Freeview+ personal video recorders are pretty much essential for all homes. But, if you're about to buy a PVR now, it may well be worth holding off for a few months. That's because Freeview HD has started to arrive, and new hardware is required to record it. Machines like the £320 Panasonic DMR-EX83 are thoroughly decent, but this DVD recorder with a 250GB hard drive can't deal with high-definition signals. That said, it will still suit some people, so let's take a closer look.
Take recordings on the road
The DMR-EX83 is one of quite a small number of PVRs on the market that can archive recordings from its built-in hard drive to DVDs. This is quite handy if you want to take recordings around with you, perhaps to watch on a laptop or portable DVD player on your way to work. But, for home viewing, hard-drive recording is slicker and easier to manage. There's also far less chance that you'll run out of space.
Panasonic has, like Sony, been producing these recorders for ages. It appears that it's not going to stop any time soon. Indeed, the company now produces HD recorders that archive video to Blu-ray discs. These machines are even more expensive than the DMR-EX83, though.
Like all of Panasonic's equipment, the DMR-EX83 is visually pleasing. It's thoughtfully designed and simple to use. The remote is well proportioned and the menu systems are easy to navigate. Selecting a programme to record is just a matter of scrolling through the electronic programme guide, pressing the 'select' button and choosing where you want the show to be recorded to. If you prefer to keep programmes on DVDs, you can just record straight to a disc. If you do record to the built-in hard drive, transferring recordings to a DVD later is also very simple.
The DMR-EX83's EPG is functional, but the grid system is quite restricted in terms of space, so seeing full programme names can be a problem. We like the search function, though, which enables you to track down your chosen show with considerable ease.
Like all of Panasonic's DVD/HDD recorders, the DMR-EX83 only has a single recording tuner. That means you can't watch one channel and record another at the same time. Nor can you record two channels at the same time. On the other hand, you can watch a recording while making another one, and you can watch a DVD while recording your favourite telly shows.
The DMR-EX83's 250GB hard drive is enough to store 55 hours of TV at a high quality. Panasonic claims you can increase this to 331 hours if you compromise the picture quality and use the 'EP' mode. This isn't a good idea, though (we'll talk more about this in a minute).