Panasonic SC-HT25R review

Has it more to offer than a low price

Our Verdict

For the price, the SC-HT25R is a respectable recording system

Panasonic was one of the first to make one-box systems boasting DVD recorders. The SC-HT25R is affordable machine, and has chunky twin main units but no floor-standing speakers. The design is a bit utilitarian, and it's fair to say it looks quite cheap.

Another thing that points towards the SC-HT25R's slightly more 'budget' price tag is the absence of a hard disk - which immediately limits its recording flexibility. Still, it does support two of the three rival disc-recording formats - DVD-RAM (rewriteable) and DVD-R (write-once).

Four recording modes - XP, SP, LP and EP - offer differing storage capacities (and picture quality that degrades in relation to this capacity), with a maximum of 16hrs on a double-sided DVD-RAM disc or 8hrs on a DVD-R using EP (the poorest-quality mode). Timer recordings are made simple with VideoPlus , while Panasonic's proprietary TimeSlip allows you to record and play back at the same time - and even watch the beginning of a programme before it has finished recording!

Despite being affordably priced, the SC-HT25R is equipped to deliver best-quality progressive scan pictures to your flatscreen via its component video outputs (something missing on the Pioneer on the previous page). There are also three Scarts, along with dedicated S-video and composite video sockets. Sounds like a good haul, but there's one big flaw - the absence of an RGB Scart input. This means a Sky digibox can only be connected via S-video or composite video - which will affect the quality of recordings.

The inclusion of better-than-CD DVD-Audio playback sounds like a bonus, but don't get too excited - the system can't play the discs in their high-resolution format. The usual Dolby Digital and DTS decoders are incorporated for 5.1 soundtracks, and Pro- Logic II stereo processing is also on board.

Missing in action

The quality of any recordings made from a digibox is inevitably affected by the lack of an RGB Scart input. Our Desperate Housewives episode still looked very respectable, however, particularly when we used the SP and LP modes. Even EP recordings are watchable, but there is a bit of motion jerkiness and image softness.

Pre-recorded DVD playback is similarly respectable, as evidenced by our Pirates of the Caribbean test DVD. The Panny did a good job of retaining the rich colours and intricate details of the various costumes on show, from the soldier's red coats (which were particularly vibrant) to the outlandish garb of the pirates. Our only complaint is that there was sometimes jitter towards the bottom of the picture - surprising given the system's progressive scan capabilities.

The SC-HT25R starts to show where corners have been cut when it comes to surround sound. It's certainly not all bad news; the cute satellites craft a convincing soundstage, and the subwoofer delivers thunderous bass to back up the cannon-fire of Pirates' fight scenes. But while voices have good bass depth, the centre speaker makes them sound 'edgy' and sibilant, and the small satellites lack a bit of power.

For the price, the SC-HT25R is a respectable recording system, especially as we found it for as little as £450 online. But it lacks the performance levels and features - in particular a HDD, RGB input and DVD-A playback - of the best systems. We recommend saving a little longer to really do justice to your plasma or LCD screen.