The Panasonic DMR-BWT800 is a strange beast. Massively ambitious and hugely capable, it makes a superb catchall HD and 3D Blu-ray product, but it has a split personality.
Hard disk housekeeping could confuse (or simply bore rigid) a rocket scientist, while making a video call to the other side of the Earth is a cinch.
Picture quality is outstanding all-round; this is a top quality slice of AV heaven for anyone interested in reference-level performance from all sources, while the myriad recording, archiving and storage options will excite any HD obsessive or HD camcorder user.
Add 3D compatibility, that second HDMI output and Freeview HD, and the Panasonic DMR-BWT800 is a catch-all solution like no other.
Though hardly tiny, that 500GB doesn't compare well with the latest PVRs around. But the main issue is the user interface. We've seen worse, but it doesn't have the joined-up feel that Panasonic's other 2011 AV products benefit from. Nor does it have Viera Connect, which means no BBC iPlayer.
Hugely impressive in some ways, the Panasonic DMR-BWT800 is also your classic AV misfire. Designed to appeal to all, the basics – speed and simplicity – have been slightly overlooked in favour of geek features.
This is a better option that the far cheaper DMR-BWT700, not only for the extra 180GB of HDD capacity, but also for its 3D home cinema features. However, those after Freeview+HD features will probably find life easier with a dedicated PVR such as the Humax HDR-FOX T2, the Icecrypt T2400 or TVonics DTR-Z500HD.