I have read on Amazon, so it's not just my device. The recorder also takes ages to switch off.
Another major irritation is that when the recorder switches on, the channel on your TV will switch over to the one indicated on the recorder's display panel. You can easily switch the TV back to the channel you were watching by using the remote, but having to do this every time you turn on the recorder is a complete pain. Now there may be a way to remedy this, but since we bought the recorder over two years ago, I've never managed to discover how.
The Instruction Manuel
I'm sure a DIY manual for Dr Who's Tardis would be less complicated to understand than the instruction guide for this device. Whoever wrote it was certainly on another planet. Yes, it's written in English but it's 88 pages long and has quite small text and countless illustrations that don't really help that much. It's the last thing you want to plow through when all I want to do is record 'Corry' whilst the football's on. And it doesn't explain everything. It doesn't explain for example, all the problems you are going to encounter with the onscreen TV guide.
The Onscreen TV Channel Guide
It is this problematic guide that has given me most reason to pick up my EX769 recorder and throw it out the window. Trying to fully explain this in words is extremely complicated so I will try to keep it as simple as possible.
The recorder comes with it's own channel/programme guide (the list of TV channels that you scroll up and down onscreen). But this is separate from the one on your television. This onscreen guide is crammed with advertising on the left hand side. This alone in future would be enough for me to take it back to the shop. If I'm paying £200+ for a recorder I don't want to be forced to watch advertising when I'm navigating the channel list. Hence I never use it. I rely only on the channel/programme guide that came with the TV. This is much simpler and easier on the eye.
So you needlessly have two TV guides. I thought by having both a Viera Panasonic TV and a Viera Panasonic recorder these two guides would be synchronised, but they are not. This is a complete pain in the bum because the channel list numbers on each guide are not always the same. In effect this means that Film 4 on the recorder's TV guide might have a different channel list number from the one on your television's TV guide. So a timed recording you made last night of that film you've waited months to see might turn out to be a three hour recording of a late night shopping channel. Now fortunately I can edit the channel list on the television's TV guide, but the recorder's TV guide is fixed and sometimes you can't match up every channel, so you always have to check if, for example, ITV+1 is in the same slot on your recorder's TV guide as it is on your television's TV guide before you make a recording. Furthermore, there are some channels missing from the recorder's guide so you simply cannot record programmes off them.
Ideally the TV guide on your television should override all others but there is no simple way of implementing this. There is absolutely nothing in the instruction manual that clearly explains this problem - a problem that I'm sure has kept many people up until the wee small hours of the morning trying to solve.
The recorder is equipped with a 160GB hard-disk, which will allow you to record up to 35 hours of programmes in the top-quality XP recording preset (or 279 hours in the lowest-quality EP mode). This is more than sufficient for my own requirements. The recording quality onto hard-disk is excellent and you would be hard pushed to spot the difference from normal TV viewing.
This recorder however, is definitely not suitable for multimedia recording enthusiasts. A major let down for me is that the EX769 lacks a USB port and a SD card slot. So you only have DVD and CD as the only means of playing back MP3 and JPEG files. It would have been a bonus to be able to transfer recorded material to my PC. There's also no way of copying MP3 and JPEG files onto the hard-disk. There's no DivX support and you can't rip CDs onto the hard-disk. I've recorded one or two films onto DVD but I've not been at all impressed by the end result. When compared to hard-disk recordings there is a considerable downgrade both in terms of audio and image quality on DVD playback. So ultimately the only use I make of the EX769 is for recording TV material onto hard-disk.
On the plus side I do like the editing options. When you've recorded a film for example, you can edit out all the ad breaks. However, chopping and changing things you have recorded will prevent you from copying them onto DVD at high speed. This will also affect any other recorded matter on the hard disk. So copying onto DVD will only be possible in a normal viewing speed mode.
There is only one Freeview tuner on board. I'm not to sure of the significance of this but I think you need two tuners in order to record one programme and watch another at the same time. We can do this because we have a Freeview tuner on our Panasonic Viera TV. According to other reviews I've read apparently you can do series recording where you can group a series into a single folder in the recording list. I've yet to discover how to do this myself - just trying to record Film 4 + 1 is an achievement in itself with this device.
Despite the quality recordings that can be achieved by the EX769 recorder trying to record TV programmes can be a real headache. The recorder's TV guide does not always synchronise with the television's TV guide and the problems caused when switching the device on are a constant frustration. In my opinion Panasonic still make the best TVs but I won't be buying another Panasonic digital recorder.
This device is basically designed around a family, you can use it for a multitude of tasks, these being watching DVDs, watching Freeview HD channels or recording HD tv.
The device can only tune into one freeview channel at a time, which means it can't record a separate channel at the same time as you watch one. This is a downside as most devices like this do have that feature. However, it is still really useful for making recordings of HD tv so that other members of the family can watch later on in the day, or on a different day if they wish.
As for the DVD part of the device, it plays region 2 discs and does it as well as any DVD player. The remote control deserves a special mention as it is really easy to use and you can use it to do everything without any hassle. Unfortunately we are living in an era when blu ray discs are becoming more and more popular and DVD discs are a lot less used. This presents a problem for users of this device as within a few years I estimate that it will become out of date and the dvd feature will only be needed for watching old copies of films which will have been replaces by blu ray versions.
Overall I think you are better of purchasing a different HDD recording device for the same price, even if it's one without the DVD features as most people already have a means of playing these and they are soon to be out of date. Other devices have separate tuners built in and this allows you to watch one channel whilst recording another one, this is much more useful as it allows you to watch a show whilst another one records that you also wish to see.
Some of you may remember my distinctly unimpressed (one star!) review of Sony's RDR-DC205 DVD/HDD recorder. In that review, I mentioned that I had almost been relieved when it broke down, such were its manifold shortcomings and frustrations. It was replaced with a Panasonic DMR-EX769, and the difference is like night and day. The Panasonic is not perfect, and it has a few limitations which will prevent its being right for everyone, but for everything I want it for it does its job very well indeed.
The first, and also probably the most significant, of those limitations is that it has only one Freeview tuner. This means that unless you happen to have it connected to a TV with its own tuner built in, you cannot record one programme while watching another. Mine *is* connected to a TV that has that capability (another Panasonic, at that) and so this is not a problem, but were I still using the older setup with an analogue telly and separate set-top box it might well have caused some considerable irritation. It's also *not* a multiregion box; I expect there are tweaks on the internet to sort that out, but I don't watch Region 1 discs as a rule, so haven't looked very hard.
It seems strange to me that the market for combined HDD/DVD units such as this one is shrinking, because I find the flexibility it offers enormously useful. Assuming that you can access a half-decent high-speed dubbing mode (which you can) this makes it easy to create a bit of space on the hard drive simply by copying material to DVD. The procedure does require a little reading of the manual to get right, and there is the odd trap lurking (you have to use -R rather than +R discs, for example) but it does work, and works well. Talking of the manual: it's written in more or less comprehensible English throughout. A big plus point over that Sony!
If you're the sort of person who does a lot of recording, you may well need that facility, since the HDD is a little bit small by current standards with its capacity of 160 GB; many models these days offer 250 GB or more. Practically, that 160 GB figure means that you can store 35 hours of programming at top ("XP") quality and 70 hours at standard, with a "long play" mode on top of that. You can use even more compressed "extended play" quality, but I wouldn't recommend that unless you have no alternative; that goes double it your TV has a largish screen, as the loss of quality is very obvious on a 32-inch set. A nice feature is "Flexible Recording", which adjusts quality in order to make your recording fit the space available.
Setting up the unit via an HDMI cable was very simple, although it probably did help a bit that the TV was of the same brand; whatever, everything worked first time with no problems. The unit has SCART sockets as well if required, but I haven't used them. The on-screen display is not the slickest you will ever see, and the electronic programme guide looks frankly like those old low-budget adverts you used to see on ITV in the middle of the night, but it does the job. The EX769 offers series recording, so that you can choose to record multiple episodes of an, um, series without setting the machine repeatedly each time, and that works fine.
Going back to features missing that you might find on other, more expensive models (including several of this recorder's sister models), you should be aware that there is neither a USB nor an SD connection. This being so, if you want to play MP3 files or show off your JPG photos, and assuming your TV doesn't have that capability of its own, you're going to have to copy them onto a disc first. You also don't get the option some machines give of using either a posh EPG with adverts or a more basic one without; it's posh-with-adverts only here - though it *is* quite clear. Oh, and there's no DV-in socket, which may disappoint the camcorder enthusiasts.
Right, having spent the last paragraph pointing out missing features, how about we spend the next one looking at something nice that the Panasonic *does* have? One in particular is Auto Scene Chapter, which automatically works out where to put chapter points in recordings based on sound volume. The idea is that this will mean chapter marks are created in places such as advert breaks. You'd think this was just a gimmick, but actually it works far better than I could have imagined. You can always choose to have regular five-minute chapter marks if you don't like it, though.
I'm not that bothered about looks in a recorder, but I think the EX769 looks perfectly okay. Not amazingly sleek, but then I don't really like ultra-thin models with no labels anywhere; they serve only to confuse. The remote is extremely nice, though: the buttons are soft to the touch without being soggy, the text is very clear, the colour-coding is sensible and not overdone, and just about everything is sensibly positioned. I would be very pleased indeed if all my electronics' remotes over the years had been this good! If you have a suitable Panasonic telly, you can even control it from this remote too.
Oh, and just in case you thought I'd forgotten, there's the little matter of picture quality. Happily, it's great. XP recordings are superb, and look no different to watching the programmes directly on the telly, and even SP is only noticeably worse (to me, albeit maybe not to hardcore videophiles) if I peer at the screen in a way I never would in normal use. Watching commercial DVDs is very nice, too, with a particularly pleasing factor being the deep, calm blacks. The unit does offer 1080p upscaling, but as my TV is not actually an HD one I can't really comment on just how well that works. What I will say is that DVDs look crisp and bright even on a standard definition telly, and that I have no complaints at all.
This thing has been on the market for well over a year now, and such is the pace of change in the electronics industry that it's already starting to disappear from the shelves. It's still there if you shop around a bit, though, and it shouldn't be impossible to find it for around the £190 mark. That means it's not the cheapest model around, but that's (literally) the price you pay for the Panasonic brand name. Personally I think it's worth the little extra, though of course my memories of that diabolical Sony may influence my thinking there!
Overall, then, whether or not I recommend this recorder to you will really depend on whether you need the extra bells and whistles that Panasonic has chosen not to include: the extra tuner, the multiregion capability, the USB port and so on. If you do, then sadly you will have no alternative but to look elsewhere. If, however, what you're after is a slightly less complex but easy to use combined HDD/DVD unit with a few nice features and a general feeling of quality about it, then it would be hard not to conclude that this should be on your shortlist. So I will: it should.