If 3D content really is the future, then it makes sense for people to be able to save it on a personal video recorder. That's Panasonic's thinking with its new DMR-BWT800 3D Blu-ray recorder. This machine is capable of all the usual PVR antics, as well as all the usual Blu-ray high jinks, but with the added advantage that you can use it to archive 3D content.
Panasonic is yet to announce the price of the DMR-BWT800 or exactly when it will be available, but we reckon it's likely to appear in March or soon afterwards.
One big downside
The problem with the 3D recording feature is that it's useless unless you have some 3D content to record. The DMR-BWT800 has twin Freeview HD tuners, but it may not have escaped your attention that Freeview doesn't have any 3D channels or content -- nor is it likely to any time soon.
Sky doesn't want anything to do with third-party recorders either, so you can't get 3D hi-def material from Sky's channel and save it for a later date using the DMR-BWT800. Apparently you could record it in standard definition, but the resulting picture would be quite unwatchable.
Another issue is that DMR-BWT800 only offers a 500GB hard drive. That doesn't really strike us as large enough for the demands of recording high-definition and, potentially, 3D content.
On the plus side, the DMR-BWT800 will let you record one channel while watching another, and even record two channels at the same time. It also supports series link -- so you can set it up to record an entire series -- and other features required to earn Freeview HD certification, such as the ability to change recording times if a show gets cancelled or moved around at the last minute.
2D to 3D conversion
If you have camcorder footage or movies that you really wish were in 3D, then the DMR-BWT800 can make your dreams come true, since it packs Panasonic's 2D to 3D conversion system. We can't speak for the quality yet, though.
The system also allows you to modify Blu-ray playback from 3D discs. It lets you adjust the apparent depth of video, change the way 3D is presented on the screen and even give the picture a soft border. No, we have no idea why anyone would want to do that either.
You can get the DMR-BWT800 on your home network using either the Ethernet socket or built-in Wi-Fi. There's also support for DLNA, so you can stream video around your home to other compatible devices. Panasonic showed us the DLNA connectivity in action, and it's very impressive. It even allows you to pause video in one room and resume watching it in another -- as long as you have another Panasonic Blu-ray player in your second room.
New online content
Panasonic is keen to push its new Viera Connect service with the DMR-BWT800 and its latest range of televisions. This online portal lets you access various video-streaming sites, and the company claims it's very close to doing a deal with the BBC to use iPlayer in the system.
Until iPlayer arrives, though, there are other features to keep you busy -- for example, Panasonic's app store. This offers free or paid-for apps that will let you access a variety of services. The idea is that, as the service develops, there will be games and premium movie content for you to buy via this shop.
Panasonic also plans to sell hardware, including cameras for Skype video calling, and controllers for the Viera Connect games service. Panasonic showed us one game that really made us think the service might have a future among casual gamers -- as long as they're willing to pay to play.
The DMR-BWT800 will also have pre-installed apps for accessing Facebook and Twitter -- what device these days doesn't have access to those services? We were disappointed to see that the Twitter app doesn't update while you're watching TV. It would be pretty cool to see mean tweets from friends while Peaches Geldof is embarrassing herself in her new agony-aunt show.
The Panasonic DMR-BWT800 looks like a cracking device, but it's hamstrung by the fact that there's not much 3D content to record. It's still a capable Blu-ray player and Freeview HD recorder, though, so there's not all that much to worry about -- apart from the price tag, which is sure to be massive.
Edited by Charles Kloet