Instantly setting out its stall, the DMR-EX75 offers upscaling via an HDMI output, up to 720p or 1080i resolution and then fills out one of the most impressive CVs we've seen.
As well as the HDMI output, this deck has comprehensive socketry including DV input for camcorder users, SD Memory Card slot, component video outputs (progressive scan capable, naturally), as well as a pair of Scarts that accept and deliver RGB signals.
The 160GB hard drive is good for 284hrs of recording in the lowest-quality setting, or 36hrs in the top-quality (10Mbps) XP mode. There's also a 'flexible' (FR) mode for fitting an awkwardly timed recording into a limited space without having to sacrifice picture quality unnecessarily.
DVD burning runs the gamut - you can record on any type of disc, including dual-layered variants. More good news comes in the form of an onboard digital tuner with 7-day EPG. There's also VHS Refresh Dubbing, which cleans up old VHS recordings when you transfer them to HDD or DVD.
Programme editing is very flexible, especially on the hard disk, but also on DVD-RAM discs. You can build up a playlist (to change the order of playback), or erase sections of a programme (such as adverts) to reduce the amount of space needed on disk, or when transferring to DVD.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to access the HDMI output setting to choose the level of upscaling (if any) that you want. Rather awkwardly, this is buried a few sub-menus down, and you have to go back into the menu every time you want to change the output, so it's not that easy to quickly compare output quality.
Recordings in the one-hour (XP) mode are perfect, with no difference between the original broadcast and the recorded image. The two-hour (SP) mode is likely to see more action. Football footage is still very good indeed, especially on close-ups, but long shots of complex action displays a hint of graininess.
There is a noticeable drop-off to the four-hour (LP) mode. Despite still capturing a full 500 lines of video information this picture is softer. Sadly, this reaches very poor levels in the lower modes, with a strobe effect and digital haze plaguing the picture, but you should never really need to use these levels anyway.
Playback of pre-recorded DVDs at standard 576p level - in other words, letting the TV handle upscaling (to 720p in our case, using a Panasonic TH37PV500 plasma screen) - delivers enjoyable pictures that are detailed, boast fine colour reproduction and introduce no new artefacts.
Switch to 720p (letting the DVD player deal with the upscaling) pays a small picture dividend. It's not a stunning upgrade, but the picture is smoother and has a bit more realism.
Slap up feed
Trying the 1080i feed, the picture dips slightly in quality on our screen, due to the excessive levels of upscaling and then downscaling.
Home cinema audio exhibits no glitches - it's powerful and dynamic, but this has much to do with the sound system you use.
Two-channel DVD-Audio playback gives a teasing hint of the possibilities of the format, but we would welcome full multi-channel capability.
If you're mostly interested in upscaling, we would have to say that there are other machines we've seen that can do a better job than this Panasonic (especially if you're prepared to spend a bit more cash). But for all-round capabilities, this recorder is up there with the best of them.