Panasonic is a leader in the market for Freeview personal video recorders with built-in DVD writers, and it's not hard to see why. Its machines are sturdy, easy to use and reasonably feature-rich. For most of the operational facts about the DMR-EX89, you can read our review of the lower-end but similar DMR-EX79. In this review, we'll focus on the extra features that the DMR-EX89 offers. It's available online for around £380.
Added value, but added cost
One of the things we didn't like about the DMR-EX79 was its price: £280 or thereabouts. The situation hasn't improved with the DMR-EX89. You get the added bonus of a much larger hard drive -- 400GB as opposed to 250GB -- and an SD card slot, but that's about it. For those advantages, you'll pay about £100 more. To be totally honest, if the DMR-EX89 supported it, you could buy and fit a 1TB hard drive for that kind of money.
More storage for Jeremy Kyle
Because the DMR-EX89 has a 400GB hard drive, it can record 89 hours of full-quality video. This compares well to the 55 hours that the DMR-EX79 can achieve. If you're prepared to compromise on the recorded video quality, you can get up to 534 hours in EP mode, compared to 300 on the DMR-EX79. We'd recommend that you don't use the EP mode, however -- you'll reduce the quality of the recorded picture to the point where it isn't going to be pleasant to watch. Besides, as this machine has a DVD writer, if you want to hang on to shows, you can simply plonk them onto a disc and save hard drive space for new recordings.
Although the SD card slot is one of the bonuses offered by this machine over the DMR-EX79, you can't play video back via an SD card. You can, however, play both video and music via a USB storage device or DVD-R/RW. Video can be up to 720x576 pixels in size and up to 30 frames per second. The DMR-EX89 is basically a standard-definition product, which is understandable, as most devices like this can't actually play high-definition files, despite outputting at resolutions of 1080p.
The option to edit video is found on all of Panasonic's PVRs. It's quite a handy feature, especially on these machines, which feature a DV input. If you have a Panasonic camcorder, or possibly certain camcorders from other manufacturers, you can use the FireWire port to transfer standard-definition video onto the internal hard drive. From there, you can perform basic editing tasks, such as trimming a clip and merging two pieces of video together.
It's also possible to edit recordings made from TV. This can be handy for keeping just one segment of a TV show and deleting all the other parts. It's not, however, an especially easy process, and it's not really a replacement for a proper editing system.
Freeview+ offers several advantages, and these are available across Panasonic's PVR range. Series link is our favourite, because it means that you can set the machine to record every episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show on ITV2. Be aware though, that series link won't generally work across channels, so, although you'll get all of the Kyle you can handle on ITV2, you'll miss the newer shows on ITV1.
Freeview+ also features accurate recording, which means that, if a show runs over, starts late or gets cancelled, the PVR will take that in its stride. It's also possible for Freeview+ recorders to stop and start recording to avoid scheduled breaks for news. That's great if you're trying to record a movie, for example, and don't want to be interrupted halfway through when you're trying to watch it.
We love the way Panasonic's DMR-EX range works and looks. We're much less crazy about the prices, though, and the DMR-EX89's price tag is the most outrageous of all, given that it only adds an SD card reader and a larger hard drive to the DMR-EX79. Still, the product is solid and we can't see anyone who buys one being disappointed.
Edited by Charles Kloet