Pros: Excellent picture quality in XP/SP recording and playback, good useful features, inputs, outputs
Cons: No 5.1 analog or digital audio input, complicated manual
The Panasonic DMR-E80H is a combination Hard Drive and DVD-Recorder. It allows you to record shows on its internal hard drive in addition to DVD discs of two formats: write-once DVD-R and rewriteable DVD-RAM. The programs from the hard drive can be copied to the recordable DVD as needed or you can record directly onto a DVD disc.
The finalized write-once DVD-R discs play in most DVD players, whereas rewritable DVD-RAM discs can be played in newer Panasonic DVD players. The DVD-RAM discs are claimed to be erased and re-recorded 100,000 times.
Why use a DVD recorder? It produces better picture quality than any analog VCR (S-VHS VCRs included) as well as allows you to have more durable media. Media, which needs no rewinding and can be recorded on and played back from at the same time, can be re-used with no loss in picture quality (DVD-RAM).
This recorder is silver in color. Its front panel features a flip-down lid, which conceals a front A/V input (composite video, S-Video and analog stereo audio). The right side of the front panel has buttons to control playback and recording, change channels and erase. There are also buttons for Time Slip function, which allows you to see instant replays while still recording the remainder of the show. Two backlit buttons under the disc tray let you switch between the HDD (hard drive) and DVD operation.
The recorders rear panel features two more inputs (including S-Video) as well as two A/V outs (including S-Video and analog stereo audio). There are also an RF (antenna/analog cable) input and out, component video out (switchable between progressive scan and interlaced playback) and a digital optical audio out. There is no coaxial digital audio out or any kind of digital audio input (or 5.1 input for that matter).
The E80H has several modes of recording, which differ in picture quality and amount of video that fits on one disc (or on the hard drive). The best quality is provided by XP mode, which lets you fit 1 hour on a 4.7 Gb 1-sided disc. The SP mode is not much worse in terms of picture quality, but lets you record 2 hours on a 4.7Gb disc. 2-sided DVD-RAM discs fit 9.4Gb and double the recording times. The hard drive fits 17 hours in XP mode, 34 hours in SP, etc.
Both SP and XP modes produce excellent picture quality with vivid colors and very good detail level (both DVD and HDD recording). The recordings are mostly indistinguishable from the original. The longer-playing LP and EP mode (4 and 6 hours on a 4.7Gb disc respectively) produce worse picture quality with some video noise and colors that are less vivid.
The so-called flexible recording mode (FR) selects the bit rate based on the duration of the program being recorded, which automatically changes the disc playback time to make the program fit (and varies the picture quality). It also works with either DVD or HDD recording.
The recorder has more inputs and outputs than even expensive VCRs and has familiar VCR+, timer recording and manual recording. A built-in 181-channel tuner lets you record programs off the air or analog cable. The tuner lets the unit to set the clock automatically as well as features auto tuning. There is no digital audio input, however, so you can only record from analog audio inputs, which deprives you from the 5.1 digital sound recording capability (e.g. if you have digital output equipped satellite box).
The 1.3x playback mode allows you to play the recording at 1.3x speed while still hearing the sound without the pitch shift. Both cartridge-enclosed and non-cartridge-enclosed DVD-RAM discs are supported. It supports 2.8, 4.7 and 9.4 GB DVD-RAM discs as well as 4.7 and 9.4 GB DVD-R.
The Auto Renewal Recording on HDD automatically overwrites the show repeatedly with every show occurrence if programmed accordingly. Keep in mind that some TV shows have copy protection and you can only record them once. Because of this, the programs in question can only be moved from HDD to the DVD-RAM or the other way around. They cannot be recorded on a DVD-R disc.
The audio recording can be in either Dolby Digital 2.0 or PCM. The recorder plays DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RAM, CD-Audio, CD-R, CD-RW, MP3 CD, VCD. It features progressive scan (for TVs that support it), noise reduction (3D NR, mosquito NR, block NR).
The program and disc titles can be entered, and you can protect segments from accidental erasure, split segments, as well as create playlists. As the programs are recorded, the list of them is created (Direct Navigator) and you can later jump to the beginning of any of them. You can erase the entire program or the parts of it.
The "standard" DVD features are also provided: slow and fast scan, angle select, subtitle select, soundtrack select, parental control, resume, repeat play, virtual surround sound, etc.
The device can play MP3 files encoded at 32 to 320 kbps and at sampling rates of 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1 and even 48 kHz.
The DVD-R discs can be played back in most newer DVD players and are also great for archiving purposes. The DVD-R discs must be finalized before you can play them in a standard DVD player - the process that takes 10-15 minutes. You cannot record copy-protected material on DVD-R!
The DVD-RAM discs, allegedly, can be erased and re-recorded up to 100,000 times. Even at the fraction of the promised lifespan, they are much better than video tapes, especially taking into account that the picture quality after multiple re-recordings should not degrade.
Another powerful feature of the DVD-RAM is its flexibility in terms of recording/playback that VCR would never allow. You can record and play the same disc at the same time. The Chasing Playback mode allows you watch the show from the beginning (or any other point) while the rest of it is being recorded. This way, you dont have to be afraid to miss the beginning of the show and have to wait for recording to finish. And you can somewhat easily skip over commercials using the appropriate button.
The Time Slip features lets you watch instant replays while the show is being recorded on the DVD-RAM disc.
The supplied remote control can control some televisions in addition to the recorder itself. It features two distinct power buttons, volume control buttons and a DVD/TV switch that allows you switch some DVD control buttons to TV control mode. The top of the remote features buttons to switch between HDD and DVD operation. Unlike some other DVD recorders from Panasonic, this remote does not have a flip-open cover or sliding door, which is a good thing.
The E80H is a great device that combines DVD recording with TiVo-like functionality. I cant even compare it to a VCR so much better it is. The excellent, DVD-like picture quality and versatility at a reasonable price make it a great buy.
Other Panasonic DVD Recorders
Listed below is the lineup of Panasonic DVD recorders (varying in features and price but with same solid core performance).
Other Panasonic DVD Recorders